An oil lamp (hurricane lamp) is a unique low tech emergency preparedness asset for a power outage event. It will also provide a unique ambiance for occasional use and enjoyment during non-emergencies. There’s nothing like the light of a flame.
It’s a practical source of emergency lighting and will burn brighter than an ordinary candle. It will also provide some heat into the room.
Read on for more tips and recommendations, and an estimated cost-per-hour to operate one (did the math, just for fun…).
How Bright is an Oil Lamp
An oil lamp will burn brighter than a candle. Its brightness varies from lamp to lamp (due to design). It will produce several (or more) candlepower of light than a candle.
What is Candlepower
It’s an old standard of relative brightness. 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.
For example the following Feuerhand lantern will output 7-8 candlepower with its 1/2 inch wick, according to their data:
Why I like the Feuerhand Oil Lamp
1. Made in Germany (they design good stuff).
2. Moderately priced (some quality lamps are lots more expensive).
3. The Feuerhand is equipped with thermal heat-resistant ‘SUPRAX’ globes which will not crack even when touched by rain or snow.
4. Tank holds enough fuel for about 20 hours of light.
5. Burns K1 Kerosene, Lamp Oil, or vegetable oils.
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.
Cost per Hour
One cost-effective choice that I’ve found is the following ‘Firefly’ lamp oil, sold by the gallon (128 ounces). Its usage mathematically calculates to an operating cost of about $0.11 (11 cents) per hour, given its current price.
One gallon of lamp oil will last about 256 hours. If you burned 6 hours a day, one gallon of lamp oil would last you about 42 days…
Maybe your rule-of-thumb for preparedness is 1 gallon per oil lamp per month of full time (night time) operation.
The nice thing about these lamps is the ability to burn all sorts of vegetable oils. Again, a factor is the wick itself. I’ve tried this a few times. Generally it seemed the vegetable oil was drawn up more slowly. My wick charred more. I didn’t get into experimenting with other wicks but I suspect that some wicks may more readily draw up those oils.
Read more: Do-It-Yourself Olive Oil Lamp
Will Lamp Oil go Bad?
It’s fairly safe to say, No, it won’t go bad. Lamp oil has an indefinite shelf life. We’re not cooking with it – we’re burning it. Even if you’re using old olive oil which has gone rancid, it won’t matter to the lantern.
Lamp Oil Tips
1. OLD VEGETABLE OIL
If you have old (rancid) olive oil (for example), you can burn that too. Your results may vary depending on the properties of the wick.
2. FUEL LEVEL
Keep the tank at least half-full for most effective wicking.
Use Citronella oil during the summertime on the porch – bugs don’t like it…
Firefly Citronella Scented Lamp Oil
Cut and Trim The Wick
The wick itself doesn’t burn (the top edge chars). It’s the oil that burns as it’s drawn up the wick.
To get the brightest light and the least smoke, trim the wick to a point. Cut 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.
Trim the charred edge of the wick before starting a new burn.
If the flame height is adjusted too high, the flame may smoke.
Oil Lamp SAFETY
It produces flame. Take all logical and common sense precautions to ensure fire safety. Every home should be equipped with fire extinguishers regardless.
Consider the location where the lamp 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 that.
The chimney will get very hot – even after it’s ‘off’ for awhile, so be careful.
The heat radiating off the top of the chimney can catch fire to flammable materials too closely above it.
Don’t add oil to a flaming or hot lamp.
Regularly clean the chimney as soot builds up.
To put out the flame, 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).
Does Oil Lamp Produce Carbon Monoxide
Combustion produces carbon monoxide. The question is, how much? Depends on fuel, burn efficiency, exhaust, etc. Some fuels produce very little (e.g butane stove). Single Burner Butane Stove Safer For Cooking Indoors
Yes, a oil lamp will give off some carbon monoxide. People have relied on these lamps for thousands of years, and we’re still here. With that said, I highly recommend having a carbon monoxide detector in your home. One with a battery backup.
Lets hear your own suggestions, tips, and experiences on this subject…