Off the Grid Lighting

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Off Grid lighting Ideas

Time to look at some off the grid lighting as the cabin is getting closer to becoming a guest room.  The generator has been there while we have been working, so it has not been to hard to light the place up, but that is certainly not a permanent fixture.

I’m finding when living off grid lighting is taking on significant importance.

Regardless of where you live, the right off grid cabin lighting is important even if you have well positioned windows, that provide adequate lighting during the day.

When looking for off grid lighting ideas there are many options to choose from.  It is natural to choose the most efficient lighting, but you do not always have to compromise on quality because of the options you have.

When living in an area where the winters are longer, like we do, a persons need to consider how many hours of darkness there will be and what will be required for efficient lighting.

Having multiple lighting options in the event of bad weather or unexpected power outages is a good idea.

The good news is:

  •  It is easy to find off grid alternatives for lighting
  • There are several options to choose from
  • Many options call for little to no money

As we are trying to decide on the best lighting idea for our off grid cabin life, here are the most popular lighting types I came across or have tried for off grid cabin living.

Off Grid lighting ideas

Candles are a simple inexpensive way to light an area, I make my own and have been using them in my home made hurricane lamp.  I made this lamp by putting sand in the bottom of a flower vase and putting a glass votive candle holder on the sand.  Below are some pictures of lighting I have been using.

Off Grid Lighting IdeasOff Grid Lighting IdeasOff Grid Lighting Ideas
With candle light the brightness of course will depend on how many candles and what is behind those candles to reflect the light.  I had tea lights when taking the above photos.  The next time out I used votives and the light was much brighter.

This is something I am still playing with as I love to make candles and there is just something I like about candle light, although it would be hard to sit and read a book using candle light.

The great thing about candles is that they always create a warm ambiance.

For Off Grid living, things to consider when using candles are the type or candle, where it will be located and of course being vigilant since there is an open flame hazard when using candlelight. I don’t like to light a candle without it being in a hurricane lamp for this reason.

Oil Lamps

Oil Lamps are another way to light up a cabin, oil lamps are fuelled by putting lamp oil in the bottom of the lamp and lighting the wick that soaks up the oil thus creating a bright light.

They were used for years to light up homes until electricity was invented.

In the 1800’s paraffin oil was the oil of choice because it was inexpensive and smokeless, before that kerosene or coal oil was used which gave off an unpleasant odour as well as the oil smoked as it burned.  Animal fats and olive oils has also been used to light oil lamps.

When doing research I came across a lamp that was made with a mason jar and using Olive oil as the oil, Olive oil does not produce any odour or smoke and is organic.  Also, being I’m a soap maker I have cases of Olive Oil in my cold storage room, so Nathan and I will be making one of these oil lamps to try out in the cabin.

As with using candles, be careful with oil lamps as they too are a potential fire hazard.

Battery Powered Lighting

Battery-powered lighting is often necessary for off grid lighting systems since it’s a reliable light source when other alternatives fail.

A flashlight are a great portable solution for off grid lighting especially for short-term use or during emergencies. Nowadays, you can also find a variety of different flashlights that don’t require batteries such as hand-crank or solar flashlights.

LED flashlights are by far the best for being super-efficient and they are an excellent option for rooms with children. Unlike other sources of lighting such as oil lamps or candles, flashlights do not run the risk of fire nor emit strong or irritating fumes like other light sources

We have battery operated led flashlights which are quite bright, and a couple battery operated lanterns.

I make sure we have a good stock of batteries, because you never know.  I fell asleep one night reading with one of the led flashlights hanging on the wall above me and by the time I woke up it was light and I didn’t notice it was still on.  Needless to say the next time I wanted to use it the battery was dead.

For off grid situations, you can look for 12v batteries in any store that sells automotive lighting supplies. You will also be able to find lights that are designed to run off 12v batteries. However, keep in mind that 12v lights are not designed for an 110v outlet.  We haven’t tried this method; I think down the road solar will be our choice.

Solar Lights

When buying bulbs for your solar system remember Led bulbs will pull 6 watts where the old Edison style of bulb will pull 60 – 75 watts.  So you’ll get a lot more light with the LED’s

Solar Power

Many off grid homes are making the switch to solar and installing a solar panel kit in the home, these kits include a battery, solar panels, and an inverter.

Kits can be found in home supply stores or from companies selling them online.

Solar Kit, Off grid Solar

You can choose from a range of different solar home lighting systems with a cost as low as $100 all the way up to the thousands of dollars.

There are professionals out there that can install a system for you, but this option will obviously cost a lot more money than doing it yourself.

When it’s time to put the solar in our cabin, we will be taking a course and doing it ourselves and then maybe one day being able to help someone else doing the same thing.

The use of solar lights, solar flashlights, and other types of solar lighting devices, can light your home without costing you a lot of money.

These types of lights, especially ones made with LED lights, can provide an adequate amount of light for your off grid home for several hours a day on a single charge.

There are a few downsides with solar powered lighting.

If living in an area where there is little sunlight (especially during winter) there may not be enough light to recharge your solar system, so you may want to consider other options in addition to using solar powered lighting.

If you are using solar stand-alone lights they will have to be placed outside on a daily basis to ensure that the batteries get recharged. This task may become tedious or those who forget to do so may be forced to search for other lighting options unexpectedly.

Lighting is Easy to Plan for Off Grid Living

Striking the right balance with the interior illumination that nature provides with a range of lighting options to choose from will help make your off grid cabin living experience a lot more enjoyable.

Whether it is rechargeable LEDs, solar powered lights, oil lamps, candles, battery powered lights, or a complete solar system use these off grid lighting ideas to find, create, or buy the right combination of lighting to create the perfect home environment.

There are even styles and designs to choose from when it comes off grid cabin lighting, so right now the possibilities are endless when it comes to making the perfect lighting plan for your off grid home.

We will be trying and testing all these options as we renovate and reconstruct the main cabin.

Update – First solar light tested and we love it!

sunforce solar light, solar lights

Nature Power 21030 Hanging Solar Powered LED Shed Light with Remote Control, Black Finish

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12 thoughts on “Off the Grid Lighting”

  1. Hey Jill,

    Thanks for sharing this awesome post! I love all the lighting ideas you shared. I think be best for those who live off the grid would be solar systems as you don’t have to rely as much on additional supplies of batteries or oil. I also have some of those solar system lights at home, they come in so handy when you have a sudden power cut. Which solar lights lamps or brands do you recommend?

    Thanks for sharing!


    • Your welcome Anh. I agree the solar system is probably the best. It will be awhile before we can instal that, in the mean time I am testing out the other methods. When I have tried the solar lights I will update this page with my recommendations.

  2. This is a great post. I sometimes wonder about the challenges and how difficult it must be to live off the grid. But with articles such as this one, it should make life much easier for everyone.

    I guess solar panels are an excellent long term choice. But I wonder if the cost of maintaining such systems are high. This is something that one should consider before making a purchase. What do you think?

    Great article!

    • I really do like the idea of solar panels as a long term choice, I would think the most expensive maintenance would be battery replacements. We haven’t tried this yet, but will be sure to let everyone know how it goes when we do.

  3. Hi Jill!,
    A big part of me is so jealous of your life style. I believe this should be our natural state of being…. But… there is always a but in front of a difficult decision.
    I am a lighting designer and i can tell you that you have covered every significant type of off grid lighting.
    I agree with the rest of the comments that solar lighting is a good solutions but if there is no sun for a couple of days then you have a problem.
    I think that a basic type of lighting should be available in every house. I have candles in my house and it is in the center of a city. Because you never know…
    You are right, though, oil lamps and candles are not for fun. We have to use them with extra extra caution.

    • Thanks for commenting on my post, it’s good to hear from a lighting designer. Where we live we have very few days without sun. Beautiful blue skies most of the winter, so that is good. I do like to have other options though for those days of grey skies and rain or snow.

  4. Thanks for posting such great information about lighting a cabin off the grid.

    I found it to be very interesting, even though I am not the kind of person who would like to be off the grid.

    I kind of like a combination of the oil lamps and an LED battery powered light….I think that the oil lamp has more of an “off the grid feel” and the LED light could actually provide good light!

    What is your lighting preference?

    • Right now I have to agree. The oil lamp is nice to have and the LED is nice for reading etc., but hopefully in the future I will have some kind of solar lighting. That would be my choice…with the others for backup of course

  5. I do like the idea of solar powered lighting, okay you have initial expense but over the long term you can light the home for peanuts.

    We have gone all the way through our home and installed LED bulbs, what a difference this has made to the electric bill therefore I can understand the combination of solar panels with LED lights makes so much sense regarding power consumption.

    Also LED lights have come along way in recent times, what once was a dull start to warm up and remain dim now turns on with immediate brightness and stays that way alike traditional bulbs plus the bulb prices have started to become more reasonable.

    How did you get on installing the solar panels, did you attend an installation course?

    • Hi Simon, I agree with the LED lights, we built a house 5 years ago and I installed LED lights throughout.  To date I have only had one burn out so they last a long time.  

      As for the off grid cabin, unfortunately forest fires ravaged our area last summer and for most of it we were unable to access the property so all reno’s came to a halt.  Hopefully in the next year we will get some solar panels installed.  

      We have been looking at taking or attending an installation course.

  6. if a family had to live off grid as a no choice , survival thing ,does anyone know how much kerosene a person would have to have for a year ,just to use for oil lamps to light up a 3 bedroom ,1 bath house?

    • Hi Lauyana,

      Kerosene is pretty expensive. I would be more inclined to use Propane. A large propane tank can last quite awhile and with that you could have a gas stove and dryer.
      For lights I like to use solar. We have just a couple solar panels for lights in the cabin and they work very well and really cost nothing one they are set up.
      Have a read here on installing solar panels
      Solar Panels for Cabin


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