DIY Hybrid Table Lamp (CF-bulb + kerosene)

Imagine a Hybrid Computer Desk Lamp with two modes of "light backup". For regular use, plug it into your PC-backup power unit, running a modern compact fluorescent bulb. When the power goes out, there's little draw on your backup because of the high efficiency bulb. In extended outage, (California- or developing-nation style) it converts to a noiseless kerosene lamp, with the light output equivalent to a 50W bulb. Just like the old days, before reliable grids. Choices?
·Wide variety of new lamps? Sure.
·Can I pick one up at a garage sale or Ebay? Yes.
·Spare parts? Yes.
.Easy to do. Certainly.
.Kerosene easy to find. Generally yes.
.Run directly off my USB port? Eventually. See further discussion at end of post.

I started with a 30 year old kerosene model from my basement. Old or new, make sure it's "Aladdin" brand kerosene lamp, and a "recent" model. The number "23" will appear on the end of the wick knob if it is of recent design, ensuring it will work with commercially available burner conversion kits. Choose your bulb first. Make sure you like it before you spend any more on the kerosene lamp or converter parts.

Figure 2:

A $1.50 conventional 110V-40W bulb works. With a little modification, so does a $350, 12V DC Led-cluster bulb from a luxury automobile. I experimented with many technologies in between these extremes; and, brought it down to a choice between the 110V compact fluorescent candelabra bulb from Home Depot (left side of Figure 2) and an 8-LED cluster bulb (right side of Fig: 2) which was designed for direct solar panel feed. I picked the candelabra bulb, based on cost, brightness (around 15W equivalent), and appearance. The result is shown next to my PC (Fig: 3). That gold colored converter can be had in nickel silver by the way.

Figure 3:

Figure 3.jpg

Following the picture of my "converted" lamp (Fig. 3) are the original Kerosene burner parts (Fig 4) which I removed and put away for a day the grid goes down. The top one is the mantle. If you get serious about long term power outage, order extra mantels, wicks, and chimney to keep around.

Figure 4:

figure 4.jpg

Figure 5 (shown below) is a separate picture of my brass electric "Converter". This part sells for around $50 if bought new. Used converters should work fine as well. There are several good retail sources for new lamps and parts. A good one to start with is Lehmans Hardware. Another is Aladdin Lamps.

Figure 5:

Figure 5.jpg

Note antique key switch handle on converer. It actually seems a lot more solid and reliable than most modern lamp switches.

Figure 6 shows two plastic bottles of Kerosene, or "K1".

Figure 6:

Figure 6.jpg

Gallon jugs of kerosene fuel can be bought in hardware stores and kept in storage for emergency lighting. Also available in bulk from selected gas stations. If kerosene gets too old or wet to burn well in the lamp, which could happen after several years, volatility is low enough for use as an outdoor charcoal grille starter. Also, kerosene is sold for cleanup of garage floor oil stains or for pre-painting cleanup of old deck furniture.

The red color in one bottle (Fig 6) is from dye added at "tax free" bulk pump. Better to go for the clear K1 if you can find it. Note: there is confusion on labels and ads as to K1 versus "lamp oil". You want kerosene. Do not put kerosene in an oil lamp and don't try to burn lamp "oil" in a kerosene lamp as it will ruin the wick.

On the possiblity of USB port usage. A USB powered 8 LED cluster bulb is not bright enough for everyday desk lamps. I found that at least 30 white LEDs had to be in the cluster and more were better. By that point, price is too high. The USB on even my Win98 PC seemed up to it; but LED costs need to go down further before I'd recommend this option.

Where in green does this lead us? It helps us see the potential of hybridizing technologies in general to create green-synergy. Examples abound: Toyota Prius of course; the "freestyle" crank and/or battery powered appliance; chest style "freezer" that switches over to working as refrigerator and can run directly off solar DC or be plugged into an AC grid. Many more are out there; some, like my desk light, marry very old to very new technologies.

In coming posts, I hope to explore the role that hybrid products can play in bridging society to renewable energy, relying on distributed electrical generation, and surviving natural disasters. The critical skill is distinguishing feature-creep from true synergy.

by: John Laumer