Here’s my advice for choosing the best oil lamp for indoor use and emergency preparedness.
Some people call it a hurricane lamp, or oil lantern. An oil lamp with a glass chimney protecting the flame. They shimmer with ambience and nostalgia, while performing a basic function.. Lighting up the dark.
An oil lamp is a practical source of emergency lighting. It will burn brighter than an ordinary candle and it will burn longer than the typical candle. Oil lamps are a cost-effective light source for indoor use compared to candles.
Read the Safety Tips below for indoor use!
The following is information, tips, and my recommendations for the best oil lamps. Also, an estimated fuel cost-per-hour (I did the math). For prepping and preparedness I would not be without one. Actually I have several!
How Bright are Oil Lamps
An oil lamp will burn brighter than a candle. Its brightness varies from lamp to lamp (due to design and wick size). Oil lamps will produce better lighting for indoors with several (and more!) candlepower (or lumens) of light than a candle.
Oil Lantern Candlepower – Lumens
Candlepower is an old standard of light intensity, or relative brightness. The light emitted by a candle of specific size and constituents. It’s an obsolete measurement these days. Today we use “lumens”.
I found a chart that lists candlepower and lumens (relative brightness) for kerosene lamps based on wick size (width). Here are a few examples of their brightness.
Oil Lamp Wick versus Brightness / Lumens
Best Oil Lamps
It’s subjective. I recommend staying away from cheap, especially when considering safety for indoor use. I do recommend any of the following brands. Vermont Lanterns, made in the USA. And Dietz with its long history which began in Brooklyn, NY.
Authentic Vermont Lanterns
Looking for an oil lamp made here in the USA? Years ago I discovered Vermont Lanterns. They make very nice quality oil lamps.
This company has quite a lineup of various oil lamps / lanterns. You might have a look at their popular Dorset Table Lamp which comes in 8″, 10″, or 12″ heights.
Brass Dorset Table Lamp
(view on amzn)
Solid brass. Wick size 1/2″ (88 lumens from the chart above). Burn time, 30 hours.
Dietz Hurricane Lantern – One of the best budget choices
A good quality and fairly inexpensive brand of oil lamps. The Dietz.
A classic design. It started from a company in 1840 by its founder, 22-year-old Robert Edwin Dietz in Brooklyn, NY. Manufactured in Syracuse until 1971, production moved to Hong Kong. Then in 1982 the Dietz lantern factory moved from Hong Kong into China. Dietz lanterns developed a reputation around the world as “The Old Reliable.”
For more than a century, the Dietz has been considered one of the best hurricane lanterns, given it’s original design.
>> Dietz Original
(view on amzn)
Caution: You can get cheaper oil lamps than this. But my experience and that of others, suggests these often have problems. And it could even be dangerous. I’ve bought the cheap ones before. They leak. It didn’t happen right away, but they ended up leaking. That’s not good!
Best Lamp Oil For Indoors
How much oil will a hurricane lamp /oil-lamp burn? Generally, I have found that mine will burn about 0.5 ounces per hour.
Indoor Lamp Oil: A hurricane lamp may burn a variety of oils. There are choices out there for purpose-made ‘smokeless’ lamp oil.
UPDATE: I had been recommending Firefly hurricane lamp oil, which is fine and great. I did find another lamp oil for indoor use. It’s one of the most well reviewed Clean-Smokeless-Odorless. Made in USA.
1-Gallon Ultra Clean Burning
(view on amzn)
Cost Per Hour
Best sold by the gallon (128 ounces). My calculated operating cost comes to about $0.19 (19 cents) per hour based on current price.
(Note that some lamp oil will burn faster or slower than others.)
One gallon will last about 256 hours. If you burned 6 hours a day, one gallon of lamp oil would last you about 42 days (for example).
My ‘rule-of-thumb’ for preparedness is 1 gallon of lamp oil per per month (per lamp). That’s for 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 that vegetable oil went up the wick more slowly. The wick charred more. But it worked..
Will Lamp Oil go Bad?
It’s 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
(view on amzn)
Oil Lamp Wick Tips
The wick itself doesn’t burn. It’s the oil that burns as it’s drawn up the wick. The top edge chars.
Tip: Trim the charred edge of the wick before starting a new burn.
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.
Tip: If the flame height is adjusted too high, the flame may smoke.
Find your replacement wicks on amzn:
SAFETY – Are Oil Lamps Safe?
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 lamp location, such that it’s less likely to be bumped or knocked over. If you have children or pets 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 close above it.
Don’t add oil to a flaming or hot lamp.
Clean the chimney as soot builds up.
To put out the flame, blow a quick burst of air down the chimney. Cup your hand at the top edge of the chimney. This will help direct the air blast.
Do Oil Lamps 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).
Yes, a oil lamp will give off some carbon monoxide. With that said, people have relied on these lamps for thousands of years, and we’re still here.
I recommend having a carbon monoxide detector in your home. One with a battery backup. Regardless of having an oil lamp or not.
I use this one:
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