The best LED flame effect bulbs
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With the advent of LED 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 stimulating the flickering warm glow of a flame is a safe, low cost way to create that unique ambience.
These used to be a bit niche and not very convincing, but now LED lighting has become more mature there are some great options on the market at surprisingly low price points.
My Top LED flame bulbs
Best Overall: LIFX Candle Color E12/E14
✔ Supports integration with Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and Cortana
✔ Dimmable through the LIFX app or smart home controls
✔ Can blend multiple customizable colors at the same time
Best E26 Model: Omicoo LED Flame Effect Bulb
✔ Can be switched between flame, breathing, and steady light modes
✔ Flame effect is gravity dependent for inverted fixtures
✔ Color can be changed via Bluetooth app
Best E12 Model: Hudson Torpedo Flame Effect Bulb
✔ Bright flame effect (200 lumen)
✔ Glass bulb, minimal base
✔ Flame effect on by default
Things to Consider
What is the Socket and Bulb size?
Flame effect 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 E26 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 bulbs?
LED Flame effect 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 models to range from 80 to 200 lumens of brightness, which equates reasonably to a real flame, although you’d probably want to aim for the higher end of that.
Are they dimmable?
Generally the flame effect is pre-programmed, and the bulbs 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 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 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 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 flame bulbs will automatically detect their orientation and 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 LED Flame Effect Bulbs
The LIFX Candle Color is the only smart option for flame 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.
Like other flame bulbs, 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, use it as a standard smart bulb and use automations and voice commands to set solid colors and brightness.
The Omicoo LED Flame Bulb is the highest rated flame bulb in the market at the moment, and for good reason. Using a 106 LED array is outputs a very convincing flame effect at a relatively high 320 lumens, and supports correct operation with bottom or top mounted sockets automatically. On top of that, this upgraded model supports app control via Bluetooth, which allows you to select the mode and brightness, but also any color you like.
It uses an E26 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 bulb in a frosted light fixture for best effect as that helps disguise the artificial nature of the 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).
The US made Hudson E26 Flame Bulb and E12 Torpedo Bulb are good alternatives which offer a quality flame effect with a decent brightness. While not as powerful as the Omicoo they also run at a lower power consumption of 3W which may be better where the light will be on for extended periods, and both still support gravity detection for the correct animation direction.
The E26 model sports a canister design the same as the Omicoo allowing for a bigger and better flame effect for those higher visibility installations, where the E12 Torpedo model uses a candelabra style bulb for smaller lamps and sconces.
These bulbs only do the flame effect, so if you need to have steady light at times this may not be the way to go. If you’re specifically looking for a flame effect, though, these are a solid option and offer US based support, which is more than you can say for many low cost electronic products out there.
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 effect bulbs above, and support steady, ‘breathing’ and flame effect 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 lamp 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 effect 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, LIFX does offer a smart connected model in the Candle Color smart 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 on hand even if you don’t intend to use them all the time.