Nikola Tesla is revered by inventors, scientists and engineers. In the 19th century he invented the AC (alternating current) standard that became the backbone of our electrical system, as well as the Tesla coil which was instrumental in the development of radio and wireless technology. Most readers undoubtedly learned about the Tesla coil in school – even if they don’t remember anything about it except its name.
Not to bring back bad memories of hours spent in science class, but as a refresher, the Tesla coil is used to generate high-voltage electricity at low current. That’s important because it’s the science behind one of the coolest inventions of recent years: the Tesla lighter that bears Nikola Tesla’s name (even though he certainly never envisioned such a development).
Table of Contents
- What Is a Tesla Coil Lighter?
- Advantages and Disadvantages
- Choosing The Best Tesla Lighter
What Is a Tesla Coil Lighter?
Actually, the more important question is “what makes a Tesla coil lighter different than a regular one?” The answer: it generates electricity instead of a flame.
A Tesla lighter uses the same principle as Nikola Tesla’s coil, using power from a miniature battery and electromagnetic induction to generate small plasma arcs inside the flameless lighter. So when you flip back the top you don’t see the traditional thumbwheel used on a Zippo to strike the flint, and when you push the button on a Tesla coil lighter you don’t see a flame pop up as it does with a butane lighter. Instead, one or two small, glowing arcs appear, and you simply put your cigarette (or whatever else you want to light) into the arcs. Presto – we have ignition!
The plasma beams are high-voltage but low power, so they’re not dangerous and not hot. They just work, even when weather conditions are bad, because there’s no flame that can be blown out by gusts of winds or extinguished by the rain. Models with two arcs will be slightly more dependable in extreme weather conditions than single-arc lighters, but most people won’t be hiking Everest with their Tesla lighter. Those who simply want to light up in an unsheltered outdoor smoking area or light some kindling for a campfire will be able to count on their plasma lighter to work, every time.
Advantages and Disadvantages
We’re speaking partially tongue-in-cheek when mentioning the first advantage of a Tesla coil lighter: it’s small and light. Using Tesla’s original invention to power a lighter would have required a wheelbarrow to carry the mechanism around, and more modern iterations of the Tesla coil used to power tools like arc welders certainly wouldn’t fit into your pocket. The brilliance of the Tesla lighter is that the technology has been adapted and improved, so the entire lighter can fit in the palm of your hand or your pocket.
OK, no more tongue-in cheek; this type of electronic lighter is extremely light, because there’s no lighter fluid or gas stored inside, and there’s no mechanism needed to strike a flame. The average Tesla weighs only about three ounces.
We’ve already alluded to the second advantage: you don’t have to mess around with butane or fluid because you don’t have to continually refuel a Tesla coil lighter. You don’t have to deal with spilled fluid or endure the noxious odor, your lighter won’t run out of fuel when you’re at work, and you won’t experience a nasty taste on the first drag after lighting up. The Tesla lighter draws its power from a tiny battery that only requires a few hours to recharge overnight via USB. It will last anywhere from 100-300 lightups per charge (enough for five to fifteen packs of cigarettes), and it produces a completely clean lightup with no fumes or taste. It’s safer, too, since there’s no flammable fuel inside (and no flame).
Another great feature of these lighters is that they’re going to stick around for a while and won’t require continued expenditures. Disposable lighters seem convenient and cheap, but you have to keep replacing them as they stop working or get lost. You don’t have that problem with lighters that use butane or fluid, but you do have to keep buying new containers of fuel. A Tesla coil lighter will just keep working, day after day, without trips to the store for fuel or new lighters. It will eventually have to be replaced when the battery can no longer be charged, but the price of a Tesla lighter is no higher than a couple of packs of plastic disposables.
The last major advantage is the one we addressed in the previous section: a Tesla lighter works in all conditions and environments, because the electronic plasma arc doesn’t depend on fuel and can’t be blown out by the wind. Soldiers used to swear by their old Zippos because they were so dependable out in the field; Teslas put Zippos to shame when it comes to dependability.
We can’t think of any product that doesn’t have at least a few disadvantages. Tesla lighters make a slight noise (usually a whine) when ignited that can be annoying at first, and the space between the arc posts is usually not large enough to light a cigar. And that’s about it; not bad, in our opinion.
Choosing The Best Tesla Lighter
There are really only four things to consider when choosing between the Teslas on the market: their price, their appearance (some look almost as beautiful as expensive butanes), whether they’re single- or dual-arc, and how many lights you’ll get before a recharge is needed.
For the most part, any Tesla coil lighter will work and work well. But the type of lighter you carry makes a statement about you, and the five we’ve reviewed will make very different statements.
Tesla Coil Lighters Rechargeable Dual Arc Lighter
Several companies include the Tesla name in their brand name for “authenticity,” but none have any actual connection to Nikola Tesla other than the fact that they use his technology, and there’s no advantage to buying a lighter carrying the Tesla brand name. That being said, this is an outstanding dual-arc model.
We mentioned a moment ago that your plasma beam lighter can make a statement. The Tesla Coil Dual-Arc says that you belong in exclusive company. This gorgeous lighter is gold-plated with a stylized black face and gold activation button. It’s tall, slim and contoured, with small design features that make it stand out in a crowd. The delicate top flips back, more like a high-end butane than a Zippo, and when activated the lighter produces the purple, crossing plasma arcs that make bystanders’ eyes open wide.
This Tesla coil lighter will last anywhere between 100-300 uses (depending on whether you fully charge it) before it needs a 90-minute USB recharge, and an LED tells you when the charge is done. It’s durable, lightweight – oh, and did we mention gorgeous? As you could probably tell, we love this lighter, and we love its mid-range price as well.
Jobon Double Arc Cigarette Lighter
We love this one as well, even though it’s the highest-priced option on our list. (Bear in mind, though, the average price of a Tesla lighter is around $20, so buying the highest-priced model just means you’ll have to pay a few bucks more.) The Jobon’s design is quite similar to that of the Tesla Coil Lighter; it’s two-toned with a gold-plated case, a brushed-gold face and a distinctive gold-colored flip-back top. It’s slim and although it’s not contoured, the design makes it appear to be.
This is a dual-arc model with the standard “X”-shaped purple arcs activated with the push of the gold button in the middle of the faceplate. It’s reliable and will last for hundreds of lights between two-hour USB recharges, with the last ignition exactly as strong as the first. And with two plasma beams, you can count on the Jobon to work in the worst weather conditions imaginable.
If the Tesla Coil Lighter says you belong in distinguished company, the Jobon says that you belong right alongside. It’s very elegant and performs perfectly.
Bolt Slim Rechargeable Lighter
When they call the Bolt Slim Lighter “slim,” they mean it. This Tesla arc lighter is only half-an-inch wide, looking more like a long memory stick than a cigarette lighter, and weighing even less than most lightweight arc models. It’s the least-expensive choice among all the electric lighters we’ve reviewed, and it’s available in bright blue, gun metal or rainbow cases as well as the standard black. That combination of factors makes the Bolt a real conversation starter, but what’s most important is that it works well.
The Bolt Tesla coil lighter only has a single arc, so it may not work for you in a hurricane. In everyday wind or rain, though, it will reliably deliver the light you need with just the flick of its tiny top. The mini-USB charge will last for 100-200 lights, and of course, there’s no gas, fluid or anything else to worry about except occasionally cleaning the small contact points where the arc is generated.
You may not blend in perfectly at high-end cocktail parties with the Bolt (that is, if you can find one where you’re allowed to smoke), but you’re certain to stand out just about anywhere else.
Tesla Coil Lighters USB Rechargeable Arc Lighter
Here’s a second entry from the company that makes our top-ranked Tesla lighter. The two models are quite similar in terms of their functionality; they’re dual-arc lighters, they provide 100-300 lights between recharges, they’re very well-built and they are completely reliable in all weather conditions.
The big difference is in their appearance. This arc lighter isn’t designed to be elegant; it’s more Zippo than Dunhill. The body is rectangular, black with silver accents and a silver activation button. And the solid top flips back in the same manner as a Zippo top to reveal the coils where the plasma arcs are generated. As with most Tesla coil lighters, there’s a safety mechanism that prevents the lighter from working unless the top is opened all the way.
This is a medium-priced, no-hassle model you can count on. It’s got a firm and sturdy feel, and it’s attractive without being ostentatious. You can’t ask for much more in an everyday lighter.
Useful Thingy Dual Arc Tesla Coil Lighters – Two Pack
If you’re used to buying multi-packs of disposables and can’t shake the feeling that you always need to have a back-up lighter with you, this is a perfect choice. You receive two of these Useful Thingy Tesla coil lighters for the same price that just one single mid-range lighter would normally cost. That’s a good deal for good products – and for “lighter insurance.”
When you’re paying about half the usual price for a lighter, you’d expect that there’s some sort of sacrifice you’ll have to make somewhere along the line. With the Useful Thingy lighters, you sacrifice style. Don’t misunderstand us; these aren’t bad-looking. They’re just not elegant like our first two choices, or cool like the Bolt Slim. One of the pair is a plain-looking silver color with a blue button, the other has an awkward Paisley blue print on the silver case, and they both have a sort-of-tacky “Useful Thingy” logo on the front. We wouldn’t want to pull one out at either a cocktail party or a motorcycle rally.
However, the dual-arc technology works just the way it’s supposed to, completely dependable in all conditions and lasting for as many as 300 lights before a USB recharge. You do have to be careful with this Tesla lighter, however, since the arcs will be ignited whenever the button is pushed, even if the top is flipped shut.