Looftlighter – A Bunch of (Really) Hot Air
There are a few things in life that will cause most men’s eyes to widen and jaws to drop. Boobs and fire are two of those things. Since Pop is happily married with a kid, boobs aren’t a big deal anymore, and besides, they cause earthquakes 😛 But setting stuff on fire in a controlled manner is still very exciting. Enter the Looftlighter, which I received as a gift for my birthday this past year.
I go through a lot of charcoal in a given BBQ/grilling season, so I was very happy to receive such a thoughtful gift (*hint hint* *wink wink* Father’s Day is coming up in a month folks). One of the primary complaints of charcoal grills is how long they take to get ready: charcoal usually takes 30 minutes whereas gas takes less than 10. The same friend who bought me the Looftlighter received a blow torch as a gift a while back and he’s been using that to get his coals ready in less than 10 minutes. Personally, I love my chimney starter and don’t mind that it takes a while to get my grill ready. I usually light the chimney starter, go do something else for half an hour, dump the coals in the grill, and go do something else for 15 minutes, and my grill is ready (something else is usually getting an adult beverage or reading my daughter a book – I don’t recommend doing both at the same time).
There are times, however, when I wish I could get the grill ready quicker (read: I’m starving and am about to gnaw on my fingers). The Looftlighter site claims it can get the job done in 60 seconds. Can the Looftlighter make me go, “*grunt*, *grunt*…fire…fire…heh…” in a minute? And would the Looftligher be able to replace my trusty chimney starter(s), which I named Lucky Sweep and have had for 5+ years?
So what is the Looftlighter? Well, it’s basically your wife’s curling iron…if that curling iron outputs 1000°F. It blows hot air…really hot air. How much is it? $79.99. Where can you buy it? My friend bought mine at ThinkGeek. Does it really have a bottle opener? Yes, but do you really want to open your beer with metal that has recently been exposed to flames? When I told my wife it had a bottle opener on it, she said, “Really? You’re impressed that it can open bottles? Men are so easily pleased.” It’s true. Anytime a guy is showing off a new toy to other guys, after touting how awesome it is, he’ll usually say, “…and it can _________ too!” with the _________ being something incredibly simple, to which the other guys will Ooooooooh and Aaaaaaaaah to. But I digress.
I tested the Looftlighter on a 60 degree, cloudy day in March 2010. I emptied a chimney starter’s worth of briquettes into my charcoal grill – I usually need 2 chimneys to fill up the grill completely.
Yes. That’s how it really sounds. Whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiir!!! I felt like I was blowdrying my charcoal more than setting it on fire. In fact, the entire experience was rather emasculating, so much so that I grunted and adjusted myself repeatedly until the flames began to roar louder than the Looftlighter.
As advertised, the sparks appear after 10-20 seconds and in 60 seconds, one briquette is fully lit. If I were to stop and the lit briquette made contact with neighboring briquettes, the entire pile of charcoal would be lit…in an hour or so! In my tests, leaving it at the point the inventor does, it took about 1h25m to get one batch of coals completely ready; I’ve found you need to get it to about where I got it in the video above (about 3 minutes) for the coals to get ready in a reasonable amount of time.
This a picture of the coals about 40 minutes after the end of the video above – I stopped using the Looftlighter and just let the fire go.
Not too shabby. The coals are ready to go in about the same amount of time Lucky Sweep does (~45 minutes)
The one advantage the Looftlighter has over my chimney starter is the fact that you can continue to use it and get your coals ready in about 15-20 minutes. From the site:
Do you want that perfect glow in a couple of minutes? Just continue using the Looftlighter towards one (or more) points in the pile!
For me, getting two chimney starter’s worth of charcoal ready took about 30 minutes with the Looftlighter; whereas the only limit to how much charcoal you can have ready in 45 minutes with chimney starters is the number of chimney starters you own. Unless of course, you decide to dual wield Looftlighters a la John Woo.
So it works as advertised, but I do have a few gripes. First, there’s no child safety on this thing. Yes, I’d be an idiot if I left the Looftlighter plugged in around my daughter, so not a big deal to me, but in this day of child-safety locks, I’m sure some parents would be concerned. Second, I’m sure it’s for safety reasons, but some kind of device to lock down the trigger would be nice. I mean, come on, it’s no more dangerous than a gas pump, right? Maybe I’m just lazy but sitting there holding that button down and hearing WHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIR for a solid 10 minutes isn’t very fun for me.
My final gripe about the Looftlighter–and it might seem small to most–is energy consumption. For my chimney starter, all I need is a match and a few sheets of newspaper. Twice a week, we get The Gazette and another local paper thrown onto our sidewalk porch to collect water and get moldy read. Sweet! For Pop, that means free fuel for my chimney starters! So although there isn’t a shortcut for chimney starters to get charcoal ready, it’s very economical and using them has minimal environmental impact. And it keeps the area of the sidewalk in front of our house free of 6 month old newspapers unlike our neighbor’s.
One of the Looftlighter’s selling points is that it eliminates the need for lighter fluid, thus helping the environment. And obviously, unless you want a quick way to lose your eyebrows, you shouldn’t use the Looftlighter with lighter fluid. But you don’t need lighter fluid with a chimney starter either and it won’t affect your utility bill to boot.
A Google search yields varying numbers, but this site says the power is 2000W (here’s a site to give some perspective on how much that is). I’m a geek, so time for some math – for those that don’t like math, I’ll do the work and you can copy my answers.
2000W = 2kilowatts
I used the Looftlighter for about 3 minutes, which is 0.05 hours
2kW x 0.05hours = 0.1kWh
According to the DOE, the average retail Price of electricity to ultimate customers for the Mid-Atlantic was $0.1455 cents/kWh in January 2010
0.1kWh x $0.1455/kWh = $0.01455
A little more than a penny? That’s not too bad, right? Well, if you used it to get your coals ready in 15 minutes, it’d be (0.25h x 2kW x $0.1455/kWh =) $0.07275. Still not terrible, but over an entire season? That’ll add up. Not to mention I have to sit there holding down that button every single time (rather than enjoying an adult beverage or playing with my daughter).
So while I like the Looftlighter and still show it off to my friends–any initial thoughts of, “Dude…that sounds wimpy” are quickly replaced with Ooooooohs once the sparks fly and they see the flames–it hasn’t replaced my chimney starters by a long shot. When I need a small batch of charcoal ready in a hurry, the Looftlighter is a welcome addition to my arsenal, but it sits behind my old grill brush, chimney starters, and BBQ sword on my list of favorite BBQ/grill accessories.