How to Safely Use a Gasoline Lantern

  • 01 of 03

    What Is a Gasoline Lantern?

    First of all, a gasoline lantern is similar to an oil lantern—somewhat. Both are lanterns, which means that they’re made to produce light without being connected to power. They’re both portable. That is, they’re made to be carried around while burning. They can both be hung on a peg or nail to act as a wall sconce.

    Neither one is an oil lamp, although they can be set on a table to be used.

    The important difference between an oil lantern and a gasoline lantern is that the fuel—the oil—in an oil lantern is in a non-pressurized reservoir. It is brought up into the combustion chamber through a wick. The fuel—the gasoline—in a gasoline lantern is in a pressurized tank. It is released by opening a valve and brought up through a tube that runs up through the combustion chamber to the top of it.

    As it passes through that tube, it is heated by the combustion next to it and vaporized. That vapor is then released through nozzles into two (usually) silk mantles. When it hits those silk nets, which are burning hot, it ignites. The result is a bright, powerful light.

    The most important difference, though, is the fuel used in a gasoline lantern. It is gasoline. It is very flammable. It needs to be stored in special containers, and those need to be kept in an area where an accident is unlikely to cause extensive damage.

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  • 02 of 03

    Can a Gasoline Lantern Be Used as an Emergency Light?

    A Red Gasoline Lantern
    Getty mages

    Well, yes and no. They’re rugged and weatherproof, and they’re designed to be used as camping lanterns. If you’re in the middle of a power outage and you need some light on your deck or patio, or your driveway, or near your backyard grille or just out in your yard, a gasoline lantern might be the best tool for the job.  They can also be handy when the lighting fails in your barn, kennel, chicken coop or detached garage, so long as that outbuilding is well ventilated.

    If, on the other hand, you need some emergency light in your kitchen, dining room, home office or bedroom, you probably want to use an oil lamp, oil lantern, battery-powered lantern or candle instead.

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  • 03 of 03

    Can a Gasoline Lantern Be Used Indoors?

    A gas lantern out in the open
    Getty lmages

    Not really. Not safely, anyway. The problem isn't the heat, although a gasoline lantern turned all the way up can often vaporize a drop of water striking it. The fuel they’re burning is gasoline. It’s the same fuel most cars burn. And it produces the same fumes when it’s burned, in either case. That means carbon dioxide, or CO2, of course. Burning any carbon-based fuel will produce CO2. So the real problem with using a gasoline lantern indoors is that you don't want to be in an enclosed space with the fumes it's giving off.

    However, vaporized gasoline is also likely to give off a fair amount of carbon monoxide when it’s burned. carbon monoxide, or CPO, is colorless, odorless and deadly. That’s why sitting in a running car in an enclosed garage has been known to kill people.

    Burning a gasoline lantern inside a closed house is similar to running a gasoline-powered generator inside a closed garage. The result, in each case, may not be what you wanted.