Solar Candle set to reduce CO₂ emissions and devastating shack fires

A student living without access to electricity studies using the Solar Candle for light. A student living without access to electricity studies using the Solar Candle for light.

An acclaimed South African inventor has developed a “candle without a flame” which will not only reduce the incidences of devastating shack fires, but also cut CO₂ emissions from paraffin lamps and candles “on an unprecedented scale”.

Developed specifically to endure the harsh conditions of rural and township living, the solar powered Nightlight Solar Candle – a “candle without a flame” – has caught the attention of World Bank-backed non-profit organisation (NPO) Lighting Africa.

Lighting Africa, which seeks to provide “modern off-grid lighting products in Sub-Saharan Africa”, has shortlisted the Solar Candle for distribution throughout Africa, because of its durability and unique performance. The organisation has, with its partners, “contributed to about 7.7 million people across Africa accessing better quality, affordable, clean lighting”.

Johannesburg-based Solar Candle inventor Ken Hall said he was spurred to develop the product after learning many devastating fires in townships are caused by candles or paraffin lamps setting fire to homes.

Hall was named in Time magazine in 2001 for his internationally acclaimed table top Cobb oven.

“Since then I have designed several other products, specifically the Protostar stove which competes against paraffin stoves in informal settlements,” explained Hall. “It is far safer and runs on methanol based fuel. During my research I discovered what major fire hazards candles and paraffin lamps were. That’s when I saw the need to design a candle without a flame.

“What’s significant is that this is a specifically African product designed to withstand African conditions,” said Hall. “Because this product is environmentally friendly, it will help reduce CO₂ emissions across the country on an unprecedented scale.”

During its lifespan, the Solar Candle emits no CO₂, so for every 1,000 candles replaced by the Solar Candle, there is a 25 ton CO₂ saving, he added.

Hall, the technical director of the company behind the invention, Nightlight, said the charging of the Solar Candle was made easy with a durable solar panel on the base of the product, meaning it simply had to be turned upside down and left in the sun to re-charge. Even after being stored without use for up to 6 months, the Solar Candle would retain 90% of its charge when used again, he said.

The unique aspects of the Solar Candle have seen it noticed by NPOs such as Lighting Africa. These include:

  • Durability: The high-end lithium battery of one Solar Candle means that after charging in sunlight for up to 6 hours, it will emit 5 candle-power white light for up to 7 hours;
  • The Solar Candle, which has a durable plastic body, is water resistant (although not water proof);
  • Long-lasting: The Solar Candle has a life span of just over 4 years, when charged once daily;
  • The Solar Candle uses Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) which have a 12,000 to 15,000 hour life span;
  • Value: To produce the equivalent light emitted by the Solar Candle, at least 5 candles would have to burn at the same time, equating to 1,825 candles annually. At about R2/candle (average price, with each candle lasting about 7 hours), this would cost over R3,500 annually and almost R15,000 over the life cycle of a Solar Candle (4 years), compared to the Solar Candle’s current recommended retail price of about R285 (excluding VAT) per unit;
  • Safe: While open flames from candles or paraffin lamps are one of the  biggest cause of shack fires,  the Solar Candle poses no fire hazard;

Environmentally friendly: A typical candle produces 10 -16 grams of Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) for every hour it burns. Burning 1 candle daily for a year produces about 25kg of CO₂, while a single paraffin lamp burning for 4 hours daily emits the equivalent of 100kg of CO₂ annually. During its lifespan, the Solar Candle emits no CO₂. So for every 1,000 candles replaced by the Solar Candle, there is a 25 ton CO₂ saving.


Fast facts concerning the Nightlight Solar Candle™

  • It can be charged, even in poor weather conditions

  • It offers the light equivalent of 5 candles for up to 7 consecutive hours
  • It uses LEDs which have a 12,000-15,000hr life span
  • Its battery lasts for up to 4 years
  • It is environmentally friendly
  • It is much more economical over the long term than paraffin lamps or candles
  • It is water resistant
  • It can hold its charge. After 6 months’ storage, it will still retain 90% of its charge
  • It is simple to charge – simply turn the Solar Candle upside down, so the solar panel on the base faces the sun
  • Over the course of a year, 1 Solar Candle emits the light equivalent of 1,825 candles (or 7,300 candles over the Solar Candle’s lifespan)
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