Sunday, August 25, 2013

Off Grid Lighting for My Tiny House

Living off the grid poses a number of problems to be considered when it comes to lighting. Electric lighting can quickly drain a battery and, in my opinion, is harsh to the eyes. LED lights help to eliminate the battery drain, but I still don't find the light they throw that pleasing. Additionally, where I will live has weather that may prevent my solar panels from recharging the batteries as quickly as I would like all the time. While I could run the generator, I have decided to go back to tried and true oil lamps. Not just any oil lamps, mind you, but Aladdin brand oil lamps. Let me explain more.

Aladdin lamps have been around since the early 1900's and provided bright, clean burning Kerosene lamps for homes prior to electricity becoming common post WWII. Aladdin perfected a mantle that burned bright and clean, producing the equivalent of a 60 watt bulb! Each lamp throws off enough light to read by comfortably.

Each lamp consists of several parts, but the function is really quite simple. There is the lamp base, or the font, a wick, a burner, a mantle, the chimney, and if you choose, a shade. There are some accessories you can purchase such as a gadget to help increase the oxygen if you live in a high altitude and a bug screen to help prevent suicidal and confused bugs from taking out your mantle Kamikaze style.

I currently have three different models of Aladdin lamps that I have picked up from Ebay and Craigslist. They are more expensive than the cheaper oil lamps you would buy at Sprawl-Mart and big box discount stores, but again, Aladdin lamps burn like a 60 watt bulb, whereas the typical oil lamp burns only as bright as 12 candle power.

The Aladdin is constructed on highly scientific principles. Kerosene fuel is changed into vapor gas and the vapor mixed with air in the proportion of 1 to 16 to produce a blue flame. Heat from the blue flame is transformed into light through rare earth elements in the Aladdin incandescent mantle.
Light - Aladdin light - is equal to 10 ordinary, flat-wick lamps. Its mantle produces 60 full candlepower - a light that is soft, mellow and of a quality that is welcoming to the human eye. Foremost laboratories of the world have proven that Aladdin light is closest to natural sunlight when compared to artificial electric or gas light. Light from an Aladdin is a pleasure. There is no smoke, no odor, no noise and no pumping up. A match and a minute is all it takes to erase the darkness with the light from an Aladdin.
--quoted from

    The success of the Aladdin lamp is based on the superior performance when compared to other kerosene lamps. In fact, the original marketing technique was a no-cost, no-risk, in-home trial. Aladdin traveling salesmen identified homes without improved mantle lamps by the weak yellow light of their common flat wick lamps. Then the homeowner was offered an Aladdin mantle lamp with fuel for a one week trial. After the trial, the homeowner could return the lamp, no questions asked, or purchase it. The vast majority of consumers spent $4.50 or more for the Aladdin to replace their 25-cent lamps. The key reasons consumers were willing to purchase the more expensive Aladdin lamp were economy in use with much brighter, white light.
     Flat wick lamps produce light by the process of burning kerosene with an open flame. These lamps are essentially liquid fueled candles with bigger wicks. The larger the wick—the larger the flame. The Aladdin lamp produces four times more light per gallon of kerosene than flat wick lamps. The Aladdin mantle lamp produces a white light equivalent to 60 candlepower which most consumers preferred over the yellow light of the flat wick lamps. This is still true today.
     Proper use and care of the Aladdin mantle lamp does require some attention. The recommended procedures are explained in the instruction manual that comes with every new lamp. The key points involve proper adjustment. The Aladdin lamp, just like a fine engine, must warm up to proper operating temperatures for best performance. The warm-up process takes about ten minutes. It is important to observe the mantle carefully for a period of 10-15 minutes after lighting or adjusting the wick. If you see any orange—yellow flame passing through the mantle, the wick is adjusted too high. (Also, the wick may need trimming.) Failure to lower the wick and eliminate these small orange colored flames will result in a black soot deposit on the mantle. Eventually, the soot will pass through the chimney and into the house. If a soot deposit accidentally occurs on the mantle, do not become alarmed. It is usually possible to burn the deposit off by lowering the wick.
     With proper care, an Aladdin kerosene lamp can last a lifetime, as attested by the large number of "antique" Aladdin lamps still in use today.
--quoted from

Aladdin Model 11 Lamp
Some things to consider when looking at Aladdin lamps are their condition and age. You can find tons of information on the internet regarding these classics. Do some research before buying since some folks seem to think that because something is a little older or "vintage" that it should be worth crazy amounts of money. Aladdin lamps are NOT rare and you can find used ones for very reasonable prices if you take you time and look around. You can tell the model of the lamp by looking at the knob used to adjust the wick. It is normally marked with the model. 

Aladdin Model 23 Lamp

I have found that the most expensive thing for me to replace on my lamps are the shades. You can see in the pictures above that I have the tripod to support a shade, but no shade. Shades were frequently broken as they had to be removed to light the lamp. Again, take time to research and poke around on the internet. You can find some good deals if you take the time to search. 

These lamps do have some parts that you will want to have extras of on hand. The mantle, chimney, and wick are all parts that will need to be replaced with regular use. Having them available is much more convenient as the best prices I have found for parts have been from online sources and shipping time can be anywhere from 2 days to a week or more. 

With proper care, Aladdin lamps will serve for several generations. They are both practical and attractive, and their efficiency is unsurpassed. Even if you don't live in the boonies having a couple of Aladdin lamps for when the power goes out is a wise. The ambiance provided by these beautiful and practical lamps are an added bonus.  


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