Oil lamps vs Candles: What’s Better?

In order to jump into the oil lamps vs candles contest, let’s define both first.

A candle is basically a container of wax with wicks inside of it. When a wick is lit, it produces light. Candles are used as a way to create light for many reasons.

A lamp that uses natural or artificial oil is called an oil lamp or oil burner respectively. The wick burns the oil and produces light. Oil lamps are used for lighting in the home, and often for decorating as well.

So now that we know the difference between a candle and an oil lamp, we can get into the debate. I personally love candles and have a huge collection of them, but I also have an oil lamp. There are pros and cons to each. Let’s dive in!

Oil lamps vs candles

Both oil lamps and candles can be effective lighting solutions, depending on your needs.

Both are used for illumination and can be effective lighting solutions (most likely when there’s a power outage), but they also have some important differences in terms of functioning.

Oil lamps use a wick to pull the oil up through the oil reservoir and into the burner. Candles draw liquefied wax up into the flame to burn. 

Oil lamps are more reliable and provide better light than candles. However, candles can be more versatile and are generally less expensive. 

Needless to say, you must be careful if you use oil lamps indoors (as well as candles).

Are oil lamps better than candles?

Oil lamps are better than candles since they are more versatile and come in many different shapes, types, and forms, therefore satisfying different needs, while the candle is just a candle.

You can modify oil lamps in many different ways:

  • change their wick,
  • change their oil,
  • change their chimneys

There are tons of ways to customize the oil lamp in order to satisfy your specific needs.

Also, there’s the smell factor. For some people, the smell of burning candle wax may be preferable to the smell of burning paraffin, but many people who enjoy the aroma of burning wax also enjoy the convenience of a paraffin lamp.

However, there are some downsides to an oil lamp as well. They need to be refilled every so often and they can get quite messy if not cleaned properly. Also, if the wick burns out, you will have to replace it with a new one which requires some effort.

Are oil lamps brighter than candles?

Both oil lamps and candles are great solutions for bright light.

One single candle has a light output of 12,57 lumens, while oil lamps can range from 50 up to over 3000 lumens (depending on the type of wick), so yes, oil lamps are brighter than candles.

Good to know: Candlepower (CP) is a unit of measurement for luminous intensity. 

1 CP = 12,57 lumens.

So, in a way, the advantage of an oil lamp is that you can control the light intensity by choosing the wick that suits your needs the best. You can also very easily prolong their life expectancy by simply refilling the oil.

Candles can also have different wicks, but you can’t change them as a consumer. They’re only relevant to candlemakers.

Do oil lamps burn longer than candles?

It depends on the amount of oil and the height (diameter) of the candle. Oil lamps with 1 ounce of oil can burn for about five hours, while candles burn 1 inch every hour. 

This means that a lifetime of a 5-inch candle equals the lifetime of an oil lamp with 1 ounce of oil.

Hurricane oil lamps make sure that flame stays intact with their glass container (chimney) that’s placed on the base of the lamp, therefore making the flame burn longer and protecting it from various weather conditions that would otherwise put it out.

When did oil lamps replace candles?

We can’t say that the candles were ever replaced by oil lamps, since we tend to use them even today on certain occasions.

Oil lamps do have a long history, though.

The first recorded reference to oil lamps dates back to the 10th millennium BC. Now, let’s fast forward to more recent times and events.

The famous Argand lamp replaced other oil lamps still in their basic ancient form, and the majority of candles also. It itself was later replaced by the kerosene lamp in 1850.

Today we mostly use both candles and oil lamps during power outages, instead of electricity. They’re also great for creating a unique and pleasant ambiance and atmosphere if you’re going for something like that. 


In conclusion, both oil lamps and candles are great lighting options for any home.

Both are most commonly used during power outages, or when you want to make a special kind of ambiance in your room! And they are both simple to use, so you can easily figure them out. 

I would say, for the average person, it’s pretty much a matter of personal preference, as long as you’re comfortable with the light source you’re using.

We hope you learned everything you want to know about the oil lamps vs candles debate.

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