Updated December 2016 – Several years ago I purchased oil lamps as part of our preparedness plan. I really love the ambiance of the light and think it’s much easier on the eyes than LED lighting.
We keep these in storage containers in the spare room so they don’t get much use. It’s important to know which type of fuel you can safely use with oil lamps so you do not have any safety concerns.
This guide to oil lamps will address some basic questions about using oil lamps in your home.
- When do you have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning?
- Can you use oil lamps without ventilation to the outdoors?
- Does it matter what kind of fuel you use in an oil lamp?
- What are the approved fuel types?
If you are stuck in a power outage situation will your current supply of battery-operated lamps get you through? I honestly think we might be in the dark if there is an extended outage.
Let’s learn how to use oil lamps safely so they are more than useless decorations.
Types of Oil Lamps
Oil lamps come in all sizes and shapes. They can be free standing, hook hanging, or of wall-mount design. They are decorative and utilitarian.
You can burn almost any oil in them; including olive oil, nut and seed oils, hemp oil, vegetable oils, fish oil, mustard oil, castor oil…you name it. You must do your research to see how the wick will interact with the oil and whether a natural oil will allow enough oxygen for the wick to work.
Creative Hobbies® Mason Jar Oil Lamp Burner Chimney Holders Turn Mason Jars Into Oil Lamps
What about a Coleman Propane Lantern, can it be used indoors? According to the Coleman website www.coleman.com, the answer is no, they are only safe outdoors. Carbon Monoxide exposure is the reason cited. They are still useful to have for camping and outdoor cooking without power.
Types of Oil for Lamps
You can purchase oil lamps and oil locally, at your neighborhood home improvement store, or online at Amazon. They are readily available for a reasonable price (small oil lamps start around $10 in my town) or you can get really elaborate.
An extremely popular choice of fuel for oil lamps K-1 kerosene is readily available and typically very cheap.
You can purchase kerosene from filling stations or in prepackaged containers from a local hardware store. It is stored in blue containers to distinguish it from gasoline.
K-1 contains sulfur and other impurities that make it smell unpleasant when it is burning. If you burn kerosene lamps outside, the odor may not bother you, but you will notice the smell if you burn it indoors.
If you are burning kerosene indoors you must allow for ventilation. That could be a problem if there is no power, it is freezing outside, and you’re trying to keep your house warm. That said, kerosene has been used for heat and light for hundreds of years, so it may be right for you.
The approved fuels for outdoor use only in lanterns and oil lamps are:
1. Kerosene purchases from a gas station
2. Coleman® Brand Kerosene Fuel
3. Crown® 1-K Fuel Grade Kerosene
4. Crown® Citronella Torch and Lamp Fuel
5. Tiki® Brand Citronella Torch Fuel
Many lamp fuels can be cut 50/50 with kerosene to extend the burn time. Read the package directions.
Lamp oil is in the same family as kerosene, but it has been purified to make it burn cleaner, so the burning of lamp oil produces fewer pollutants than burning kerosene.
It does not produce the unpleasant odors of burning kerosene and can even be purchased in a variety of scents. Lamp oil can be purchased in most supermarkets, home improvement, and hardware stores, but it is more expensive than kerosene. It also does not burn as brightly as kerosene.
Lamp oil is always safe to burn indoors without venting to the outside. You should always use the specific kind of fuel recommended for your lamp.
The approved fuels for indoor or outdoor use in lanterns and oil lamps are:
1. Lamplight Farms® Clear Medallion Brand Lamp Oil
2. Lamplight Ultra-Pure Clear Lamp Oil
3. Firefly Candle and Lamp Oil Ultra Clean Burning – Liquid Paraffin
4. Firefly CLEAN Lamp Oil Clean Burning Paraffin Alternative
Propane for Lighting
The propane lamps what you use for camping are not safe in small, confined spaces. This includes the house and even in a closed tent. Don’t risk carbon monoxide poisoning. Safety should always come first.
Carbon Monoxide Indoors – What is carbon monoxide?
If I’m concerned about the possibility of killing my family, I better understand carbon monoxide poisoning and how to recognize it. The American Lung Association says:
“Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, but dangerous gas. It is produced when a fuel such as natural gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned. Exposure to CO reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Fuel-burning appliances used indoors must be maintained, used properly and fully vented to the outdoors to prevent dangerous levels of CO. Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances.”
Breathing high levels of CO can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, confusion, disorientation, vomiting and sleepiness.
Many of these symptoms are similar to the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses. So you may not suspect CO poisoning. It is important to have a carbon monoxide detector with an audible alarm installed in your home. If you are going to burn oil lamps in your home, this small investment can save a life.
Approximately 430 people die each year from CO exposure related to fuel-burning, residential appliances. Thousands more became ill or sought medical attention. CO poisoning is estimated to cause more than 50,000 emergency room visits in the United States each year.
After an emergency or power outage, be sure to use caution so you don’t risk your family’s health. Too many people are poisoned by carbon monoxide after bad weather emergencies, like snowstorms and hurricanes.
Vary Your Lighting Options
While oil lamps are terrific it’s important not to put all your eggs in one basket. There are alternatives to using oil lamps that may work well for various situations.
You could choose to use regular candles, which are relatively inexpensive, although they may not burn as brightly as oil or kerosene and they may not last as long.
100+ hour Emergency Candles are safe to use indoors and have an exposed flame.
Two of these give off as much light as an oil lamp.
Inexpensive tea lights work well for lighting small areas and can even be used for cooking.
If you have small children at home candles are not the best option. Invest in quality lanterns that run on batteries.
You can purchase them any sporting goods or camping store. With a battery lantern, there’s little chance of fire accidents. My favorite is the Coleman rechargeable, which is very portable and gives off plenty of light, but that won’t do me much good if I can’t recharge it.
I’m feeling confident about my oil lamp use. I’ve done my research, my oil lamps are filled, my wicks are trimmed, and the CO monitor is installed. Thanks fo the Girl’s Guide to Oil Lamps I’m ready to go.
What kind of oil lamps do you use?