Firefighters have issued a warning about the candle "hack". Image by AP PHOTO

Candle heating ‘hack’ claim goes up in smoke

Tom Wark January 5, 2024

Propping an upturned terracotta pot above a candle will warm an entire room.


False. The method does not amplify the heat of a candle and is a known fire hazard.

Social media users would have you believe that a makeshift heater consisting of a terracotta pot and a candle can warm an entire room.

This is false. Experts told AAP FactCheck that placing a pot over a candle won’t amplify its heat and warm an entire room. Firefighters are also warning that the dangerous trend has sparked fires.

The claim appears in a Facebook post (archived here). “One clay flower pot & a candle will provide heat for one room if you are without heat,” the text reads.

The background image is of a candle with a clay flower pot propped above the flame with six bricks.

Candle Pot Post
 The post claims the makeshift heater can warm an entire room. 

Another Facebook post features the same photo, along with instructions on how to create a “simple DIY heater”.

“Hey everyone, here’s a nifty hack to warm up a room when you’re feeling chilly and have no heat! All you need is a clay pot and a candle. Let’s turn up the cozy factor,” the caption says. 

Other examples of the claim from as far back as 2015 can be seen here, here, here and here.

But experts told AAP FactCheck that a pot would not amplify a candle’s heat, or warm an entire room.

Professor Joan Vaccaro, an expert in quantum dynamics at Griffith University, said the pot could prevent a candle’s heat from rising to the ceiling, but it wouldn’t increase the overall amount of heat produced.

“Over time, the pot heats up and begins to radiate infrared (thermal) energy from its surface,” Prof Vaccaro told AAP FactCheck in an email.  

“You might even feel the thermal radiation on your skin, depending on your distance from it.

“But in the end, you only have 80 W (watts) of heat power (a typical candle) in total. The pot doesn’t increase that.”

Professor John H Lienhard, an expert in thermodynamics and heat transfer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said while you may feel the warmth from the pot when sitting beside it, the method will not heat an entire room.

Firefighters in the UK have issued a warning about the ‘hack’

“In terms of ‘heating the room’, the total energy input of this device is just a candle flame … I think our common experience is that neither a light bulb nor a candle releases enough energy to heat a standard room,” he told AAP FactCheck in an email.

Firefighters in the UK have issued a warning about the social media “hack” following an incident in the city of Derby.

In November 2022, a resident accidentally set their home on fire after attempting the hack. Nobody was injured but 50 people had to be evacuated from the building due to the fire.

“Although these hacks may look like a good way to save money on heating bills, they are very dangerous and we would urge people not to follow the videos posted online,”  Barclay Masterson, from Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, said.

The Verdict

The claim that propping an upturned terracotta pot above a candle will warm an entire room is false.

Experts told AAP FactCheck that the method will not increase the overall heat power of a candle and it will not amplify heat across an entire room.

Firefighters have also warned that the method is a significant fire risk.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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