Gas vs. Oil vs. Electric Comparison

Antique lighting and reproduction antique lighting are some of our greatest passions. We've been in this business for over 60 years and we adore everything about lamps and lighting. We especially love the rich history and the very different aspects of each stage of lighting throughout the era.

Every lamp has its own bit of history as well as personality. Oil lamps, gas lamps, and electric antique lamps have unique facets to each of them that make them stand out from one another. Have you ever wanted to use antique lighting, but wondered which is better and how they compare?

Let's explore oil versus gas versus electric and compare them.

Oil Lamps

Lamp oil is in the same family as kerosene but has been purified to help it burn cleanly. Oil lamps produce fewer pollutants than burning kerosene, and oil lamps have the bonus of missing the distinctive and sometimes overpowering smell of burning kerosene. Lamp oil can be easy to acquire and can be scented but is more expensive than kerosene and lamp oil does not burn as brightly as kerosene.

On the other hand, K-1 kerosene, which is still a popular choice and cheaper, contains sulfur and other impurities that make the smell unpleasant when burning. Red Kerosene is even less expensive than K-1 and has been dyed. It was used for tractors and generators mostly, and burns faster than K-1 so it must be replaced faster. The by-products of the dye, however, when burnt, become harmful if inhaled.

There were many innovations and styles to oil lamps that used wicks over the years, including a Duplex burner in 1865 which had two wicks side by side and a clear glass chimney. However, the amount of light you get from a wick is limited by the surface area of the wick itself and how much fuel and air are able to reach it. Only the fuel at the very tip of a wick burns. It results in a charming, intimate glow but may not be suitable for brightening an entire area or room.

Gas Lamps

Beginning in the 19th century, most streets in London were lit up via gas lights, but it took 50 years of distrust and innovation for it to be accepted into the home. Gas fittings were introduced into the new Houses of Parliament in 1859 and the tides turned. Many homes affixed a central pendant gas light in each principle room with a ventilation grille above it disguised in the deep recesses of ceilings. Gas wall brackets were replacing traditional candle sconces as well. Most of the very early gas lamps featured a supply tube, made of brass, copper or iron, and a tap for switching gas on and off. They were shielded from direct view with many varieties of globes or shades to help diffuse the light. Some of the gas lamps incorporated a glass tube or a chimney, and around this a larger shade of delicate glass or rich silks that can be used to modernize, customize or match home décor.

The biggest issue with homeowners that discover their homes may still have old gas fixtures installed during renovation is retaining historical accuracy without the negatives of gas lamps. Gas lamps produce excessive amounts of heat that can ignite highly combustible materials such as wallboard, wood, and fabric. This is especially true if a gas lamp is placed too close to them. Gas lamps and lanterns also expel carbon monoxide that can be deadly.

Gas lamps, however, are not commonly used in the home today. There are some options for outdoor use, but due to safety concerns, almost all gas lamps or lighting are usually converted to electricity by clever antique collectors, hobbyists, and restorationists with help from our massive selection of lamp kits and antique supplies.

Rewiring an original gas lamp fixture is highly recommended by many experts. Gas lamps can still resemble their original, historic charm with the right antique shade or chimney and the right bulb.

Electric Lamps

When it comes to ensuring safety, electric lamps are still a great choice. They can create a bright glow for an entire room or imitate the welcoming flicker and glow of flame without the negatives of an open flame. They can also be dimmed, and almost any antique electric lamp can be carefully upgraded to follow today's modern safety standards or wired correctly within a home.

We feature many oil or gas lamp adapters, vintage table lamp rewiring, electrified burner, candlestick adapters and much, much more in our lamp kits section to guarantee your antique electric lamps will be up to date and still protect your investment or family heirloom.

Oil Vs. Gas Vs. Electric


  • Burns cleaner than kerosene and is a more intimate, charming addition to create mood and atmosphere. Excellent as backups during a power outage.
  • An open flame can create a hazard if the lamp is tipped, incorrectly built, missing an important part, and may cause combustible materials to catch fire.


  • Gas has come a long way since its first appearance in the 1880s. Gas lamps burn cleaner and brighter than oil lamps.
  • Gas lamps, unfortunately, can run incredibly hot with temperatures upward of 450 to 500 degrees F!
  • Gas lamps with heat temps such as those in the example range above can ignite combustible materials like wallboard, wood, and fabric. They also expel carbon monoxide, which can be deadly.


  • The safest choice for a large variety of effects from dimmable, intimate lighting options to brightening entire rooms and areas or spotlighting aspects of a room you'd like to draw the eye.
  • Innovations in bulbs allow the illusion of flame lights to capture that romanticism from your antique lamp's era.
  • Our versatile lamp making kits, adapters and vintage rewiring kits allow antique collectors and hobbyists to upgrade their lamps to today's safety standards easily, without the worry of fire hazard or ruining the lamps aesthetics or cherished value.

If you have any questions about our rewiring kits or lamp making in general, we'd be happy to hear from you.