Add Kerosene Lanterns to Your Off The Grid Living Supplies
Self-Sufficient Homes Can Incorporate Kerosene Lanterns
By Jack Chapis
If you’re like me, then you are proud to be part of your homestead heritage. I use oil lamps because of the soft nature of the light and the general atmosphere they create. If you find yourself wondering how to start living off the grid, then you should know kerosene lanterns can be a great addition to your off the grid living supplies, survival gear list or as part of your emergency essentials. I started out as a collector and still pursue that as an investment hobby. Many of the lamps that have antique value function very well but the risk of breakage in everyday use leads us to explore what’s available at Wal-Mart, K-mart and similar outlets.
To add to your off the grid living supplies, these perfectly serviceable lamps are usually priced around $10 and have a #2 burner that uses a ¾ or 1 inch wick. They usually also stock replacement burners, wicks and chimneys (Caution: do not buy chimneys in the electrical department. These are made for electric lamps and will break from the heat of the flame). Also, be sure the font (the part that holds the oil) is clear glass so you can see the oil level and not accidentally burn dry.
Fuel: Use Kerosene No. 1 Clear, also referred to as K1 Kerosene. This should be available at any gas station that has customers that use kerosene for heating oil. “In store” oils are way too expensive, give off less light, and the scented ones really gum up the wicks.
Federal law requires kerosene be carried in a blue or yellow container and most places won’t sell into a red gas can or glass jug. I have no argument with those safety regulations, but I usually buy oil a gallon at a time and the smallest “legal” container I’ve found is five gallon. I bought a one-gallon, red, plastic, gas can and painted it blue and no one seems to have a problem with it.
Kerosene has a “shelf life”. As it ages it takes on a golden yellow color. This seems to happen faster if the lamp is exposed to the sun for extended periods of time. This “aged” oil will still burn but isn’t as bright and tends to clog the wicks much like scented oil.
Wick trimming: The only thing I might add besides the sharp scissors is to trim the wick half-way from each side, meeting in the middle, to keep a nice, straight cut, not angled, across the burning edge. Use the top edge of the burner wick sleeve as a guide.
Odor: I really do not like the smell of kerosene. Spills cause the worst problems. When you extinguish a lamp, turn the wick down level with or just below the top edge of the burner wick sleeve and blow out the bit of flame, if any. This minimizes the “blow-out” smell and cuts down on evaporation of the oil through the wick, which causes gumming of the wicks and releases odor into the room.
Metal lanterns: There are many varieties of household metal lamps, with a metal cap over the chimney and a mechanism to raise the chimney to be able to reach the wick to light it. These are much sturdier, almost wind-proof, have a hanging handle and are very well-suited for outdoor use. Many times they have lighted the path to the outhouse or were the first light seen by a new-born calf.
I hope this is helpful. Homesteading today requires creativity, ingenuity and grit. Good luck with adding kerosene lanterns to your off the grid living supplies.
Published in 2000