I’m not as hard-core as the “preppers” who are ready to lock themselves in a basement for 2 years while nuclear winter rages overhead, but I was a Boy Scout, and so the motto “Be Prepared” was imprinted on me from a young age. I like the comfort that comes with being at least somewhat prepared for bad things to happen — whether it’s something life-threatening like a home invasion or fire, or merely inconvenient like a leaking TPR valve or needing to fix a leaky toilet.
With the advent of LED technology, very bright lights that use very little energy are affordable, and I believe LEDs should play a big role in your self-preparedness — from flashlights to fixtures. But today’s review is of a product that’s part emergency flashlight, part nightlight, part backup emergency light source… for less than $8. Meet the Eton Blackout Buddy.
The concept is simple: plug it into a wall outlet so its built-in rechargeable battery is always ready. It’s only 4 inches tall, and designed so you can plug it into the lower receptacle of a two-plug outlet and still use the top one. If the power goes out, the Blackout Buddy senses the power loss and turns on its top three LED lights automatically, lighting a hallway, bedroom, or anywhere else you want light in a blackout. I didn’t test how long the light would last in an emergency, but its instructions claim it will work for 4 hours on a full charge.
The Blackout Buddy also includes a night light feature. If AUTO is selected via a switch on the side of the unit, a small light sensor on the front can detect when its dark and turn on a single LED light on the bottom of the unit. If plugged into a standard wall outlet, this shines a dimmer light downward toward the floor. I installed a Blackout Buddy in our upstairs hallway that connects to three bedrooms, and it lights up that hallway nicely after dark. However, for my tastes, even the single LED light of the Blackout Buddy’s night light mode is a bit too bright for me to sleep (I like it pitch black when I sleep), so I have that switch set to OFF on the Blackout Buddy installed in our master bedroom. But if you like a little light in your room at night, AUTO might be fine for you.
In addition to being an emergency light and night light, the Blackout Buddy can also be used as a flashlight. The rear prongs can fold into the housing and a red power button on top of the unit lets you turn the 3 front LEDs on and off. I can see this being extremely handy in an emergency situation. If the power goes out, the Blackout Buddy turns on automatically, making it easy to locate. Just remove it from the outlet (it will stay turned on), flip the prongs down, and use the red power button if you need to turn it off to save batteries.
Retail price for the Blackout Buddy is around $21, but I ordered a two-pack of Blackout Buddies on Amazon for under $16 shipped, which makes them less than $8 each. In this product family, Eton also makes the Blackout Buddy CO (which combines the functions of the Blackout Buddy with a carbon monoxide detector for around $45 each) and the Blackout Buddy H20, which is a tiny version of the original that can last for 10 years in storage, and uses a water-activated magnesium oxide battery that is rated to last for 72 hours, but reports show it can last almost 120 hours. If I didn’t already have recently-replaced CO detectors all over my house, a Blackout Buddy CO might be a nice option.
All of the Blackout Buddy products have the American Red Cross logo printed on the side, though it’s not clear to me whether that means they’re officially endorsed or whether Eton pays to license the logo (possibly both). Either way, the Blackout Buddy provides cheap peace of mind for situations where one might need light in an emergency situation. After installing my two test units in a hallway and our master bedroom, I purchased six more so that every bedroom in the house is covered, as well as a few additional hallways and open areas near exits.
I hope we never need them, but even with the night light feature turned off, I sleep better knowing it’s there. Pick up a Blackout Buddy two-pack yourself and give them a try!
As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and feedback below.