How Does an Electric Candle Warmer Work?

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Candle warmers are electric devices that warm candle wax to release its scent without an open flame. Candle warmers come in three basic styles, each with advantages over the others. All provide fragrance without the safety hazards and toxins released by open flame.

Overhead Warmers

One type of candle warmer has a bright, halogen light that shines onto the candle from above. These warmers have a gooseneck stem with a light at the end that reaches from the base up over the candle. The light is surrounded with a glass shade. The light melts the wax in the candle from the top. This releases the scent quickly, but also leaves melted wax in the reach of children. The lights do burn out and must be replaced at a cost of $7 to $12 (as of 2010), depending on exact style.

Hot Plate Warmers

Another style of candle warmer is called a hot plate or coffee cup warmer. These small electric warmers plug in and heat a 3- or 4-inch Teflon hot plate. Candles placed on top begin to melt from the bottom to release the scent. While sold as candle warmers, they can also be used to warm soup, coffee or other beverages in mugs. They are simple to use, require no maintenance and are inexpensive. They are not decorative, however, and take longer to release a scent.

Bottom Light Warmers

Light warmers use a standard light bulb in a ceramic or metal container with a bowl on top. The bowl is filled with either scented wax "candle" chips, or may hold a candle. The electric bulb warms and melts the wax, releasing the scent. The chips are cheaper than full candles, and more versatile. One of the many variations includes warmers with a fan to disperse scent.