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An Oil Lamp For Preparedness

October 29, 2015, by Ken Jorgustin


An oil lamp (hurricane lamp) could be a valuable commodity (for the sake of preparedness) during a power outage event, and will also provide a unique ambiance for occasional use and enjoyment during non-emergencies.

When the power goes out and the lights go out with it, an oil lamp is a practical source of emergency lighting for a room (or rooms) and will burn brighter than an ordinary candle while setting more stable and secure.

Here are a few tips about oil lamps, and an estimated cost-per-hour to operate one…


Brightness Of An Oil Lamp

An oil lamp (or hurricane lamp) will burn brighter than a candle. It varies from lamp to lamp (due to design), however generally speaking an oil lamp will produce several (or more) candlepower of light.

For example the following high quality (made in Germany) Feurhand oil lamp will output 7 candlepower: Feuerhand Hurricane Lantern – Oil Lamp

‘Candlepower’, although mostly an obsolete measurement these days, was once used to express levels of light intensity in terms of the light emitted by a candle of specific size and constituents. Given that we’re talking about oil lamps, it seems appropriate. So for the example above, that particular hurricane lamp outputs the equivalent of 7 candles…


Lamp Oil

Generally, an oil lamp will burn about 0.5 ounces of lamp oil per hour.

While a hurricane lamp will burn a variety of oils, there are quite a number of choices out there for purpose-made ‘smokeless’ lamp oil. One cost-effective choice that I’ve found is the following ‘Firefly’ lamp oil, sold by the gallon (128 ounces) which mathematically calculates to an operating cost of about $0.10 (10 cents) per hour, given its current price.

Firefly CLEAN Lamp Oil – Smokeless

One gallon of lamp oil will last about 256 hours. If you operated an oil lamp for 6 hours a day, one gallon of lamp oil would last you about 42 days…

Tip: If you have old (rancid) olive oil (for example), you can burn that too.
Tip: Keep the oil lamp at least half-full for most effective wicking.


Cut and Trim The Wick

The wick itself doesn’t burn, it’s the oil that burns as it is drawn up the wick.

To get the brightest light and the least ‘smoke’, trim the wick to a point by cutting an angle on each side such that the middle is the point.

Some people like the flame to be curved and cut an arc into the wick, while others simply cut straight across.

A wick will last a long long time if it is properly drawing lamp oil.

Tip: Trim the charred edge of the wick before starting a new burn.
Tip: If the flame height is adjusted too high, the flame may smoke.



An oil lamp produces flame. Take all logical precautions to ensure safety. Consider the location where it is placed, such that it’s less likely to be bumped or knocked over. Obviously if you have children in the house, you need to be particularly concerned about the safety thereof.

The chimney of an oil lamp will get very hot – even after it’s ‘off’ for awhile, so be careful.

Don’t add oil to a flaming or hot lamp.

Regularly clean the chimney as soot builds up.

To put out the flame of an oil lamp, blow a quick burst of air down the chimney (cupping your hand at the top edge of the chimney will help direct the air blast).

Lets hear your own suggestions, tips, and experiences with oil lamps…