We trust smart assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant to control so many things in our homes—door locks, lighting, security cameras—but should we allow them to light real-flame candles with a simple command?
That's the question I found myself pondering while I was testing the Ludela Perfect Pillar smart candle, and the answer I settled on was, "mostly, no." It's a complex issue, though.
Designed with safety in mind
The Ludela Perfect Pillar is a remote-controlled candle designed with safety in mind. It ignites using a canister of liquid paraffin, but only when a specific sequence of buttons is pressed on the remote. The sequence is simple to remember but hard to guess, so I didn't feel uncomfortable leaving the remote within my children's reach.
The candle only runs on a timer of your choosing (one to eight hours), and auto-extinguishes when the timer is up. Eight hours of flame might seem too long when you consider the National Candle Association's safety recommendation to never burn a candle longer than four hours at a time. But the Perfect Pillar isn't wax (despite its appearance), and it therefore doesn't melt or drip.
Another impressive safety feature is the Perfect Pillar's Tilt Extinguish function. If the candle is bumped, jostled, or tipped over, a fan inside the housing kicks on and blows out the flame immediately. I tested it myself, and every time I bumped the candle with any real force, it blew out the flame immediately.
On its own, the Perfect Pillar is pretty darn safe, as candles go. But when I connected the candle to the Bond hub (which turns remote-controlled devices smart), it started to feel considerably less safe.
Alexa and Google Assistant make it risky
The Bond hub is essentially a 360-degree universal remote that integrates with Alexa and Google Assistant. You program the hub to your remote's signal, and then the hub is able to send a duplicate of your remote's signal out through the room when you give a voice command to Alexa or Google Assistant.
For example, you could program the Bond to work with your ceiling fan's remote. Then, you could say to your Echo Dot, "Alexa, turn on the fan," and the signal would be sent out as if you'd pressed your fan's remote button. Pretty cool.
But if the hub is going to control actual fire, as it can for remote-controlled fireplaces and products like the Perfect Pillar, I'd like to see an extra layer of security built into the voice control capabilities.
Most voice-assistant-friendly smart locks require a voice PIN to unlock your door for you. Without this PIN requirement option on the Bond hub, anyone in your home can light a fire—from anywhere. This is especially important to know if you have children in the house who might light the candle without permission. I know my kids totally would.
Convenience comes at a price
The Perfect Pillar is a safety-first product that has lots of thoughtful features. The starter kit, which includes one pillar candle, two fuel refills, a remote, a charging cable, and a wall mount for the remote will set you back a cool Benjamin, and two fuel refills cost $10. Each refill will give you about 20-25 hours of candlelight, but Ludela also claims their fuel burns "35-400 times cleaner" than most scented candles. Plus, with every two-pack purchased, Ludela donates a book to libraries in underserved communities.
If you want the scented candle experience, you can pop in a Sunscent fragrance ring. They come in scents like Amber Bourbon Patchouli, Sweet Fruit Cobbler, and Mandarin Jasmine.
As candles (and even smart home gadgets) go, the Perfect Pillar not the most affordable—both because of the initial cost and the need for fuel refills. But if fire safety is what you're looking for, it might be worth the expense. I'd skip the hub though, for now.
Prices were accurate at the time of publication but may change over time.