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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Burn Time of Candles and Economy

I love candles. I love the scent of the wax while a candle is burning, as well as the scent of the smoke when I blow it out. I really love how candlelight flickers and affects shadows in the room. What I don't love are the exorbitant prices on premium jar candles that you can buy at pricey shops in the mall. 

Premium 3-wick candles

I had a thought that perhaps those expensive candles make up for some of their cost in a lengthy burn time. I went to Bath & Body Works website and discovered that their 3-wick candles have a burn time ranging from 25 to 45 hours. These candles retail for $24.50; but if you're savvy, you can find them on sale for as low as $9.50. Last year's candle day at Bath & Body works was Saturday, December 7. It's a once a year event and draws large crowds. (ask me how I know -- 1 daughter who loves, loves, loves these pricey candles) So, for as low as $9.50, your premium candle will burn between 25 and 45 hours, and cost between 21 and 38 cents per hour. Of course, I have to admit, I do love the fragrance of many of their candles. And perhaps that accounts for some of the premium price.

Taper candles

The burn time on taper candles is based on their length. The accepted rule of thumb is 1 hour per inch of candle. So, the 11-inch tapers that I've seen at Target for $3.99 a 2-pack will burn for 11 hours each at 18 cents per hour. Jo Ann Fabrics has a 4-pack of 10-inch tapers for $3.99. The burn time for these tapers would be about 10 hours each, for a cost of about 10 cents per hour.  My local Walmart sells Better Homes & Gardens 12-inch tapers in 12-packs for $5.47. The cost per candle is about 45 cents, for a cost per hour of burn of about 4 cents. As you can see, the price on taper candles varies considerably. When buying this kind of candle, it's worth the effort to check several stores, including your local grocery store. To make a price comparison with Bath & Body Work's 3-wick candles, it would take 3 tapers to achieve a similar amount of light. That means I would spend about 12 cents per hour of burn time for 3 tapers. Of course, in contrast to a jar candle which is a self-contained candle within a holder, taper candles need candlesticks. Although, many of us already own this type of holder.

Votive candles

Votive candles can burn between 10 and 15 hours, if appropriately sized for the holder. Ideally, you don't want much air space between your votive candle  and the holder, as the melting wax will pool in the base of the holder and won't be reached by the wick, shortening the burn time. In addition, you should extinguish a votive candle that has burned to within 1/2-inch of its base, to prevent cracking of the holder. This 1/2-inch of residual wax is not lost, however. You can reclaim this wax and make a new candle, see this post.

Yankee Candles sells some really nice votive candles, regularly priced at $2 each. After Christmas last year, I picked up a bunch of their holiday-scented votive candles for 50 cents each. With Yankee Candles, you're paying for the premium name brand as well as the scent. You can pick up decent votive candles from the local drug store for 89 to 99 cents each at regular price or about 40 to 50 cents each on clearance after the holidays. Yankee Candles says that their votives have a burn time of up to 15 hours. My local Rite Aid's website says that their votives have a burn time of about 12 hours. So, for a price as low as 50 cents per votive with a burn time of up to 15 hours, each hour of the candle's life costs about 3 cents. Granted, it takes more votives to create a similar amount of light as a larger candle like Bath & Body Work's 3-wick. Still, 3 votive candles can cost me as little as 9 cents per burn hour.

Battery-powered LED tea light candles

The hands-down winner for cost per burn hour for a candle is not even made of wax. If one is not picky about a candle being "real" or not, then battery-operated tea light candles are the biggest bargain. I bought a 4-pack of flickering LED tea lights from Dollar Tree several years ago and they're still going strong. Dollar Tree has since down-sized the package to 2 flickering LED tea lights. The packaging indicates that each tea light has a "burn time" of about 120 hours. That means that the cost per hour is less than a half-cent. If I group 3 of these together, my cost per hour is about 1 and a half cents. These are best showcased in some sort of holder. I've placed these in a variety of "free" holders, including canning jars tied with ribbon, nestled in juice glasses filled with candy corn or mini candy canes, inside painted and punched tin cans, and in textured glass votive holders. I've even placed LED tea light candles in ribbon-tied canning jars on top of wide glass candlesticks designed for pillar candles, as a bargain alternative to pillar candles for those holders.

This price analysis was an interesting exercise for me. I love my LED tea lights, but who knew they were just so economical?!


  1. Well, those were interesting comparisons even though I'm not a candle person. Too many years of mischievous cats and kids to have candles around, so we just never got in the habit in using them. Combine that with the fact that, I don't like many scented things and it's not something we do. Although, I did purchase some LED votives for Christmas decorating last year. Good to know that they are so economical.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      for me, it's always fun to compare the cost of different options. And especially so when I discover that something I'm already enjoying saves money!

      Have a great day, Live and Learn.

  2. We seem to be having lots of conversations about lighting at Christmas. :) I'm kinda scared of candles--my mom accidentally left a candle burning once and we left home and came back just before it tipped over and started a fire. I only use them for special occasions on our table. I do like the flameless candles, though. What I really love are all these fairy light strands that are popular now--I get my gentle mood lighting in a safer manner, and the batteries seem to last a long time with them. I'm a bit sad that both you and L&L said that your LED Christmas light strands don't last--that gets expensive and fills up the landfills.

    It seems like you have a variety of candle options to make you happy, Lili!

    1. Hi Kris,
      your experience with leaving a candle lit does sound scary. I love fairy lights, too. This is a good time of year for mood-boosting ambient lighting.

      Wishing you a wonderful day, Kris!

    2. Kris, our neighbor's house burned down when one of the kids left a candle burning when they went out to dinner. It was scary and another reason, that we only light candles when we are right there with them.

  3. I have a love/hate relationship with them as well. I almost burned down my first home by forgetting to blow out a candle under a simmering pot. What should happen is that the little candle under the pot would extinquish itself when it was out of wax but that's not what happened for me. It started to flame and burn the entire simmering pot and almost caught the curtains on fire. I vowed to never burn candles again except I have a grown daughter living with me who loves candles so they started to gift me candles. I decided that I could be more responsible with them than I was at age 23 and that I could burn candles again. We are very, very careful to only burn them at night when we are "in" and never during the day when we might go "in" and "out".

    Yes, I love the bath and body works candles too and I've never been able to find the scent I want in a Yankee Candle or any other brand. And BBW also don't always have the same scent year after year which is sad because I like only certain ones that might not be back next year.


    1. Hi Alice,
      our candle-burning rule is only using candles while someone is in the same room. We have a candle that is on the kitchen table that we burn every night during advent. But as soon as I get up to leave the table, I extinguish the candle.

      If there's a particular candle scent that you're after from B&BW, I believe that candle day is this weekend, perhaps starting tomorrow. Several sites are saying that the sale online is for tomorrow (Friday) only, but in-store may be tomorrow through Sunday. I'm with you and discontinued fragrances. I had a hand lotion that I loved and really wanted more of, but they discontinued it and haven't brought it back.

      How is your daughter, SIL and his family doing? I've been keeping them in my prayers.

      Have a great day, Alice.

  4. Interesting on the cost breakdown! I do love the smell of a "real" candle burning, but, burned too long, they seem to bother my allergies. So I'll light it for maybe 30 minutes here and there. We run a high quality air purifier in our living area and another in our bedroom, living with pets.

    Something else I really like for ambience is a plug-in salt lamp. I believe ours takes a 25 watt bulb. It could probably be changed for an LED, but the warmth from the bulb is supposed to help the salt release negative ions, which are beneficial. However, some research shows that to be at a really low level, anyway, so who knows? I still love the look and coziness of the salt lamp.

    1. Hi Cat,
      I have the same problem with allergies and heavily-fragranced candles, so I limit the burn time on those particular candles. I don't know if you've heard this before, but beeswax candles are supposed to improve air quality through the release of negative ions. I've never heard much about salt lamps. Thanks for mentioning them. I'll look them up.

      Wishing you a wonderful day, Cat!

    2. Yes, I have heard that about beeswax candles, and have dabbled in making and using them in the past. It was a fun hobby for a bit, but I haven't kept up with it.


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