The Best Flame Light Bulb: 2023 Buyers Guide

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With the advent of LED light bulbs, we now have the option to do some interesting things with our lights rather than just glow. Arrays of LED modules have enabled the ability to create animated effects inside the light, and simulating the flickering warm glow of a flame is a safe, low cost way to create that unique ambiance.

These flickering light bulbs used to be a bit niche and not very convincing, but now energy saving LED technology has become more mature there are some great flame light bulb options on the market at surprisingly low price points. These are particularly popular around Halloween for creating a ‘spookier’ ambience both inside and outside the house.

Beware of the marketing images on a lot of these flame bulbs. They routinely depict realistic flames, but that's not what you'll get. The effect is more what you'd see if a candle was behind frosted glass. I've provided video links so you can check it out.

My Top flame Light bulbs

Best Smart Bulb
LIFX Candle Color

✔ Smart home integration
✔ Dimmable through app
✔ Multiple colors zones

Best Value
E26 Flame Bulb

✔ Flame, Steady, and Pulse
✔ Works upside down
✔ Bright 600 lumens

Best E12 Model
Candelabra Bulb

✔ Flame, Steady, and Pulse
✔ Low power consumption
✔ Vintage candle look

Things to Consider

What is the Socket and Bulb size?

Flame effect light bulbs, as with any light, come in a variety of socket sizes. Being what they are, targeting the smaller E12/E14 “candle bulb” form factor makes sense, but it does mean that the bulb you are considering may not fit your situation, so keep an eye on that.

Some of these bulbs, especially the cheaper ones, only come in E27 sizes and can look quite bulky. Often these have a canister shape rather than a more typical light bulb look. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as the form factor allows for a more realistic flame effect than constraining it to the limited space of a typical bulb.

If you’re going to have the bulb visible rather than contained within a light fixture you may want to go with a bigger size for a more convincing flame look rather than just a flame-like flickering effect.

How bright are LED flame light bulbs?

Most flame light bulbs will typically be dimmer than a typical light bulb. This is mostly due to the fact that the animation requires variable brightness to be convincing, and a super bright effect would look out of place.

You can expect most models to range from 80 to 300 lumens of brightness, which equates reasonably to a real flame, although you’d probably want to aim for the higher end of that. We’re now seeing a few with much higher output in the 600-lumen range, which is enough to light a room.

Are the flame light bulbs dimmable?

Generally, with these flickering flame light bulbs the effect is pre-programmed, and like many LED bulbs they are not dimmable. The one exception would by the LIFX Candle Color, as it’s a smart light and can be controlled by software, either their own app or a connected smart home system.

Do you want flame all the time?

The LED flame effect is cool, but do you want that all the time from a given light? Some bulbs offer a steady light mode as well as the flame effect, and these need to be toggled by flicking the light switch within a certain time period.

If you want to use the flame effect as a general rule, you’d want to look for a flame bulb that goes into flame mode as soon as it’s turned on, and maybe not having any other mode is fine.

Does the flame effect work upside down?

For a realistic effect we expect flames to go upwards as in nature. Most LED bulbs will be programmed to create an effect that starts from the socket and goes towards their tip. But what if you have a fixture that has the socket at the top?

A number of LED flame effect bulbs will automatically detect their orientation and the flame switches orientation to correctly animate from the bottom regardless of which way up they are. If you want to use a flame bulb in that situation you’ll want to look for this feature, or it’s going to look pretty weird.

Best SMART FLAME BULB

LIFX Candle Color
★★★★

✔ Supports Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana
✔ Dimmable through app or smart home
✔ 26 blended color zones
✔ WiFi, no hub required

✘ Not super bright (brightness not specified)
✘ E12/14 only
✘ Most Expensive

The LIFX Candle Color is the only smart option for flame light bulbs right now, but even if you aren’t after smart home integration, it offers something truly unique, multiple simultaneous colors. This bulb has 26 separate color zones which allow it to output distinct colors from each and blend them together seamlessly.

Using the LIFX app you can choose various animated effects, such as flame, spooky, candle and so forth and either use preset color palettes or make your own. You can do this by ‘painting’ colors onto a picture of the bulb, and in so doing can get about 8 different colors at once that will then be used with the chosen animation.

This capability is so novel and interesting, coupled with good smart home integration capability, I’d actually consider this the best flame light bulb overall.

Like any other LED flame light bulb, it’s not super bright, and is purely intended as an accent feature. You also won’t be able to do any of the multi-color selection or animations through your smart home, only through the LIFX app as these are unique to the LIFX bulb. You can, however, set up pre-defined scenes in the LIFX app and activate those from your voice assistant. You can also do the standard smart bulb actions with automation rules and voice commands to set single color and adjust the brightness.

It’s a bit pricier than other options, but it’s a high-quality product backed by LIFX’s great support, which is more than you’ll get with the cheaper flame bulbs out there. If you want to save a bit and don’t care about the color features, LIFX also have a tunable white model at about half the price. You still get all the smart home integration and voice control, and can set the color temperature from 1500K all the way up to 9000K.

Best Value E27 Flame Bulb

E26 LED Flame Bulb
★★★★★

✔ Solid, Flame, and Breathing modes
✔ Flame mode is default
✔ 3W Bright flame (600 lumens)
✔ Gravity sensor inverts animation if top mounted

✘ No smart features
✘ E26/27 only

This LED Flame Bulb is sold under a heap of different off-brand names but is the highest rated flame effect light bulb in the market at the moment, and for good reason. Using a 106 LED array it only consumes 3 watts while still outputting a very realistic flame effect at a relatively high 600 lumens. It’s also gravity sensing so it can automatically switch the direction of the animation depending on which way up it is installed.

It uses an E27 socket with a fairly large canister shaped bulb to house the LED array. This allows for a better and brighter flame effect rather than trying to constrain it to a smaller form factor. The bulb defaults to flame mode but can be switched to either a steady light or slow pulsing (called breathing mode) by toggling the light switch.

It’s recommended to install the light bulb in a frosted light fixture for best effect as that helps disguise the artificial nature of the LED flame effect and makes it look all the more natural, but even without that it’s still quite convincing as you can somewhat see in the video (the high exposure of the camera is blowing out the effect a bit).

Best Value E12 Flame Bulb

E12 Flame Bulbs
★★★★★

✔ Flame, Steady, and Pulsing mode
✔ Low energy usage (2W)
✔ Vintage look
✔ 110-240 volt compatible

✘ Flame effect not as good
✘ Not as bright, 2W (150 lumens)

These E12 Candelabra Flame Bulbs are a good value option for E21/E14 fittings. I’ve chosen these ones as they have the same three mode selections as the larger E27 models, where other models only have 2 modes. Unfortunately, they don’t have the gravity sensing capability, so you’ll need to install them upright as is the case with typical chandelier type fittings and coach lights.

You won’t get the same light output and the quality of the flame effect won’t be as good from this size bulb. This is simply because the size of the LED array limits what they can do.

The upside is that they have very low power consumption and should last over 50,000 hours. They also shatter, shock and vibration resistant. They boast a ‘vintage flame look’ as a selling point, although that may not be to your liking. Since the flame effect is the main point, I don’t see it as much of a benefit, especially as these are best installed inside a frosted shade of some kind so you won’t really see it anyway.

Despite their limitations, these bulbs rate very well with customers and will do the job well when installed in a suitable fitting.

How About A Battery Powered Flame Lamp?

Portable Flame Effect Lamp
★★★★★

✔ Gravity sensor inverts animation if hung
✔ Battery Powered, 150 lumens
✔ Steady, pulsing, and flame modes
✔ Charge via USB
✔ IP44 rating for outdoor use

✘ No smart features
✘ Not a light bulb

For something a bit different, although technically not a light bulb, is this battery powered flame effect lamp from CF Grow. There are a few of these popping up which are essentially the same product, but this one has the highest customer rating making it my preferred model.

These are basically the same as the flame light bulbs above but more like a salt lamp, and support steady, ‘breathing’, and flame modes which are selected by simply pressing the button on the base. The latter includes gravity detection so it can animate correctly when inverted, which would be the case when hanging it from something using the built-in hanger, or the magnetic base. The magnets are strong enough to support the weight of the lamp upside down.

The internal battery is charged via USB, which takes about 4 hours. This should give you about 20 hours of use from the 2000mAh battery. It’s also IP44 rated. That means splash resistant, so it can be used outdoors in anything up to a light rain.

The LED flame effect light is not large, only 5 inches in height, so it can be temporarily inserted into a lamp or fixture if required. I’ve even seen one placed under some logs to create the impression of a lit fireplace.

The Wrap Up

LED flame light bulbs and lamps offer a unique take on typical light fittings. The flame effect can be quite convincing with the better models, and provides a cheap, safe way to add that warm ambiance to any situation.

While typically not something supported by smart home platforms as this stage, the best flame light bulb would have to be from LIFX. They offer a smart connected model with the LIFX Candle Color smart flame bulb, and the poly-chromatic technology makes that a compelling option regardless of your smart leanings.

Otherwise, there are good, inexpensive non-smart options for E12 and E26 installations, and even the newer battery powered lamp options for flame effects on the go. I’m loving the effect these produce on those milder spring evenings for entertaining outdoors, or even giving a little warm ambiance inside on cold nights.

You can always swap these out when the season changes too, so it’s not a bad idea to have a couple of LED flame bulbs on hand even if you don’t intend to use them all the time.