Oil Lamp Vs Candle: Which Is Better? (An In-Depth Guide)


Oil lamps and candles are both light sources used for a long time. They were the most popular light sources used in almost all the households before electricity came. Today we use them especially for emergency purposes and power outages. So, which is better: an oil lamp or candle?

Oil lamps are better than candles because they usually last longer and provide consistent lighting at a relatively cheaper cost. However, if you only require a light source for occasional use, candles can be a better option as you won’t have to deal with all the maintenance as with oil lamps.

Knowing about the right light source becomes important if you live in a power-outage-prone area. So let’s dive in deeper and see an in-depth comparison of oil lamps and candles so that you can choose the right option for you.

oil-lamp-vs-candle

Oil Lamp Vs Candle: What Is The Difference?

Oil Lamp:Candle:
Consistent LightingInconsistent lighting
Relatively CheaperRelatively costlier
Reusable and can be RefilledOnly one-time usage
Burns efficientlyBurns less efficiently
Flame can be controlledFlame can’t be controlled
Relatively SafeRelatively Unsafe
More maintenance neededLess maintenance needed
Best for long term useBest for occasional use

Oil Lamp vs Candles: Lighting

Considering emergency preparedness, or a power outage, the light output of the lighting source matters a lot. Just think if a power shutdown happened in your area, and you are going to go to the kitchen or bathroom at night, you won’t be able to see anything. Would you like that type of light source? Of course not, right?

Similarly, suppose that you play board games with your kids on a table. In that case, you would need a good light source to enjoy playing and don’t make mistakes in the game.

So now, let’s look at the light outputs of both candles and oil lamps.

If you have ever searched for flashlights, lanterns, or any other lighting source, then you have probably come across the terms like “Lumens” and “Candlepower.”

The word candle power was originally used to refer to the luminous intensity of a candle in a particular direction. Now, “candela” is used to refer to that measurement.

In simple words, if a light has a candle power of 10,000,000, then you can think of it as equivalent to 10 million candles.

Lumen is the modern measurement of the brightness of the light source. Now here are the stats you need to keep in mind:

  • 1 candlepower = 12.57 lumens
  • Locally made lamps = 10 to 15 lumens
  • Store-Bought lamps = 40 to 50 lumens

(Sources: westsidewholesale.com, energypedia.info)

So as you can see, the light output of oil lamps is generally more than the candles.

Oil Lamp vs Candles: Cost

As a general rule, if you use the normal lamp oil, paraffin oil, or any of the regular oil for your lamps (that aren’t too costly), then using oil lamps will turn out cheaper than using the candles.

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Remember, one candle can last only for one-time use. Once your candle has burned out, you must again use another new one.

However, with oil lamps, once you purchase one, it can last a long time. You have to just keep replacing the wicks of the oil lamps from time to time and refill the oil. That’s it!

In the long term, an oil lamp will be cheaper for you rather than one candle. If you have checked out my post on how long does an oil lamp burn, then you probably know that a half-ounce of oil in the oil lamp takes about one hour to burn.

So you can expect a half-gallon lamp oil to last about 140-150 hours. Moreover, one piece of wick can also last for a long time. For instance, an 8-inch wick can last about 15 gallons of lamp oil.

In contrast, a 10-inch taper candle of Yankee Candle company candle will burn for 9 hours only.

To get the cost comparison, I hopped onto the online Walmart store on my laptop, and here’s what I found:

Florasense 64 oz. odorless lamp (64 oz. = 0.5 gallons) costs around $7.88 while I’m writing this post. (Remember, 1/2 gallon oil can last about 140-150 hours)

Uxcell 1/2 Inch Flat Wide 2 Meter Long Cotton Oil Lamp Wick with Black Stitch costs $6.49. (Note: I’m not considering the cost of lamp oil itself here as that would only be a one-time investment)

Now, as we have seen, an 8 inch can last about 15 gallons of lamp oil. So further calculation based on this gave me the result that a 2-meter long wick (78.7402 inches) can last about 1181.103 gallons which is huge, isn’t it? 

Obviously, there could be many variables that can affect the final result, but you might have got a rough idea of how long a wick can last.

In short, if you see here, we spent $7.88 for lamp oil and $6.49 for the wick, so in total, we spent about $14.37. In return, we can get at least 140-150 hours of burn time.

I found that the Mega Candles – Unscented 10 Inch Advent Taper Candles – Set of 4 costs around $9.99 as of writing now. So per candle cost would be $2.4975.

Further calculations give 14.37/2.4975= 5.75. So let’s round it up to 6, meaning we can get approximately 6 candles for the amount of $14.37.

1 candle gives about 9 hours of burn time. So 6 such candles would give 9*6= 54 hours of burn time.

Phew! I know you may have lost with me while going through the calculations I did. So for ease of understanding, I’m summarizing this in the table below.

Points of ComparisonOil LampCandle
Total Spent$14.37$14.37
Things Purchased64 oz. lamp oil and 2-meter wickApproximately 6 candles (taper candles)
Burn TimeAt least 140-150 hoursOnly 54 hours

*Oil Lamp Cost not included as I have considered it as a one-time investment only

So it is clear that in terms of cost, oil lamps win over the candles

Oil Lamp vs Candles: Features

One of the useful features that come with oil lamps is reusability. Once you buy an oil lamp, you can use it multiple times as long as you take care of it and don’t let it fall off and break. 

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Candles only offer one-time usage in comparison. So you have to keep lighting candles after candles once they completely burn out.

In terms of portability, oil lamps are quite handy. Once you light them up, you can then carefully take them to any room of your house with more relaxed hands than a candle. 

If the candle is not placed properly on the candle holder, it could fall off, so you would need more stable hands while carrying them.

Oil Lamp vs Candles: Flame

While considering the flame, you can compare two things between the oil lamp and the candle. Firstly, the stability of the flame, and second is the controlling ability.

With oil lamps, once you light them and set the wick’s height, you get the steady flame without any issue. The height of the flame will remain constant.

At the power outage, suppose that you need a light source that will keep delivering you the light at the height level without any changes in the consistency. Then at that time, your best choice would be to use the oil lamps.

However, with candles, once you light them, eventually, as the wax will melt, the level of the flame will keep going downwards. So you can’t expect light from the candle to be at a consistent height all the time.

Another advantage of using oil lamps is you can control its flame the way you want. With candles, once you light the candle’s wick, there is not more you can do to change the flame size or shape.

But with oil lamps, there are various options to get different flame shapes. Do you know that you can get a flat flame, double shaped flame, or a crowned flame, depending on how you trim the wick of the oil lamp!

Oil Lamp vs Candles: Maintenance

In terms of maintenance, candles win over oil lamps because you don’t have to think about much maintenance with candles.

With oil lamps, you have to periodically trim the wick clean the whole globe of the oil lamp. You have to also make sure that the wick isn’t burning dry, and thus you have to ensure that sufficient oil is already filled in the oil lamp and the wick is wet enough to get lit properly.

All the above-mentioned maintenance and care stuff with oil lamps can be a bit of a time taking process for you. 

On the other hand with candles, you don’t have to worry much. Whenever you would need the candlelight, you would just take one out, place it on the candle holder, and light it with your lighter; that’s it!

Although you may not need to do maintenance as much with candles, you still have to do a little bit of cleaning after you use them. Like you may have to clean the wax droppings on the table, floors, or any surface where you keep it. But it’s not a very time taking process.

Oil Lamp vs Candles: Safety

Safety is also a significant matter that should be considered while talking about oil lamps and candles. As you might have guessed already, the candles and oil lamps both have flames, so they both pose a threat related to fire.

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If you are planning to use any of these sources, then it is always recommended to have a fire extinguisher (in fact, you should have a fire extinguisher as a general rule for safety against accidental fire hazards in your house)

However, the thing is, in terms of chances of causing a fire hazard, candles can be a bit more dangerous than oil lamps. The reason is simply that an oil lamp is protected at least by the outer covering of a glass globe. But candles just have open flames, so that can increase the chances of fire hazard risk.

But you don’t need to worry much! As long as you take appropriate preventive measures and care in handling both the oil lamps and the candles, you will be good to go!

In case you ever wondered if oil lamps can explode, you can check out my post on can oil lamps explode or not here. And if you are worried about carbon monoxide, I would highly recommend you to check out my complete article on do oil lamps give off carbon monoxide here.

Final Thoughts

ComparisonWho Wins the Battle?
LightingOil Lamp
CostOil lamp
FeaturesOil Lamp
FlameOil Lamp
MaintenanceCandle
SafetyOil Lamp

In short, for using only a couple of hours or occasional use, especially at times of emergency, candles would suffice. 

However, if you are looking for something for long-term usage (like when you have to go through days of power outages and if you like to have more intensity light with more flexibility with the flame), then an oil lamp will be your suitable option. 

I hope this guide has answered all your doubts and questions about oil lamps vs candles. If you found some value in this article, please share it with others. And are you on Pinterest? Then why not pin this post to your oil lamps board!
And wait, before you go, I have another detailed article for you that might be an interesting topic to read. The article is about Lamp oil vs Kerosene. So feel free to check that out, and till then, thanks!

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