Essential Oil Burners vs Diffusers. Cost, safety, features.

 Using the power of essential oils to diffuse oils and enjoy their aroma and therapeutic properties can sometimes be a question of essential oil burners vs diffusers. 

We all know the comforting glow of candlelight and the ambiance plus aroma from a burner, but what about the pleasing mist and the modern features associated with a diffuser? 

Essential oil burners vs diffusers Both types of diffusers are easy to use, diffuse oils, are readily available, match decor, and freshen the air.  Burners are traditional, easy to clean, cheaper, and don’t require electricity but may burn oils. Diffusers work longer, some have timed settings, are safer, and release aroma in larger areas. 

So with a summarised answer in mind to get started with, let’s now take a look at the features and benefits of essential oil burners vs diffusers in an easy-to-read table form. 

Features and benefits Ultrasonic diffuserOil Burner 
Diffuses essential oils, easy to use, uses water and essential oils, can be used to freshen the air, easily available, many styles to choose from 
Needs power ( electricity) 
Traditional and ancient 
Has time settings 
Plastic components 
Diffuses for longer periods 
Has safety features 
Easier to keep clean 
Can use in larger commercial spaces, such as Spas and Salons 
More intense aroma 
Made of natural materials 

One of the main differences between essential oil burners and diffusers is the way they work. 

Then read on so we can take a more in-depth comparison of oil burners and diffusers

What are essential oil burners and diffusers? 

In short, both these are equipment used to diffuse essential oils, for aromatherapy. 

Both are types of equipment for releasing essential oil aroma and benefits into the air around you. 

How does the mechanism differ? 

They are essentially two different mechanisms through which they can break down essential oils to a diffusible form.

In other words, the purpose of both this equipment is to serve aromatherapy, but how they function makes them different

Essential oil burners specifically tend to be ancient or a more traditional piece of equipment and method to diffuse oils. 

Whereas, a diffuser is a more recent, technologically advanced method used for the same purpose.

How do they work?

Essential oil burners 

Burners usually come as ceramic vessels and are constructed using two main parts. One is a bowl on top of the burner and the second is a portion under to light the candle.

When you light up a candle, the bowl on top gets heated. The bowl is filled with water and a few drops of essential oil of your choice. 

So when the bowl heats, the water boils and evaporates as steam vapors. 

This allows the aroma of the essential oil to diffuse and fill the room.

Ceramic burners work roughly in the same way as a scented candle as it diffuses the fragrance. 

Essential oil burner
My favorite oil burner

Ultrasonic diffusers 

A diffuser on the other hand has a more refined and advanced mechanism in how it works.

A diffuser has many parts including: 

  • A top lid
  • A water tank usually referred to as a reservoir
  • A small ceramic disc that vibrates when turned on to release ultrasonic waves, 
  • plug socket and controls 

Features vary on ultrasonic diffusers 

Unlike essential oil burners, the features of diffusers vary from one brand to another.

To simplify how a diffuser works, fill the water tank until the max mark is indicated. Then add the essential oils, close the lid, plug the wire and switch it on.

You see the ultrasonic Diffuser has a small flexible membrane at the base of the unit which vibrates ultrasonically. 

Electrical energy drives the scent into the air 

Unlike ceramic burners which use the heat from the candle, the membrane works by passing energy to the water breaks down the water molecules and turns it from a liquid into water vapor.  

As the water vapor is propelled into the air, it distributes the scent of the essential oils. 

The electric power and inbuilt features of the diffuser will continue to dispel the oils into the air which can be seen in the form of a mist.

Unlike a ceramic diffuser which is a gentler diffuser so you will only likely see a faint aura of the oils as a gentle haze of steam above the burner in certain lights and conditions. 

But unlike an essential oil burner, a diffuser needs electricity to work.

“Unlike essential oil burners, the features of diffusers vary from one brand to another.”

How long do essential oil burners and diffusers work? 

Essential oil burners 

When we are investigating essential oil burners vs diffusers, it’s worth realizing that diffusers will work for the maximum time indicated on each type of diffuser. 

The reservoirs on ceramic burners only hold a limited amount of water and usually hold between ¼ and 1 cup of water dependant on the size of the bowl. 

Coupled with the fact tea light candles often have short burning times, overall ceramic burners will usually have shorter burning times than diffusers.

Candles will burn down quickly 

An essential oil burner can work only till the candle that is used to heat the oil lasts. And usually, the tea light candles, the ones primarily used for a burner, burn out quickly.

Even if you use the longer-lasting tea lights which can last up to 48 hours, you will still need to replace the water and the oil as it will have evaporated within around 10 to 20 minutes depending on the size of the oil burner. 

How long will an oil burner last? 

For instance, my favorite oil burner here is one of the larger types and takes 1 cup of distilled water plus 6 – 10 drops of oil and with a better quality tea light, will burn for around 20 minutes. 

If the candle is still heating the bowl after all the water evaporates, you need to blow the candle out as the bowl might heat up and crack.

“An essential oil burner can work only till the candle that is used to heat the oil lasts.”  


Most ultrasonic diffusers will run for approx 20 minutes to ½ hour depending on the size and type you have. 

However, some diffusers have time settings to run for specified times. 

For instance, my diffuser pictured here has 1, 3, and 6 hour time settings. 

The maximum time you can run a diffuser overall is longer than a burner.

In general, you are asked to give breaks between each usage after the maximum time has reached.

“Most ultrasonic diffusers will run for approx 20 minutes to ½ hour depending on the size and type you have.”

Is diffuser better than burner

Easier to use. Essential oil burner vs diffuser? 

So how easy are essential oil burners and diffusers to use and maintain?  

Essential oil burner 

  • Simple to use: An essential oil burner is simple from its structure to usage. 
  • No complex extras: All it has is a bowl that needs to be filled and a candle lighted to heat it.
  • Easy to clean: all you have to do is clean the bowl. Then remove the burnt wax and soot.


  • Remember to switch off: Have to remember to switch off your diffuser if it doesn’t have a timer 
  • More complex features: More complex user instructions 
  • Electricity is required: Power needed to run a diffuser 
  • Regular cleaning is required: Cleaning is often is required due to build-up of oil residue 

Although not a difficult process, it has to be mentioned that the diffusers’ lid on the water tank will need opening and closing before using. 

A minor process, but another difference between an essential oil burner and a diffuser.

With all taken into consideration if you are looking at essential oil burners vs diffusers, the ease of use and maintenance vote would go to the essential oil burner in my view. 


Which is safer. Oil burner or diffuser?

Unlike a diffuser which can be left to run safely, a burner that uses candles with a live flame needs to be watched closely. 

Anyone with children or pets would be better using a diffuser powered by electricity for safety reasons rather than a ceramic burner. 

Is aroma better with an essential oil burner or a diffuser? 

Fire and heat directly come in contact with essential oil in a burner. As a result, it’s believed that this could burn the delicate essential oil particles. 

So there are chances that the aroma and fragrance from a burner may not give you the full therapeutic effects from the essential oils. 

So in the case of essential oil burner vs diffuser, the aroma and healing properties of oils may be better when diffused electronically. 

Diffuser mist or oil burner vapor? 

Diffusers utilize a neat little burst of mist as their form of diffusion, whereas a burner uses steam and water vapors. 

Mist can be more attractive to look at, rather than the less obvious steam vapors from an oil burner. 

Of course, there is nothing like the soft glow of a candle, so it’s purely personal preference in this case of essential oil burner vs diffuser. 

Mist from a diffuser
Diffuser mist

Other uses for oil burners and diffusers 

A burner has only one primary use which is to diffuse essential oils.

However, a diffuser, in contrast, can also be used as a humidifier. 

To turn your diffuser into a humidifier, you simply run it without essential oils and just with water. 

Some diffusers have longer running times suitable for humidifying. 

The amount of water will depend on the size of your tank and the recommended water level. 

This will keep the air moist and can be used for treating dry skin complaints along with easing symptoms of colds and flu.

“To turn your diffuser into a humidifier, you simply run it without essential oils and just with water.”

How easy is it to buy a burner or diffuser? 

Until recently, aromatherapy diffusers weren’t easily and widely available. At that point, ceramic burners, which were easier to find, were an obvious choice. 

However, nowadays, diffusers have become a common product and can be found in local pharmacies, retail stores, hardware stores, and online. 

Room size. Essential oil burners vs diffusers 

Although both burners are suitable for smaller spaces, bedrooms, and smaller lounges, diffusers are better for diffusing oils into larger spaces. 

As diffusers emit the oils in the form of a mist, a diffuser can be used in a much larger area.

 However, a burner can only diffuse steam or vapors which won’t be as widespread, so is less effective for a larger space. 

Ultrasonic diffusers better for larger spaces 

Diffusers are perfect for larger spaces such as spas, offices, and commercial spaces. 

However, ceramic diffusers get a big tick when it comes to being used in spaces without electricity, such as bathrooms, workshops, summer houses, she-sheds, and man-sheds! 

Ceramic diffusers better for intimate locations 

Although both Ceramic oil burners and ultrasonic diffusers can be used to create ambiance in intimate settings. I think that ceramic oil burners have the edge here when creating a soft candle glow. 

Perfect for use when meditating or even on date night or a dinner party setting. They add to the beauty of the surroundings when used in areas with dim lighting. For instance, the fragrance of oil burners can instantly elevate a candlelight dinner or a quiet evening with soft candles.


oil burners pros and cons

Cost. Essential oil burner vs diffuser 

Burners are generally cheaper than diffusers. A burner only requires a candle to heat up, but a diffuser requires electricity. 

On average a diffuser uses 0.02 kilowatt-hours of power every hour. If the average price is $0.12 per kilowatt-hour, the cost for power will be $0.0024.

What are the similarities between burners and diffusers? 

While we are investigating essential oil burners vs diffusers, the question of which one is best does come down to your personal preference.

Both forms of diffuser have their pros and cons, but both will be able to: 

  • Diffuse essential oils
  • Easy to use
  • Uses water and essential oils
  • Can be used to freshen the air
  • Easily available
  • Many styles to choose from to suit your decor 


Well, there we have it! Everything you needed to know about oil burners vs diffusers! I tend to swap between them depending on what kind of situation I am using my oils in. For instance, in the bath, there’s nothing nicer than the soft glow of an oil burner with lavender and chamomile, but if I’m spending my day writing and editing, I like the consistency and the ‘hands-off approach of a diffuser.

The choice really is yours! I hope this article has been useful for you and if you want to find out more information about how to use diffusers, pop by and check out my helpful articles, How to use a diffuser, and how much oil in a diffuser, sizes, drops, a guide.


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