Electric candle that runs on the heat from a real candle

Instructables user Randofo has created a tutorial for his ingeniously perverse candle-powered electric candle. As the name implies, it's an electric candle whose power comes from the heat given off by a real candle.

I have been thinking a lot lately about being more prepared, and what supplies we should have on hand for when the 'big one' hits. After prioritizing the three most obvious things to have in a severe emergency - water, food, and a fair-sized crowbar - it came down to figuring out what else one needs to survive. It did not take me very long to conclude this item was electric lighting. I use that all the time. How can I live without that?

After assessing the problem, it became apparent to me that after a few days of constant lighting, all of my batteries will be dead. This means that either I need rechargeable batteries, or a way to generate electricity without them. Not needing batteries to begin with seemed most sensible to me. I explored different options and finally figured out a low-cost, long-term, and portable, method to keep my electric candles lit. I am going to use heat generated by tea lights. The nice thing about this solution is that they are dirt cheap, small, and will last forever. You can buy about 1,000,000 tea lights at Ikea for $1.99. With a fair-sized stock of small candles, I can keep my electric candle lit indefinitely. Thanks to my candle-powered electric candle, I know that I will never be left in the dark.

Candle-Powered Electric Candle (via Neatorama)


  1. What is the candle power rating of that electric light?
    Seriously, what is it? One of the things I found interesting and confusing is how they measure light output. How many people have an idea of how bright a “lumen” is? Because at the high end that is how they measure light these days, not ‘candle power”
    So for example if I told you that they are planing to put up new 150,000 watt lights up at the Golden Gate Beach Chalet in the dark side of the park would you know how bright that is?
    What if I told you, “It’s about 1/2 as bright as the lights at AT&T park at night? It’s hard to visualize what that is unless you can see it.

    1. Even if you did tell them how many lumens it is, people will have a tough time converting that into something they can understand.  Our eyes don’t respond to light in a linear fashion and everybody is different, plus the geometry of the lighting makes a huge difference.  Simply telling someone the total lumens won’t give them a very good idea of how bright it will seem to them.

      1. They should have a lumens scale just like they have a decibel scale. So 10 lumens is barely noticeable, 100 lumens is a full moon, 1000 lumens is comfortable to read at, 10,000 lumens will sear your eyes out, and 100,000 lumens sets your hair on fire.

        1. We had a full moon last night that was ludicrously bright, so much so that I swear I could have comfortably read in it.

          1. But then you go and try to do something like that and discover that the light is not nearly as bright as you think.  This is what I was talking about, how “bright” something is turns out to be rather subjective. 

        2. Light is even worse in this respect than sound since we have an aperture in our eye. The sun outside can easily be 1,000,000x brighter than indoors at night with a dull light, but the eye adjusts to relatively similar perceived light levels in both situations. This does not happen with sound.

  2. Only slightly less round about than writing a document in word, printing it, faxing it, then OCRing the printout on the other side.  

    1. Or the sort of work my colleagues do in the entertainment industry.  I see fake trees made out of wood and paper nearly every day.

  3. When I was a child, our family built a geodesic dome in the Tucson foothills, and it took us a whole year to get the electricity installed. (Underground power was exotic in 1971, and 1/4 mile of trench+cable not cheap).

    As a result, we lived without electricity, since my parents didn’t like the noise or the gas consumption of gas generators.

    We used candles to do homework. Five dinner candles in a Mexican copper candelabra was our main lighting source, and it would last two nights. Sometimes we’d cheat and use a Coleman lantern with the naphtha and the radioactive booties.

    The only batteries we used were for flashlights to go pee in the desert.

  4. Ingenious! 

    The only thing that would make it better would be if it had some sort of electric ignition system, to light the candle automatically.

    Battery powered, maybe. . . .

  5. Knowing that most of the energy of combustion is *not* going to light, I have to wonder if you can capture enough heat to make this a net gain in illumination. In principle, of course, you could.

    1. It seems like if you get almost any illumination out of the LED bulb then you’re going to be ahead.  The candle is still putting out most of its light, and a slightly smarter design could probably insure that the only light blocked is the stuff that would have just gone to the ceiling and been useless anyway.  Candles are tremendously inefficient light sources, so it’s not too hard to improve on them. 

      Biggest problem I see with this setup is that candles are pretty dirty burners, so the bottom heat sink is going to get caked in carbon and lose efficiency after awhile.

    1. not really, google ‘stove fan’ and you will see the underlying technology has been around for years.

  6. William of Ockham, Rube Goldberg, and Jean Baudrillard walk into a dark bar and shout LET THERE BE LIGHT!…

  7. I loved the comment on another post about this which said it’s like chilling your ice cream maker with ice cream to make ice cream.

  8. I have one of those. I use the electric candle to melt wax and form little candles that I then use to power the electric candle.

  9. A device which uses an input to generate a very similar output through a convoluted process – sounds a lot like a simplified version of “life” to me. We have corn-powered farmers who grow corn. Sometime they’re beef-powered farmers growing corn after eating corn-powered beef. Or using corn-powered biofuel. Whatever. It’s simultaneously beautiful and horrible to think about.

Comments are closed.