Best Electric Lighters

Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for best electric lighters

Pocket-sized lighters have been available for decades. They’re easy to carry and relatively inexpensive. Design upgrades for these types of lighters have been minimal over the years. At least until the introduction of electric arc lighters, that is. These new electric lighters make using a lighter even easier and safer.

An electric lighter sends an electric current with a high voltage through ceramic electrodes in the lighter. The electric arc is exposed to the air between the two electrodes. The arc has a high temperature that can ignite combustible objects like cigarettes or candle wicks. It replicates the flame in a traditional fuel-style lighter.

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Electric lighters are also called arc lighters, thunder lighters, and plasma beam lighters.

Key considerations

There are a couple of important design aspects to keep in mind when shopping for an electric arc lighter.

Shape

Some electric lighters have a shape that resembles a traditional fuel lighter. These traditional-style arc lighters have a flip top. The arc is generated from the electrodes that are under the top. Rather than spinning a flint wheel like you would with a fuel lighter, an electric lighter simply has a button that you press.

Rectangular electric lighters can be difficult to use for lighting a barbecue grill or reaching a wick inside a candle jar, however. For those situations, you may want a wand-shaped electric lighter. These lighters are long and thin, making it easier to reach into tight spaces. With a wand-shaped fuel lighter, the flame extends out of the end of a tube. With a wand-style electric lighter, the arc also appears at the end of the tube.

Number of arcs

When selecting an electric lighter, you can pick between one or two arcs. Double-arc lighters are more complex than single-arc lighters, using four electrodes. Dual-arc lighters require more hardware and cost a little more than single-arc lighters. A few years ago, single-arc lighters were far more common. However, these days there are more dual-arc electric lighters on the market.

Select a double-arc electric lighter if you want a unit that can light larger objects easily. Cigars or fireworks with thick fuses light better with a double-arc lighter. Single-arc lighters work nicely for cigarettes or candles with average-size wicks.

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Did you know?
Electric lighters typically contain a micro USB port that you use for charging the device instead of a full-size USB port.
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Features

Although all electric lighters use the same technology to create the arc, they have a handful of different features.

Charging time

When an electric lighter is plugged into a USB cable and charging, it’s not available to use. So a fast charge time is a helpful feature. On average, an electric lighter needs 60 to 90 minutes to fully charge.

Case material

Metal is the most durable material for any electric lighter. If the case has any plastic in it, the lighter may not last as long. A lighter with zinc or a zinc alloy in the case will resist scratches as you carry it in your pocket.

Color and design

One of the best things about a high-quality fuel lighter is the variety of color and design options. Electric lighters are also available in multiple colors and designs, mimicking their fuel lighter counterparts.

Waterproof

If you are taking your electric lighter camping or hiking, you will want a design that stands up to the elements. A waterproof electric lighter has a flip top that locks in place. This ensures that it won’t pop open as you’re moving through rough terrain, potentially getting wet.

"TSA regulations allow airplane passengers to carry an electric arc lighter in checked baggage. Fuel-based lighters are not allowed in checked baggage."
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Electric lighter prices

Electric lighters do cost quite a bit more than plastic disposable fuel lighters, but they’re similar in cost to high-quality metal fuel lighters that you refill.

For an off-the-shelf electric lighter, you can expect to pay roughly $8 to $20. Lighters with a larger capacity per charge and dual-arc lighters cost closer to $20. Single-arc lighters with a small capacity per charge will cost around $8.

Considering you can use an electric lighter thousands of times and never have to worry about running out of fuel, it’s a good option. Plastic disposable fuel lighters usually cost $1 to $2 per lighter. But buying these lighters will add up quickly versus recharging and using the same electric lighter over and over.

Some electric lighters may cost more than $20. Those sold as keepsakes with engraving will cost more, as will those designed as luxury gifts. You can expect to pay $20 to $50 for these items.

Tips

An electric lighter has some specific features you’ll want to understand. Here are some tips to help you use your electric lighter more successfully.

  • Light only what fits between the electrodes. To use the electric lighter, the electric arc must come into contact with the item being lit. The item must fit between the electrodes, which on average are about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch apart.
  • LED lights show the remaining charge. Some electric lighters have LED lights built into the case. These will alert you when you need to plug in the USB cable and recharge the device.
  • Use the safety lock when children are around. Some models of electric arc lighters have a safety lock feature. This means the lighter will not activate when the ignition button is pressed. A common lock/unlock code for electric lighters involves pressing the ignition button three times quickly.
  • Clean your electric lighter for optimum performance. After periods of use, the electrodes on the electric lighter may become covered in soot. You should occasionally clean the electrodes with a soft-bristle brush to remove this soot. Don’t use chemicals or liquid on the electrodes to clean them.
  • Expect a little bit of noise during operation. As the electric lighter creates the arc, it emits a slight buzzing sound. This will stop as soon as you release the button and extinguish the arc. This buzz and the bright blue-purple light the arc creates will be tempting to children. Always use any safety lock features on your electric arc lighter when children are around.
  • Electric lighters use a standard lithium-ion battery. Like many mobile tech devices, electric lighters use a tiny lithium-ion battery inside the unit. It can be recharged hundreds of times safely.
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The inside of an electric lighter has some wiring, a battery, and circuitry.

FAQ

Q. How does an electric lighter work?
A.
An electric lighter uses a small arc of electricity to ignite combustible items. A pair of ceramic electrodes contain the arc. The lighter generates the electrical arc using electromagnetic induction that’s activated when you press a button. As long as you hold the button down, the lighter will generate the arc.

Q. How do I recharge an electric lighter?
A.
An electric arc lighter contains a USB port. You charge the electric lighter with a USB charger. Most lighters ship with a USB cord, but occasionally you may have to purchase a cord separately. This is rare, however.

Q. What are some advantages of electric lighters over traditional fuel lighters?
A.
Fuel lighters create an actual flame, which means they also release contaminants in the air. A fuel lighter’s body heats up as you use it, while an electric lighter’s body remains cool to the touch. If you’re trying to light something in windy conditions, the electric arc is not affected by wind. An electric lighter contains no fuel, so there’s no chance of it leaking if punctured.

Q. Is an electric lighter safe to use?
A.
Electric lighters don’t generate an actual flame, so they’re easier to control than the flame on fuel lighters. However, if you accidentally touch the arc of electricity the lighter generates, you will likely get a slight burn. This is similar to the type of burn you’d receive from the flame of a fuel lighter, just more concentrated. Touching the arc will not give you an electric shock.

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