LuDela Gen2 Candle review: Real flame via remote control

Look, sometimes when you write about tech for a living, you get to review a flamethrower. Other times, they ask you to review a remote control candle. Here we are, at the latter scenario.

But hey, we’re still talking real flames here, because that’s the whole point of LuDela’s $99 pillar candle. Now in its second generation, the company bills it as the world’s first and only real-flame remote control candle. Sure, you could get a nine-pack of remote control LED candles with imitation flickers for, like, $20 — but when it comes to fire, you might say that light-emitting diodes can’t hold a candle to the real thing.

Like

  • Good design, looks just like a real candle.
  • Remote and safety features worked flawlessly.
  • No smarts whatsoever

Don’t Like

  • Expensive up-front cost
  • Candle only comes in white
  • No scented oil options

Whether or not the LuDela’s authentic burn and remote control convenience is worth the steep premium is up to you, but if you’re considering buying in, you can rest assured that the thing works as advertised. At 6 inches tall and 4 inches wide at the base, it’s a reasonably passable pillar candle that lights via remote and auto-extinguishes after a few hours (or if you touch the top or tip the thing over). The candle’s built-in battery lasts 3 months between charges, and the liquid paraffin cartridges that fuel the flame will burn for 50 hours before you need to swap a new one in (or spend $25 to have two more shipped your way). You can also control multiple candles at once with a single remote.

On the downside, the candle only comes in a bland shade of ivory, and the liquid paraffin that fuels it is unscented, so it won’t make your house smell any better. Unlike the first LuDela candle from a few years ago, this new design comes with no smarts whatsoever, so you can’t automate it or light it from your phone. That’ll disappoint some, but I actually think it’s an appropriate show of restraint.

Personally, I appreciate a good candle as much as the next guy, but I’m more than content to light and extinguish them the old-fashioned way. That said, if I wanted to incorporate candlelight into my home decor on a daily basis — perhaps as part of holiday decorations — then spending a little more on a candle that lights from afar, safely puts itself out and never drips would admittedly tempt me. The LuDela fits that bill, and might make a sneaky-good gift for any candle-crazy loved ones in your life.

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LuDela

First impressions and setup

Now in its second generation, with improved battery life and a new cartridge-based design, the LuDela is made from a textured, waxy plastic that’s soft enough to dent if you dig your fingernail into it. There’s a subtle, sun-shaped LuDela logo engraved into the front, but it’s inconspicuous and near impossible to notice without looking for it. More than anything, I think it’s just there so you know which side to aim the remote at.

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The LuDela burns liquid paraffin from these cartridges, which you’ll need to replace every 50 hours.


Ry Crist/CNET

As a result, the LuDela does a reasonably good job of looking and feeling like an actual candle. The only real hole in the facade is, well, the hole in the facade up top where the oil cartridge’s wick pops through. As such, your best bet is to place the LuDela at eye level or higher. It looks fine from the side, but if you’re looking down on it, you can tell it isn’t a normal candle, especially when it isn’t lit.

To set it up, you’ll start by charging the candle with the included USB-C cable, which doesn’t take very long provided you’ve got a spare USB jack to plug it into. Once the red charging light turns green, you’ll be set for three months of battery-powered ignition, and ready to insert one of the two liquid paraffin cartridges that comes with the $99 starter kit. Just open the bottle and stick it up through the bottom of the candle, twist to lock it in place, and remove the orange safety cap on the top of the wick.

Liquid paraffin?

Yep, it’s basically just an oily, fluid version of the same stuff that a lot of candle wax is made out of. It’s harmful if swallowed or spilled, but it burns clean, with no detectable scent or residue. In fact, according to LuDela’s third-party product testing at SEA Limited, it burns 10 times cleaner than EU standards.

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The LuDela remote is straightforward and easy to use.


Ry Crist/CNET

How does the remote work? Is it safe?

It’s a simple, tidy little remote that runs on a single CR2032 coin-style battery. For safety, it won’t do anything if you just press the On button — instead, you have to first press a number to choose how long you want the fire to burn for and then press and hold the button until the candle lights. You can select, 1, 2, 4 or 8 hours, and when the time is up, the candle will make a little noise like a snoring chihuahua and automatically put itself out. If you want to put it out early, just press the remote’s Off button.

That multibutton ignition approach is a child-safety measure, but I don’t have kids, so I’m not sure how effective it would be at stopping a budding pyromaniac from achieving a flame (especially if they’re old enough to read — the remote’s instructions are printed on a sticker on the back of the remote itself).

The better safety features are located in the candle itself — it’ll automatically put itself out if you touch its top face, or if the candle tilts or falls over. All of that worked perfectly during repeated tests. It won’t detect if anything is touching the flame, though, so you can absolutely still burn yourself or light your curtains on fire if you aren’t careful. It’s still a candle.

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Ry Crist/CNET

The verdict

It’s not something most people need, but LuDela’s remote control candle makes sense for anyone who regularly lights pillar candles in their home. Sure, you can pick up a plain white pillar candle of the same size for anywhere from $10 to $20 — but that’s also about what you’ll pay for each of those liquid paraffin cartridges, which cost $25 for a 2-pack. That makes the $99 price tag more of a one-time fee for the convenience of remote controls and the safety of automatic shutoff.

Sure, the plain candle might last a little longer than those 50-hour LuDela cartridges — but it’ll also melt down into the base as you go. The LuDela stays looking like a fresh, new candle for as long as you use it.

I also appreciate LuDela’s restraint — namely that there’s nothing smart about it whatsoever. There’s no app, there are no voice controls, and it doesn’t connect to the cloud. As much as some might enjoy incorporating voice-activated pyrotechnics into their “Alexa, set the mood” routine, I’ve seen enough smart home hiccups to know that automating an open, exposed flame is a really terrible idea. 

I do wish that the candle came in other colors besides white, and it’s a bummer that your only option is unscented liquid paraffin — but if you can forgive those shortcomings, then the LuDela is a good fit for candle-committed home decorators.