Picture of Candle-Powered Electric Candle
After seeing news reports about Hurricane Sandy and hearing the ordeal that all of my family and friends in New York and New Jersey went through, it got me thinking about my own emergency preparedness. San Francisco - after all - sits atop some very active fault lines. As local geology fans always like to point out - statistically speaking - we are long overdue for a large quake.

This forecast is bad news for me, because I don't think that I am very prepared. I might have a few gallons of bottled water in the back closet, but I was ordered not to look in there until after Christmas... so... I am really not sure. Hopefully we will not have an earthquake before then. Anyhow, in the meantime, I have no real emergency supplies to speak of.

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.

Do not leave this contraption unattended. Always have a fire extinguisher on-hand. This is probably less than ideal for normal day-to-day use.
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A kelly kettle is basically a water jacketed chimney on top of a small burn chamber (see which doesn't cost that much less than the biolite stove referenced earlier (
The fan is very interesting and conceptually easy, but I suspect that that enormous cast aluminum heat sink is actually essential because peltier junctions don't really like extreme heat all that much. Maybe you could use a long piece of metal hanging off the side or front of the stove and get by with a smaller heat sink up top. It sounds like fun to find out! Unfortunately, I don't have access to a wood burning stove, so it's not an immediate project for me at least.
umm...I was meaning to reference just beyond the ( in the post above.
spylock belsey2 years ago
I think it could stand on its own as a piece of art,but with a few adjustments,it could become a more useful item.
As a candle,like I said,if one has a heat source that theyre using anyway,then the candle will be efficient to some degree.Any items worth or beauty,is in the eye of the beholder.I think there is something cool about it,I dont think it deserves all the ribbing its getting.
tiber2 years ago
OK this is ridiculously awesome. Not because of the YO DAWG factor but because I own a woodstove. Now I can power my fan (to blow the warm air) from the stove itself and maybe a few lights just by tossing them on the stovetop.
jrjohnwood2 years ago
Rube Goldberg would have loved this.
WailinSoul2 years ago
Very nice, maybe next time a wind powered fan?
I dunno, I think it's a brilliant way of maximizing the light from a VERY tiny candle....remember, you get light from both the tea light (not a lot) AND the electric candle (again, not a lot but not a lot + not a lot = just enough?)

In cooler climes, it seems like a good bet for suspending near a heater of some sort....
Br4nd0n322 years ago
Thanks awesome!
isaacwilk2 years ago
But if an earthquake strikes, won't it knock over the candle!? Not to mention all the aftershocks... Honestly I think that holding a candle in a lantern yourself is much safer than leaving one in a room prone to shakes by itself, if that was the point of it.
Is there a way of including some sort of anti-spill device round the tealight? I read that in the old days, they had “safety” candle lanterns in laces where a naked flame wasn’t desirable; the glass casing was a thin double-walled cylinder containing water – if the lamp were dropped or knocked over, the glass broke and the water put the candle out.

That might be a bit elaborate for a tealight, but some way of surrounding it with water, maybe standing it on a support in a jam-jar of water?
But for goodness sake, about an hour or more's effort plus the cost... just for one electric candle, capable of lighting maybe half a room?? I think I might just take the risk of using a wind-up torch instead!
I own a 1985 Ford F-350 and I'm thinking about converting it to alternative power.....Do you think this method could be applied to a pickup........
you could line up enough candles to run a sterling engine in your truck. It would take a lot of cylinders and gears. But it could work
I am afraid that even with the pickup bed full of tea lights you would not be able to generate enough electricity to move the truck. Besides the fire dept. would likely follow you around.
Amnesia Wes2 years ago
Hold on a minute; I'm finishing up my 'ible on a wind powered electric fan...
Everyone's gonna want one! lol
use an old CPU fan, outside, in the wind, in the cold wind. Run the lines to the other CPU fan, near the wood stove. Inside, circulating the warm air. It's not that bad of an idea. Like using a heat exchanger to conserve some energy without having to expose anything to nature.

Or, a way to use the internet, with a fan on my end, and someone on the other side of the world, with another. Using my fan, I could blow on it. The signal would change with the amount I blow on it. The received signal would translate and turn the other fan. The harder I blow the fan, the faster the other would blow. We could do world wide birthday candles this way.
I'm gonna, anyway. Yet another brilliant idea! (drat, I missed that pun for my original comment. Sigh.) :-)
AndyPipkin2 years ago
Excelent, it got my vote :D, lol
duggerpato2 years ago
The point of this is to work with a TEC assembly, I assume, because I found it redundant to use a light source to power a light -- and expensively, at that ;) Well written 'ible as usual!
techhobbit2 years ago
Well done! I've wanted to experiment with one of these... Can you give any specs as to V & I output given 1 Candlepower input?

Has anyone tried one of these? - a DIY BioLite camp stove:
The $130 version is here:

You feed it small twigs, the heat causes a Peltier to generate enough electrical current to power a small fan that turbo charges the fuel to burn much hotter, and even gives enough surplus current to recharge USB devices.
randofo (author)  techhobbit2 years ago
I got it up to around 1.5V (give or take) with a single candle. I did not measure current.

With two candles it was closer to 3V. I think putting some ice water in a bucket atop the upper heat sink would have helped.

I am sure you could manage to trickle-charge a phone with this setup and some additional circuitry.
For those that don't need a charger, have you tried the Kelly Kettle?
Nice instructible. (tip) You should try adding a capacitor to it. Can you please add the voltage and amperage to the instructible.
jim_lewis12 years ago
i'm not sure how 'useless' this idea is. As you say, candles do represent a fire risk. This arrangement means you can leave the fuel source in a safe and stable location, but take your light, (connected by a long enough wire), where you need it without fear of catching fire/burning yourself etc. In addition, the combustion gases can be kept away from where the person needing the light is. This is quite a serious consideration in the developing world for example, where more people die of lung problems from cooking/lighting using kerosene etc in the home, than from malaria.
But then you're leaving one unattended in a room that could be prone to shakes, gusts of wind etc. It's much safer to have it in your own control.
agis682 years ago
you spend lot of energy and resources to bring the same result that you might have with a simple and cheap candle...Sometinmes science is stupid infront of simple things
Please would someone teach me how to build a coal-fired steam engine to run my generator so that I can boil water in my electric kettle for a cup of tea ?

Toga_Dan2 years ago
HILARIOUS !!! Love it. I assume that the irony is intended.
HA! Using a candle to power a "candle" is fantastically hilarious in an ironic kind of way. And as a side note, I actually work for the company that designed that candle, and my brother is the one who designed the casing. 

I should also mention that the particular electric candle you used can run for several hundred hours on one set of batteries, and it's big brother can run 800hrs.  Plus we really like to push the whole "no open flames" benefit of our LED candles.  So overall I think you're better off just using the batteries in an emergency and coming up with an off-grid way to charge them.
belsey2 years ago
Pure genius. This is perfect on so many levels I can't even count them. Did I mention I loved this?
bobsmith6522 years ago
Actually it isn't as daft as it first seems. The tea light gives off heat and light. This is converting the waste heat into more light.

The $32 peltier could buy a lot of batteries though...
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actiasluna2 years ago
This idea is just crazy enough to be ... practic...uh... uh ... very amusing. And it works! I love the "old tech running new tech" idea. What about a steam-powered electric candle for a little more modern technology version? Thank you for the laugh.
ace12345m2 years ago
this is awesome
ace12345m2 years ago
this is awesome
ace12345m2 years ago
this is awesome
solace13692 years ago
This would be useful on top of a wood stove.
mattccc2 years ago
dogsgomoo2 years ago
Hah. Damn, this is spiffy!

.... I wonder, with like a bank of tea lights, could you charge a battery this way?
And maybe, instead of tea lights, you could focus the sun's rays on the larger heat sink via... some sort of parabolic setup? Not sure how that would work since I assume the energy would be focused on one fin.

Oh so many impractical possibilities with this idea!
randofo (author)  dogsgomoo2 years ago
I thought about the parabolic solar setup. I am curious to know how such a thing might stack up against solar panels of the same surface area. I would obviously need more peltier junctions to be able to compete, but I think I might be able to get it to be pretty close. Maybe I'll put it on the infinite to-do list.
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