The Problems of Blacking Out Your Windows When Bugging In

Many of us who plan to bug in have alternate lighting systems.  Now after a major disaster or TEOTWAWKI a light will be a beacon that will draw attention to you.  If you have light, people will come to your location and expect or demand help.  So what good are your lights?

Our natural reaction is that we will blackout our windows and hide the fact that we have light.  Now I done a bit of research on this and it is not as easy as it seems.  One idea that always comes up is boarding up all your windows with plywood or something similar.  Now this will work, but it has a downside.  If you want light during the day, you have to take the plywood down and if you don’t, sealing the windows up will get hot in the summer.

I looked up information and talked to my mother about the blackout regulations in England during World War 2.

Blackout regulations were first imposed on 1 September 1939, before the declaration of war. They required that all windows and doors be covered at night with suitable material such as heavy curtains, cardboard or paint, to prevent the escape of any light that might aid enemy aircraft.

My mother said that in her house they had very heavy black material on curtain rods that extended well over the edges of the windows. The material was thick almost like blankets.

In the beginning families would spend a lot of time putting up blackout materials only to find that one thickness of fabric was not enough to stop light from escaping and drawing the attention of an air raid warden or neighbor.  Sometimes two or three thicknesses were required before all lights were invisible. Some tried to save time by lining their windows with black paper.  This was fine initially but with the continuous taking down and putting back up this method didn’t last long.

In this type of situation, you will have plenty of choirs to keep you busy, so you want to make this as easy as possible.  Standard window blinds and curtains will not work.  Many stores sell what they call blackout curtains; however, they are designed to keep sunlight out.  These are often good heavy material, but will not hide the fact that you have light, due to their design.  The material can be repurposed or buy extra large that extend well over the edges of the window..

My suggestion is that you confine the light to a room in your home with few windows.  Second, consider putting shutters on the windows in this room.  Now shutters by themselves may not block out all light, but combined them with good curtains, this may solve your problem.  Don’t forget when you open the door to leave this room that light may leak out.

I have seen attempts to blackout windows with paint. The attempts I saw did not work well, it seemed like there was always a leak somewhere.

If you have ever been in a situation in which there is no light, you will know that a very small light can be seen from a long way off.  Plan how you will blackout your windows now, while the materials you will need are easily available.


17 thoughts on “The Problems of Blacking Out Your Windows When Bugging In”

  1. Permaculture tells us to look for more than one purpose for an item.


    Windows not only let light in and out, they also let heat in and out.

    So I think a blackout curtain should be in the class of thermo/thermal curtain.

    Because at sunset in a cold climate, I must prevent the heat stored in the room during the day from escaping through what are often single-paned windows into the ever-colder night. And I want to stop light escaping too for OPSEC reasons.

    Good thermal curtains will likely be much cheaper than double or especially triple glazing, which does not even stop light.

    If this is important now, imagine how important it is at SHTF when we must conserve whatever heating fuel we have.

    As yet – I coincidentally started to think about this just a couple of days ago – I have no product to recommend.

    But just scrolling Amazon for “thermo curtains” shows how disappointed customers can be in products that allege they are of blackout quality. So much research will be needed.

    Curtains have to have a hand’s length of floor drape, otherwise warm room air can get underneath at dusk and make contact with the cold nighttime window. Which is why you have to insulate the curtain top with a pelmet as well. Because the room air up there is even warmer than at floor level.

    2 final comments:

    1. the material “chenille” seems preferred in thermo curtains;

    2. I myself currently have 40-year old wooden slat-type horizontal roller shutters on my southern windows that are controlled by a manual strap. These days, electric ones have replaced them, which is going to be fatal at SHTF.

    But it is very sobering that although these shutters block out light to my satisfaction at dawn, I can see light through them at night from the garden. Maybe new modern plastic ones are better, I do not know.

  2. A bit of research shows that for CONUS, there are firms that make fit-for-purpose blackout curtains for occupations or places that need 100% light blockage:
    is a firm in Minnesota.


    1. while the curtains are fire-retardant, there is no statement about insulative quality.
    2. I do not know what these curtains look like when hung day by day in a domestic setting. Is there a colour range?

    In W. and E. Europe, a thick 100% cotton material called “Molton” is used in “Satin” and “(theatre) Stage” weights of 250 grams per square metre and upward to achieve total light blockage for curtains. Molton comes in different colours.

    That figure of 250g/m2 when converted to CONUS ounces per square foot might assist in selecting light-blocking materials.

  3. I don’t see any sense in blacking out your windows for any air raids. With todays high tech light from your windows is the last thing a drone will need to strike a house. Now if your doing it to conceal resources you still have bigger problems. A generator makes a lot of noise and solor cells could even attract people wanting them. Blacked out windows are a sign you are still using the house and are hiding something. Borded up windows are also saying no one is home come and take what you can find.

    1. I not talking about air raids but even if you are only using a flashlight or a kerosene lantern, you will need to black out your windows.

    2. m005,

      Really? Firstly, the article said nothing about blacking out for a current war; it did mention historical references about previous persons with experience in a war where bombing runs were used on a huge scale. Secondly, no mention at all was made to indicate that the article was written to protect from drones.
      The premise here were the drawbacks encountered with a display of resources as well as the drawback of methods under current recommendation and historical solutions might present in hiding these.

      Pay attention and survive, wild flights of fancy will get you as dead as tinfoil on the head.

  4. There are a lot of things one could do to black out the windows and it look perfectly normal. If you start using such things now they will not be noticed when the SHTF. I am with using things now to keep the house warmer in winter and cooler in the summer and they can have the plus of being black out curtains as such.
    Back in the Victorian era they had heavy curtains to keep heat in and out. Remember Scarlett made her dress out of her mothers portiere’s.
    Yes, it will be hard to live and hide when things go south, but that does not mean we do not plan to do all we can to avoid early, later, or latest detection.

  5. The curtains that have a rubber backing are very good for blackout curtains and for insulation. However, if there is a blackout problem, doubling the curtains would most like work. Doubling of anything is better than depending on one layer. Cut cardboard to fit the window snugly and place it in the window, secured by one piece of tape, and then hang a blackout curtain over that. The cardboard can be removed and set under the window. The curtain can be drawn during the daytime to let in light. If one method, whichever one you use, is not sufficient, use another method along with it for complete blackout.

  6. I plan to use black foamboard. You can get large sheets of it.
    Cut it to the window size, if the window is too big for one sheet, use black duct tape to put two pieces together. Then put black duct tape around all the edges of the foam board to prevent it from tearing around the edges. Then push into the window frame. If you cut it just a tiny bit larger than the window frame, it will push in very tightly. If there are any gaps, you can cover the gaps with black duct tape.

  7. Spring loaded rods can be used inside the window enclosure. During a recent heavy ice storm we used old wool blankets to do this. Then a set of close fitting heavy duty light blocker curtains that were hung to extend past the top, bottom, and side of the window frame.

    We did not do this to block light we live in a late 1700’s farmhouse so we wanted to retain heat in the house. We were out of electricity for more than a week, a source of heat wasn’t to bad we have a nice wood stove. Come to find out though our Gennie is not large enough to run 2 fridges, 2 freezers, lights, and furnace. We sacrificed the furnace since we had the stove.

    Come to find out though, the curtain set up worked very well as a light block, We could not see light from the rooms where we had this set up. Consider it, the old army wool blankets worked great to cut 90% of the light and the curtains did the rest.

  8. Drawn curtains in daytime are a sure sign that somebody is at home. Any house in good repair will draw attention so make your house look like crap from the outside.
    Make the kitchen your total Black-out room since you ‘ll be spending most of your time there even at night because you’ll have your potbelly-stove there for heat and cooking. Smoke and cooking odours carry for miles. Prepare all the food for the week in one cooking period and reheat the rest of the time. Keep the wood inside, store it in one room so it stays dry and is accessible from the inside. Divert the rainwater off the roof into 45 gal.drums kept in the basement.

    1. You presume a lot about everyone: My house is poorly built, and I have used blackout (thermal) curtains for decades, keeping them closed because the windows look like crap. Home or not. I have no “potbelly stove” in my kitchen, nor a basement due to high water table. I do agree that cooking odors may likely seep out and that cooking entire weeks worth is a good idea, when people are less likely to be out and about.

    1. Really JayJay? I think the point the writer was trying to make got through to everyone even with the incorrect spelling. It was the “point” of the article that is important, not the spelling.

  9. I cut pieces of R-12 insulation (used for insulation in a 2×4 studded wall and available at hardware stores, Home Depot, etc.), cut slightly larger than the window area needed and stuff it into the window well, or tack it up with small brads, or with small nails and wooden strips depending on the window size (more rigid attachment is needed for larger window areas). It insulates while blocking light from getting outside. Works great for us.

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