What Temperatures Do Lighters Burn At?

By Angela Libal
x

Pocket lighters ignite butane or naphthalene fuel with flint and steel to produce a small flame. Disposable butane lighters are the most common type of pocket lighter, but many people also use refillable naphthalene wick lighters. Both have a standard temperature range, but the actual temperature of their flames varies with the length of time the lighter is on and with the ambient temperature, oxygen content and movement of the surrounding air.



Butane Lighters

Disposable butane lighters ignite at a temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature a butane flame could reach if it did not lose any heat -- called the adiabatic temperature -- is 4,074 degrees, but most butane flames actually burn at temperatures closer to 3,578 degrees due to their interaction with the surrounding environment. Because oxygen is necessary for combustion, flame temperature varies with altitude, air movement and atmospheric pressure. Flames constantly lose heat to the surrounding air, and flames in cold environments burn at lower temperatures than they would in hot environments. Flames surrounded by cool, moving air lose heat even faster, as the air wicks heat away and is replaced by more cold air.

Naphthalene Lighters

Wick pocket lighters, such as those produced by the Zippo Manufacturing Company, use a naphthalene-fuel-soaked wick instead of the steady stream of gas burned by butane lighters. While a naphthalene flame can reach an adiabatic temperature of 4,591 degrees Fahrenheit, the actual temperature of an individual flame is usually far lower, due to the same environmental factors that affect butane flames.