ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

Candles For Preparedness | Cost Per Hour To Burn

cost per hour to burn a candle

Candles for preparedness. The lights go out when the grid goes down. One of several ways to light up a room is the candle.

There’s nothing quite like the warm glow of several lit candles in a room at night. Some may find it to be romantic. Or simply calming. If you’ve ever sat around a campfire, you know the somewhat mesmerizing effect of watching a flickering flame.

Sure, there are other sources of light that you might use during a power outage or grid-down situation such as the ‘hurricane’ oil lamp, flashlights, headlamps, solar-powered landscape LED lights, lanterns, etc..

However lets look at the ordinary candle as an option too.

How Much Does It Cost To Burn A Candle?

Awhile ago I figured out how much it costs per hour to burn a candle for each of several different types. Tea light, votive, pillar, and taper candle sticks. I wanted to discover what might be a economical choice for stocking up on some candles for preparedness.

I had a look at lots of the candles available from Amazon and calculated the cost per hour to burn them – while looking for the best price.

Here are my updated results for the lowest operating candle costs…

(2019 prices)

2-cents per hour Votive Candles

Based on current pricing (always subject to change), the least cost-per-hour candle that I could find are the following Votive Candles. They burn approximately 10 hours each.
(18.59/72)/10=.026
10-Hour Unscented Votive Candles (72)
(potential amzn commission at no extra cost to you)

2-cents per hour Tea Light Candles

The following Tea Lights will burn ~4 hours. The burn cost is similar to the votive above.
(11.99/120)/4=.025
4-Hour Unscented Tea Light Candles (120)

8-cents per hour Pillar Candles


If Pillar candles are your style, the best value are the following 5″ 40-hour Pillars…
(39.95/12)/40=.083
40-Hour Unscented Pillar Candles (12)

9-cents per hour Taper Candles

The best value (cost vs. burn time) for Taper-style candle sticks are apparently the following 7″ tall 7-hour candles (1″ base).
(27.95/45)/7=.089
7-Hour Candle Sticks (45)

Candle Safety

Candles are probably the least safe when it comes to alternative lighting. It stands to reason that an open burning flame in your house could present a problem. A few common sense tips include the following:

  • Set candle on a non-flammable solid base (holder)
  • Don’t burn near anything flammable (curtains, etc.)
  • Kids in the house? Use extreme caution re: placement
  • Pets in the house? Be sure the candle is out of reach
  • It’s never good to leave a burning flame unattended
  • Never leave the house with candles burning

Candle Storage

Store candles in a cool place (out of direct sunlight) so they will not melt or warp. Ask me how I know…

Candles For Preparedness

So, do any of you store extra candles for alternative lighting?

A number of years ago I purchased a lot of candles for this purpose. Votive seemed to be the best general value, so I focused on that style. Although I also purchased a quantity of tea light, pillar, and taper style.

Continue reading: Hurricane Oil Lamp for Preparedness

Headlamp vs Flashlight

Fire Extinguishers | 3 or More Locations For House Fire Preparedness

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54 Comments

  1. Decided I needed candles a long time ago, now I didn’t bother counting them but it’s about 30 pounds of mostly pillar candles- at a guess 35+ with an additional
    box of those long taper kind.

    Now I have enough led lights, flashlights and similar that candles are almost unnecessary.

    BTW, led lights powered by a solar charger cost nothing to use, use and reuse.
    Rigged up a reducer, volt meter and usb jack unit to the lid of a battery box a while back.
    1 12v car battery will power a couple led’s and charge small electronics for potentially weeks.

  2. My wife loves to have lots of candles around the house on a regular basis. We know there is an increase in fire risk but you have to manage that risk intelligently. My wife and brother have bought oil lamps but it is difficult finding one that does not leak.

    My fallback is several LED headlamps and flashlights around the house with candles as a secondary source of light and paraffin for fire starters. ( not to be confused with how the British refer to kerosene as paraffin.)

    I tend to save paraffin because candles are easy to make with leftover melted paraffin and some cotton string.

  3. Collecting candles is one of my favorite preparedness tasks. I tend to find great deals at rummage sales and Goodwill, looking for the largest mass of wax per dollar. The candle wax can be useful for other applications as well, including firestarters and sealing containers.

    One further safety tip, be aware of the maximum recommended burn time of your large candles. A 40 hour candle is not intended to burn for 40 consecutive hours. They can become melted and unstable, creating an unsafe situation. Usually the max recommended burn time is only a few hours.

  4. We mostly use rechargeable headlamps, flashlights and lanterns or the occasional glow lights for our emergency lighting supplies because we have a lot of animals. I did get a half-dozen 100 hour candles on sale a while back but we only use them for an hour or two at a time.

    However, we do use candles inside a ceramic/clay pot for heat on cold nights where the wood stove heat doesn’t quite reach like in the bathrooms. Sometimes I use the tea lights but usually I make my own candles. I get candles from the thrift store in the grab-bag section. I can fill a grab-bag with 4 or 5 pds of broken, off-season, faded candles for $2.00. I bring them home, melt them down and pour the wax into tomato paste can or tuna can molds, add a wick or 2 and they are ready to go under the clay pot (which sits on a metal base).

  5. Purchased a bunch of votive candles a few years back at a Dollar Store. Still got’m, hardly ever used’m. I believe that they were around a Buck each. I like’m because they are in a glass jar and are not only stable, but can don’t require a “holder”. Plus they can be placed almost anywhere BEFORE LIGHTING.

    You don’t want to grab a hot one.

  6. I make candles, both the tapers and pillar styles. I also make candles that are within Mason canning jars. By far, beeswax candles are the best candles — and they are natural wax candles…..but unless you have your own apiary or have a good friend who does, you’ll pay a price for beeswax (or barter w/ something of substantially equal worth).

    The light coming from a lit candle varies, as we all know. Personally, I don’t stock the little tea or votive candles because there isn’t much light emitted. I stock and use tapers and pillars (what I make). I use (and stock) beeswax and paraffin wax. As for long term — beeswax would be the only renewable resource that would possibly become available.

    Equally as important for us are the other lighting sources. We have some old family oil lamps and kerosene lamps and a stash of wicking for those lamps. We also have some cans of lamp oil and kerosene on hand).

    All of these light sources can be dangerous when lit, so remember to be very cautious! We never ever light a pillar or taper candle unless we put it on a glass or china base (think dinner plate) — and they are not in the rooms where our dogs are. If we had cats, we wouldn’t use candles or any fire-based lighting.

  7. I have all kinds of candles, but I have switched over to led’s during power failures. I like the candles as my long term lighting needs, mainly because it will always be good. I have some candles that are about forty years old. You know what, they light just as well as a new candle. I wish I could say the same for flashlights. Just think, if you ever explored an old mine or cave, you can find candles in some of these places. I don’t care how long they have been there, they will still light.

  8. I have a huge box of candles of all sizes and shapes. Picked them up for next to nothing at various garage and estate sales. I’d planned on using them to make scented candles for gifts, but if the SHTF before I get around to it, we’re covered for a while.

  9. We don’t use candles as much as in the past. Although I do like to make beeswax candles from our own hives, mostly for gifts tho. Now I’m more of a fan of the rechargeable lanterns, solar lanterns, and headlamps. They even charge our cell phones. I do have a few oil lamps here, and they are decorative as well as useful. Haven’t had any leaking issues with them.

  10. Have a PILE of Candles just cause.
    All different colors/shapes/smells, but they all throw off a nice light, although I will admit some of the ‘Scented’ ones are just all out nasty.
    Also have most of the “other” light sources, but my go-to is the Candles, just like the light. Seems to attract me like a Bug I guess.

    PS; Since Ken said to ask…
    “Store candles in a cool place (out of direct sunlight) so they will not melt or warp. Ask me how I know…”
    So Ken, how do ya know??? HAHAHAHA

    1. I can’t speak for Ken, but I know because I opened up a box of candles and most of them were melted into weird shapes. It became a box of miscellaneous wax mixed in with random candle wicks.

  11. Bee’s wax has a higher melting point than regular candles, which make them ideal for GHB’s and vehicles. I keep one in the car and my GHB. So far there have been so signs of melting or softening.

  12. Just to be argumentative
    Haha, all….mmmm, Ken!
    I don’t like the open flame, dripping wax…. There are preventative measures that can be taken, of course.
    We have house dogs and cats.
    And we light a few up outside or while camping.

    Although we have quite a few candles and holders,for stand by, I don’t count them out.

    Personally, what I like about used candles….the dryer lint, egg cartons fire starters….best dang fire starter, ….besides a road flare and propane torch.
    It’s all I’ve used this season.

    I haven’t been a romantic type since….?
    (Ahh, she still loves me…..I think🙄, well Sadie does)

  13. I have one of those Coleman candle lanterns, which in itself is pretty neat. It burns tea lights or Coleman tub candles made for the lantern, that burn 4 to 5 hours. A little more expensive though. The flame is fully contained in the lantern, reducing the chance for a fire. I also have a miniature lantern that looks like a oil lamp, that also takes the same candles which are enclosed also. I don’t usually use open flame candles, but will if I have to. Other wise, just my usual emergency lights.

  14. After reading an article that was posted here a few years ago, I tried making my own candles with much success. Ebay has Soy wax for sale (20lbs for $6 shipped). Ebay also has wicks with metal bases for $9/100. I used Tuna size cans as they will not tip over.

  15. Well, candle articles and fire extinguisher articles in the same week.

    Unless you are keeping bees for wax and or have nobody clumsy enough like a cat, dog, toddler, aged family member, someone sick from the flu to knock it over WHY use candles?

    Little light generated and an excellent fire risk.

    I looked up a candle power 1 candle power = 12.57 lumens.

    A very popular solar charged flashlight-lantern in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria is the Operkey. It has great reviews 4+ stars. It recharges in 6 hours in decent sunlight and lasts a few day between charging’s. Cost 9.99 with free shipping from Amazon. I hope Ken places a link here.

    No Fire Hazard, 150 lumens output as a lantern, that is almost 12 candles burning worth.

    Lets see 2 cents per hour X 12 candles = 24 cents an hour. 9.99/.24 = less than 42 hours worth of candle light before the solar flashlight-lantern breaks even. Dividing into 4 hours use per day that’s less than 2 weeks before the candles cost more to use.

    Don’t get me wrong I like candles for mood setting with my spouse, keeping the chafing pot warm, starting fires under nasty situations and maybe after EMP and or Murphy’s Law kills off all my electronic gadgets THEN I know how to find feral bee colonies and have the skills to secure wax and honey from them.

    Just one of hundreds of better options.

  16. We would rather not use candles because of possible fire issue .We do however have a few glass jar candles set aside for emergency. We have used Coleman propane lanterns and our kerosene lanterns on occasion when there is no power.
    We have used a jar candle for mood lighting on occasion.

  17. In your shelter, as the storm rages overhead, the flickering flames of your candles smile a warmth of light.

  18. Just a thought for teotwawki is tallow candles. If you have any tallow to spare that is.

    1. I had a pint size mason jar filled with bacon grease that we were saving for later.
      I got bored one nite. And took a q-tip with the cardboard tube. Dunked it in the bacon grease. Flipped it over, sunk the q-tip down to the cotton end, and lit it. It worked great actually once it got heated up and started burning!
      Then… Of course I crammed a bunch more q-tips in the jar and lit them.😀 I sat a couple 1/2 x 3 inch bolts on the rim. And put a tin cup on top and was able to heat water hot enough for cup o soup or coffee etc.
      Plus it smelled like bacon!☕🐷

    2. I made tallow candles in mason jars, but they molded and went bad while in storage. I guess that means I should use them sooner.

  19. The 100 hour liquid paraffin candles work and last as advertised.
    I think any of the solar light gizmos are the best way to go.

    1. I do not use crisco, or similar products , but do have 2 cans to stick an emergency candle down in or 3 or 4 depending on the size of the ..can…light and lasts long time…it will stink up the house, and if butter flavored may smell like it… may smoke up the ceiling… but will give off both warmth and light. Of course I would place in a small pot…sit in front of a mirror..Bacon grease i reserve for eggs…but beef tallow, and or any rancid fats would work as Deep South mentioned. I have some old GMO vegetable oil that is reserved for the candles in a jar…

  20. Could I suggest a little experiment please.

    Please start this experiment with a working flashlight in your pocket. Your toes will thank you later.

    Tonight turn off ALL your lights. Close the drapes to keep outside ambient light from neighbors and street lights out.

    Look around at ALL the LED lights on your TV, Stoves and all that. Each one is almost the light output of a tea candle burning there.

    How many candles do you need to move safely around your home? Please remember Each One is a LIT fire starter to burn you out of house and home.

    The National Fire Protection Agency has a lot of disturbing facts about how many house fires come from candle usage and the damages caused as well as lives lost. THIS is with EMS and Fire Department at hand to help.

    A Crisco candle spilling flaming oils over your kid (or your legs) will be a first class disaster even today with 911 Ambulances and Burn Wards. I’ve treated folks for this more than once as I count liquid 100 hour candles as Crisco Candles. Napalm folks Napalm.

    I lost a friend camping from burns from his sleeping bag catching fire from a candle.

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE buy yourselves an early Christmas gift of a solar rechargeable lantern AND some extra fire extinguishers.

    That song “The night Chicago Died” was about a fire caused by candles or oil lamps starting the big fire.

    “Candles Carefully used and all” that ignores that Murphy’s Laws rules when chaos is afoot. I notice nobody from the Firefighters, EMS services or Electrical Linemen have commented about how great candles are here?

    I use candles to start fires when it’s nasty rainy-snowy out there.

    1. I have given fire extinguishers as wedding gifts for years now. Some people think it’s weird, but it is one gift that newlyweds rarely buy for themselves, and if you need it, you don’t have time to run to the store to buy one!

  21. It’s amazing how your eyes will adapt to VERY LOW LIGHT. Once your eyes adapt, a single candle will appear to put out some decent light.

    candle

    Try this experiment: Plug in an ordinary “night light”, say, in the bathroom. Then, next time you get up during the night, (don’t turn on any other light) you’ll notice how bright just one little night light appears to be! You’ll see the light glowing down the hall and other spaces – seemingly surprisingly bright.

    A typical night light bulb is just a tad brighter (lumens) than the equivalent output of a typical candle. but close enough for getting the concept across.

    When it’s dark, your pupils dilate to compensate for low light levels. I wrote about it awhile back which you may be interested to read:

    Human Night Vision

    The point is, for minimal lighting you don’t necessarily need a 800 lumen lantern (for example).

    For general preparedness, a box of ordinary candles will provide many hours of minimal light. Just one more way to solve a temporary problem…

    Note: If there’s an idiot reading this ;) , I’m not suggesting that you burn a candle as a night light while you sleep! (apparently gotta say it in this day and age of coddling).

    1. Ken

      As a side note on human adapted vision it is quite possible to navigate a field or other open area at night using only the sky glow from the many street lights, yard lights, etc if you let your eyes adapt. Most of us are spoiled and don’t know it when it comes to lighting at night.

      Check the web for dark sky areas and you can see most of us are living in a light polluted country. When Katrina went through the contrast was amazing.

      1. I suppose that’s true too. It is also apparent that there is an excess of walking idiots out there lacking any shred of common sense. And because of them, sometimes the rest of us pay the price, so to speak. That’s how “Nanny States” evolve (tons of regulations). Making it ‘safe’ for the least common denominator of the public at large. But I digress, as I shake my head…

    2. Ken,
      Most candle fires start in bedrooms so your note is appropriate. Folks leaving candles unattended. Holidays are the days most fires happen.

      Faulty electrical equipment is more apt to burn your house down. Like you posted earlier unattended pots and pans cause most fires. The other main culprit used to be coffee makers left on all day.

      Again,common sense(?) comes into play.

      DW is in the habit of using the small round solar walkway lights as nightlights in the house.

      She decorated clay pots, put sand in them and has one in every room.(including my office whether I want it or not.😏)

      Every morning she gathers them up and puts them in a big pot to catch the sun. It’s a habit now with her. She has probably 20 new ones in a drawer in case one dies. She cracks me up!

      There is something about sitting around a fire that is soothing to the soul. Definitely in our DNA.

      While I’m posting this, on the radio there was an explosion on a train in India that killed like 70 plus people. Seems a passenger was cooking breakfast on a small gas stove(butane maybe?) and it exploded. Many dead ,burned. Took the train 20minutes to stop. Crazy…

  22. I have literally hundreds of candles of all shapes and sizes but they are really back ups to back ups and don’t get used. I live in Northern California so some of you may know we have been getting repeated power outages for the last few weeks which really has put a focus on my preps for no electricity. I have always had power go off in winter due to snow storms ect but believe me its a different story when its warm. Just one example would be my freezer which is out in one of my sheds. In the winter when its 30 degrees out there is no need to power the freezer to keep the food from spoiling like I have has to do with the temps at 70. Aside from my generator solar led lanterns and stickup lights are my go to as well as led headlamps. I also have multiple oil lamps but as I said back ups to backups and I don’t really feel comfortable with the open flames. Aside from that great article ken as always because i doubt any other of us stopped to think about cost per hour on candles

  23. Dark. I mean really dark, as in overcast skies and zero moonlight. None of the little LED light sources. Blindness or something similar. I’ve walked into the woods (deer hunting) many mornings like this, well before sunrise. Even that reddish/orange glow in the east, has not yet appeared.

    Functioning by feel, is all there is. Well, the noises of the woods are there. Comforting? No, not the right word. Invigorating? Energizing? Stimulating? Your senses come alive, straining for input. I’m carrying a big “boom-stick” so there is no fear. Well, maybe an ember of fear, way in the back of the mind. I quickly tamp that down, where no one will ever see it. I know it’s there.

    Darkness is uncomfortable for all of us. Something in our DNA perhaps? That is the reason for all the light sources, that ember in the back of the mind. LED light sources are great. Very low energy usage and lots of light. The ember is quenched. Candles will do the trick, and even give a little heat, yea!

    In an electrified world, there is always light somewhere. Maybe a far-away tower with it’s flashing red light. A house in the distance, provides a rectangular light source. It is truly a rare experience, zero ambient light. It can be experienced, but it’s hard to find. In a grid-down world, we’ll all be happy to have a lowly candle. An oil lamp will be awesome. A LED headlamp would be the ultimate.

    Yes, we have candles. We have oil lamps and headlamps and flashlights and solar power, stored to quench the ember. Learning to live with the ember, will be a challenge.

    1. Great comment.

      It reminds me of an early experience of ‘pitch black’ many years ago when Mrs.J and I were camping at the Lassen volcanic national park. That night there was no moon. There were not many others there. It was pitch black. I mean, zilch. Not a single lumen could be found. You literally could not see the hands right in front of your face. I recall that feeling of unease.

      When your first experience a true lack of artificial light while out in the open – from any source near or far – it’s memorable! There’s lots of so called light pollution these days. You’ve got to get far away from civilization to ‘see the night’.

    2. Where I live it’s not that hard to get the total black out. When power is out if the sky is overcast or rain or snowing you can stand in my front doorway and not see the porch. Of course the town I live in is in the middle of the woods

  24. I’ve quietly followed the back and forth discussion on dangers of vs. usefulness of candles for shtf lighting. Truthfully, I’m a little amazed.

    Does using candles pose risks? Of course, as do fireplaces, wood burning heaters, and yes, the wiring in your home that brings electricity to the bulb that brings you light when the grid is working.

    You don’t live a risk free life, you mitigate and minimize the risk around you. It’s up to you. As my Momma used to say, “God gave you a brain……….use it.”

    If you don’t think you can safely use a candle without burning your home down……do yourself a favor and avoid using them. Nothing wrong with warning of the risks they pose. Same with guns, there are some inherent risks involved. Common sense negates most of those risks, training and practice eliminates the rest.

    No offense intended, but some folks can be trusted with guns and grenade launchers, some people can manage to hurt themselves with a foam rubber ducky. Only you know which category you fit.

    1. Dennis,
      OMG, that was funny… Foam rubber ducky… Unfortunately there are a lot more foam rubber ducky individuals out there than not… They are not the prepper kind.

  25. Love this discussion. So many points on candles. I like Plainsmedic’s point on having an ’ember’. True there are safer sources of light, but what is a candle but a very little bonfire to warm up a person’s spirits in dark times?

    I used to live and work in total physical darkness for years. Miles underground, kept going only by a wet-battery cap lamp for hours. A number of times those failed, and I walked out from underground without any light.(Amazing how after awhile your other senses expand to fill in for the loss of sight). In later years I carried an very tiny squeeze LED light on the zipper of my digger jacket, just in case. I have to say I felt more at ease deep underground, in the dark with my lamp off, than I have ever felt in a forest after dark without a light. (I am kind of a scaredy-cat out in the woods anyway.) I walk around my farm in the dark of night often, but always carry an LED light, but I will tell you it is for my old dog Jake to see where he is going.

    Still, I love candles. DW recently bought an LED candle, complete with what appears as a moving flickering flame. looks like the real thing, but is cold to the touch. Safety and ambiance. But we still have ‘real candles’ that we light occasionally. Something about having that little bit of real flame that I guess the human soul needs for comfort.

    1. I’m glad you brought up the interesting reality that candles (a flame) has a sort of comforting appeal. It’s evidently ingrained in our DNA.

      There’s nothing like the cozy feeling as follows: A cold and stormy winter evening. A crackling fire in the stove. A few candles lit at the window sills. Snug as a bug inside your warm abode.

      1. Agreed. We have, in the past, experienced numerous long and short term power outages. We have two kerosene lights on our front porch, one is an antique bronze wall lamp, the other is a kerosene lantern that hangs over the porch railings. Invariably, I will light one or both, just for the, for lack of a better word, ambiance. Just that gentle glow in an otherwise pitch dark world, gives a feeling of comfort and security……….until my wife kicks me back to reality, and I crank the generator.

  26. My daughter sold candles for a couple of years. I have enough candles to light the neighborhood! When we built a cabin where there was no electric we used wine bottles with candles. It was so calming and the light was beautiful. Of course there was the danger of fire. The stupid cat jumped on the table and lit his tail on fire! Good thing I saw it before he jumped down . I grabbed him by the neck and rear and dunked him in the water bucket on top of the wood stove! He was really pissed, I don’t think he realized he was on fire. It could have been a disaster.

    1. Cats and Candles apparently do not mix! ;)

      If there’s a cat in the house, it’s a good idea to place the candle where the cat cannot reach – although that in itself may be a significant challenge, given the remarkable abilities of a cat to get just about anywhere it wants to…

  27. When our kids were younger we would put candles in the sink that was filled with an inch of water. One in the kitchen sink and one in the bathroom sink.

    1. That’s a neat idea in general – place a candle (with its candle holder) in a low profile tray with water that’s at least the diameter equivalent to the height of the candle. That way, if it tips over (for whatever reason), it will land in the water. Like a pie plate or something.

  28. – I do have a number of candles around the house. They are the backup to the backup to the backup for emergency lighting (There may be one more backup there). The cheapest way I have found to buy candles is to buy the candles intended for menorahs following Jewish holidays, when they are typically placed on sale by the boxes of 100.

    Like a lot of other people, we have multiple decorative and scented candles around. (DW loves to stink up the house when she can.)

    We also have, in addition to the generator, 2 dozen solar yard lights, multiple flashlights, battery-powered lanterns, Oil lamps, hurricane lanterns, headlamps, Chemical lights…

    I even have still half-a-dozen Zippo lighters, which I have used as a miniature oil lamp more than once. Unlike a Bic lighter, you can set them down and they will stay lit, and provide a good light.

    – Papa S.

    1. I like the Zippo lighters. The only pain is that they dry out rather quickly – requiring to keep up with squirting in more fuel every so often.

      1. in my younger dumber days of smoking an over filled Zippo in my pocket caused great irritation.Im sure you know what I mean..

    2. – That’s why I quit carrying mine and went to a Bic, I carried a Zippo for almost all of 20 years in the Army.
      – Papa

  29. A long time ago I found the value of candles and started saving/collecting them myself. Over time, I figured out that after Christmas the price plunges and all the close outs keep cutting the price until they’re gone. All different types, sizes and uses. Just a heads up!

  30. 8″ tall glass jar candles from the Dollar Store cost a dollar and burn 80 hours. That’s about a penny an hour….New Winner !!!!! And they come in many colors although they are unscented.

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