Aladdin Lamps

Bright, oil/kerosene-powered lighting

Aladdin lamps have been around for 100 years. At their brightest, they’re about as radiant as a 60W incandescent light bulb, so you can easily read by them. They burn kerosene or lamp oil, and employ a cylindrical wick that heats a Welsbach mantle (it’s bright incandescence comes from thorium and cerium oxides). Similar to a lantern, but without the pumping and compressed air hissing. As such, the Aladdins are perfectly silent. They’re also more fuel-efficient than a pressure lantern, yet provide almost the same amount of light. Though they’re not more fuel-efficient than an average oil lamp, they can make a typical oil lamp look like a nightlight.


The lamp on the right (above) does not use a mantle, just a wick. They are both using the same fuel; I use Klean-Strip’s “Klean-Heat” which is a purified kerosene substitute usable anywhere kerosene is specified. A bowl of fuel can put out a lot more lumen-hours than a battery-operated lamp, making the Aladdins perfect for off-grid use or in the event of a power failure. I have an off-grid cabin in San Benito County south of the Pinnacles National Monument. Though I spend most of my time at my on-the-grid home, I’m partial to using an Aladdin at both residences. After trying other lamps, including a basic oil lamp I bought at Wal-Mart, I finally got Aladdin’s Genie III shelf lamp, the basic no frills version.

When properly adjusted they are essentially odourless and smokeless (the only time there is a slight smell is right after extinguishing the flame). By raising and lowering the wick, you can dim the lamp, too. If you raise the wick too high, though the fuel/air mixture becomes too rich and they start to soot/smoke, just like any other oil lamp. Properly adjusted, the wicked fuel creates a blue flame that heats the mantle. An optional chimney extender creates more updraft allowing you to operate the wick higher and get even more light. They recommend this for high-altitude (5000-ft.) operation.

-- Bruce Bowen 03/3/08

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