What should you know about LED bulbs in lava lamps?

Susan Fernandez January 01 2022

What is a lava lamp?

A lava lamp is a novelty item that contains oil and water in an enclosed glass container. The liquid mixture is heated by a light bulb at the bottom of the container, causing the mixture to "lava".

The history of these lamps can be traced back to 1962 when Edward Craven Walker was looking for a Christmas gift for his daughter. His experiments involved adding metallic salts to boiling water in an old fish tank which resulted in unusual lighting effects.

Craven Walker's inventions became popular in the late 1960s when he started manufacturing them commercially. Since this time, there have been many variations on the original model including colored lamps marketed towards marijuana smokers, glitter lamps marketed towards teens, and even special edition Star Wars character models.

How does a lava lamp work?

The lava lamp has two chambers: a lower chamber filled with water and an upper chamber filled with wax and oil. A heat source at the bottom of the lamp heats up the water in the lower chamber, causing it to bubble.

Hot air is less dense than cold air, so hot air rises while cold air falls. The bubbles are heated by the light bulb at the bottom of the container, which causes them to rise through the more viscous liquid wax on top of them. As they move upwards through this more viscous liquid wax on top of them, they cool down again!

This process repeats until eventually, some bubbles end up being pushed into areas that are cooler or darker or stick onto some sort of surface where they will come back up to the top again as they cool down or find a new pathway to the surface.

The temperature difference between the oil and wax is what makes this process happen. As one heats up, it becomes less dense than its environment and floats upwards; as it cools down, it sinks and continues to bubble and pop as it rises and falls through the lamp's liquid. All of these features combined create a lava lamp!

Pros and Cons of LED lava lamps


The major benefit of using an LED bulb in a lava lamp is its energy efficiency. Traditional incandescent light bulbs emit only 5% of their electricity as light, with the rest being wasted as heat. An LED light bulb, on the other hand, wastes less than 1%.

Since these lamps are plugged into an outlet for several hours per day, reducing power consumption leads to significant cost savings over time. Additionally, LED lights to last much longer than traditional bulbs. The average life expectancy of an LED bulb is 50,000 hours compared to just 1000-2000 hours for a typical incandescent bulb. This means that you will have to replace your bubble lamp many fewer times over the years, as LED lights last as long as 25 years.


However, there are some potential downsides to using an LED light bulb in a lava lamp. The one is that it emits a duller glow than traditional incandescent bulbs, which is not ideal for those looking to create the appearance of fire from their lamps.

Another drawback would be the initial expense of purchasing a new bulb for your lava lamp. If you have older model lamps or if you plan on recycling your old bulbs instead of buying new ones, this could become expensive over time and may actually negate any energy savings you gain from switching to LEDs.

The most important thing to keep in mind with most LED lighting products is that they emit directional light. In most cases, this means that the light shines primarily in one direction, allowing you to see very clearly what is directly below the bulb. However, this also means that areas just outside of its narrow beam are cast in shadow.

Different manufacturers have different ways of dimming the brightness of their LED bulbs. Remember that a dimmer LED will not emit as much light and therefore may take longer for your lamp to fill with bubbles if it has been activated from a low setting.

So, why is it not a good idea?

The answer is simple: LED lights will not produce enough heat to melt the wax for a lava lamp.

While LED bulbs are much more energy-efficient than traditional incandescent light bulbs, they lack the heat output necessary to make a lava lamp function correctly. If you use an LED bulb instead of a traditional incandescent bulb, your lamp will not heat up or produce any bubbles!

If this happens, you can still use your lava lamp as a nightlight or decorative piece if you wish. However, you should consider upgrading to either an incandescent bulb (if using fire effect) or an electric candle (for non-fire effect lamps).

Moreover, beyond these reasons, this is a fire hazard. Your lava lamp is basically a glass container filled with flammable liquid that sits on a heat-emitting light bulb. This combination is a dangerous mix that can result in broken lamps and injury if precautions are not taken.

What bulbs are the best choice for using with lava lamps?

The best choice is to use the traditional incandescent bulb. Incandescent bulbs are cheaper than LED bulbs, so they can be more cost-effective. Also, many people may already have some of these at home. The next thing would be that they do not emit any light in one direction or small cone-like LEDs therefore everything around will be lit not just your immediate surroundings under the lamp.

You should also use an incandescent bulb if you want to create a fire effect from your lava lamps as they are closest to the real ember fire flames. If you have an LED lava lamp, you can still use it as a nightlight or decorative piece! Just use either an incandescent bulb or an electric candle for your light source if it is not already equipped with one of these options.

Concerning halogen bulbs, I do not recommend using them for this purpose, as these are much hotter than incandescent bulbs. Halogens are made of tungsten filaments that are surrounded by gas. The gas is what makes the tungsten filament heat up to very high temperatures, making it rise with the heat and light radiation. While they may look like a safer option than an open flame, this excess heat can damage your lamp over time.

Remember: Always unplug your lamp before replacing its bulb! Also, double-check the wattage on the new bulb you wish to purchase to ensure that it will work with your particular model of a lava lamp.

The best choice is an incandescent bulb if you want to use the fire effect from your lava lamp.

Are there voltage and wattage requirements for lava lamps?

Wattage has to be the same or lower than what is required by your lamp. Voltage can vary with some lamps having special requirements, so it's best to double-check on the label of your specific lava lamp before purchasing a replacement bulb. Generally, 120 volts will work for most standard lamps.

It boils down to this: The LED bulb does not emit as much light as an incandescent or halogen bulb and lacks the heat output necessary to make a lava lamp function correctly. Also, LED bulbs do not work too well if you want to use fire effects from your lamps and they are more expensive than other types of lighting alternatives.

As we mentioned earlier in the article, use either an incandescent or electric candle (if it is not already equipped) for lighting if you have an LED lava lamp!

Therefore, we can draw conclusions that:

  • LED bulbs in lava lamps do not heat the liquid enough to produce bubbles and they lack the light output necessary to make a lava lamp work correctly.
  • When using LED bulbs for their intended purpose (not for using fire effect) it is best to use either an incandescent or electric candlelight source. But be careful with halogen bulbs because their excessive heat might damage your lamp over time. Also, double-check if your specific model of a lava lamp has any voltage requirements before purchasing a replacement bulb.

How can you change a bulb in the lava lamp?

Some lamps have a metal fixture that may need to be screwed off to access the bulb. Other types of lava lamps just require you to twist or pull apart the two plastic halves of the casing. It may be difficult due to the heat held inside, so always exercise caution when changing your bulb if it has a heated-glass casing.

Once you have removed the old bulb carefully inspect your lava lamp for any cracks or damage before turning it on again. This is especially important because you could mistakenly assume there are no problems with your unit once you replace the bulb only for it to break almost immediately.

When cleaning your lamp, soap and water should do - never use chemicals like glass cleaners! These substances can damage both your lamp and its exterior finish.

Things to consider while choosing a lava lamp

Firstly, consider the size of the lamp based on where you plan to use it. Some lamps require a screw-based power source, so you want to ensure that there is a nearby outlet from which to plug it in.

Secondly, consider the size of your lamp. Remember to check both the height and base diameter of it before purchasing a replacement bulb. Make sure you get a lava lamp that can fit in with your decor, so carefully consider where you plan to place it while shopping for one!

Why do Smart LED Lamps only have four lighting modes?

Simple energy-saving reasons: The more options there are on a light source, the more battery power is required to light up all those separate settings. This uses unnecessary extra power that decreases battery life.

Not everyone requires an "always-on" option (though if this is what you want, we do offer that setting). Four lighting modes work best for our customers, giving them enough control over their lights to fit their needs.

To avoid unnecessary battery drain, our lamps can also be dimmed in brightness via the smart app depending on the environment you are in. This ensures that you don't have to fiddle with various settings when using different lighting modes for specific situations. It's all done automatically!

For example, if you are reading a book at night in bed, your eyes may need less light than usual. You can Dim your lamp for this purpose without having to fumble with the switch every time it is dark in order to create just enough light to read comfortably. The "Sunset" mode voice command will save you from needing to manually lower the brightness level before going to sleep!

In addition, If you have an LED lava lamp or another type without a light source already installed, consider what sort of lighting alternative will work best for your situation before purchasing a new lamp! Do not purchase a replacement bulb online without knowing whether or not your specific model has voltage requirements and if it needs any special sort of bulb to function correctly!

Safety precautions with lava lamps

  • Always keep your lava lamp away from any sources of heat, including stoves and radiators. This will not only ensure that it doesn't damage or melt but also keep your home safer by reducing the risk of potential fires.
  • If you have children, be sure to purchase a light fixture with an automatic shut-off feature. That way even if kids use lava lamps inappropriately (such as for pouring water in the base), they will automatically turn off after several hours.

Final words

So if you're still unsure about what type of bulb you need after all this information, just remember that the incandescent bulb is going to give you the best of both worlds. You will be able to witness all the unique features of a lava lamp and have a wide variety of lighting fixture options for using fire effects from your lamps!