In this day and age, it is no doubt how extensive, intricate, and well-improved lighting technology has become. Throughout history, various stages of constant change have unfolded which paved the way towards the immense development of lighting.
Literally hundreds of ways have been developed to maximize the potential of lighting—including its use for artistic significance. It is evident that the myriad of lighting options available nowadays never cease to amaze humankind. How and where did it all start?
History of Lighting Pre-electrical Lamps
For thousands of years, people seem to have been trying so hard to lengthen days through the use of artificial lighting. It was around 70,000 B.C when the first lamp was invented, using objects found in nature such as shells, bones, hollow rocks, or any other material which were filled with moss. These were immersed in animal fat and ignited. Afterwards, lamps were made from pottery as well as alabaster. Wicks were added to regulate the rate of burning. The Greeks, by this time, started making lamps out of clay, metals, terra cota, as a means to substitute torches. In fact, the Greek etymology of the word ‘lamp’ is ‘lampas,’ which means torch.
Oil Lamps A major development in lamp design was the central burner, which was invented in the 18th century. Metal and glass chimneys were then used to enclose the flame, and at the same time regulate light intensity and air flow. It was a Swiss chemist named Ami Argand who first developed oil lamps, which were protected by a glass chimney.
Gas Lighting People back then used beeswax, olive oil, sesame oil, and other similar oils to burn lamps. Ancient Chinese civilization even used natural gas from nature. It was in 1853, when the first kerosene lamp was introduced in Germany and became popular. At the same time, coal and gas lamps were becoming in-demand, although in 1784, coal was already used as a lighting fuel. This was another improvement that came about and continued to thrive in the United States and Europe until the 19th century, when almost all streetlights were gaslight. Gaslight wasn’t first-rate before, but compared to oil lamps, candles, and torches, gaslight is way better.
Incandescent Light Globe: The Birth of the First Light Bulb The source of light as it is known today actually begins way back in 1879. It was Thomas Alva Edison who introduced the first incandescent light bulb. It is a glass globe which is filled with a long thin filament and non-reactive argon gas. The glass that encloses the bulb works to prevent contact of oxygen from air with the hot thin filament. Otherwise, the material will be destroyed due to rapid oxidation. However, a man named William David Coolidge was the one to first patent the Tungsten filament which is the material used by all globes nowadays.
Types of Lamp Ever since the first incandescent light bulb was introduced by Thomas Edison, there have been remarkable improvements in the different types of lamps. These developments paved the way towards more efficient designs of light bulbs.
Architectural lighting uses light sources which are categorized mainly into 1) incandescent and 2) luminescent gaseous discharge lamps. The latter can either be high or low pressure. Under the low-pressure gaseous discharge types, the most common are the low-pressure sodium lamps and the fluorescent lamp. Meanwhile, high-pressure gaseous discharge lamps include mercury vapor, high-pressure sodium lamps, and metal halide.
However, to facilitate better understanding of the different types of lamps, four major categories will be considered. • Incandescent • Fluorescent • Carbon Arc • High Intensity Discharge (HID) – includes luminescent gaseous discharge lamps Incandescent
Incandescent lamps are sometimes called electric lamps. These are most extensively used in residential, commercial, and advertising applications. Incandescent lamps are inexpensive and easy to install. Also, there is no need for special equipment for modifying the properties of its power supply (ballasts). These are available in many colors, voltages (1.5-300V), and the filament comes in a variety of designs. As a result, there is better optical control and precise distribution patterns.
However, incandescent lamps have poor over-voltage protection. For instance, if there is 10% increase in voltage based on the rating, the lamp life is reduced to around 75%. Another drawback is its inefficiency as a source of light and its high heat component that can lead to increase air-conditioning energy costs.
Fluorescent Next to incandescent lamps, fluorescents are the most commonly used in residential applications. They have a tubular design, which can come in straight, circular, or "U" shapes. To alter the spectrum of light, various coatings of phosphor are used. The size of fluorescent lamps ranges from 4-215 watts. Its efficiency, measured in lumens per watt, increases with the lamp’s length (usually 4-8 feet).
A fluorescent lamp is five times more efficient and has up to twenty times longer life-span compared to incandescent. It is cost-effective and has varying colors and sizes. Fluorescent lamps aren’t high-maintenance and have higher tolerance to minute changes in a building’s voltage.
Carbon Arc Lamp Carbon arc lamps are composed of two carbon rod (electrodes) in open air, electrical power is maintained by ballasts. These lamps are more efficient than filament lamps, except that the carbon rods have a short life span and need continuous adjustment. Also, these emit ultra-violet rays and needs ventilation and protection from direct sight.
High Intensity Discharge (HID) HID is the common term for the four diverse types of lamps such as high and low-pressure sodium, metal halide, and mercury vapor. Before these lamps can produce light, its arc tubes need constant cooling to a certain temperature. For mercury vapor lamps, cooling time can even be up to seven minutes. Moreover, low-pressure sodium vapor is considered as the most efficient among all other sources. However, it is expensive and its monochrome light is strictly yellow.
Designer Lighting It is evident that nowadays, lighting does not come in just one specific design. Lighting products are made for aesthetic appeal, that’s why some are suitable for home decorative lighting and advertising. There are chandelieres, pendant lighting, table lamps, (candlestick, trophy, contemporary, artistic)wall lamps, floor lamps, and table lamps, all of which come in a variety of styles. Lighting trends nowadays show a fast-paced movement towards more high-quality, elegant, and sophisticated designs. Undoubtedly, a lamp today is not just a lamp, but a vital ingredient to a home’s décor.
An example of a lamp which is both fancy and functional is the candlestick lamp. It typically has a round base with a tall thin body for the attachment of the lampshade on its top. It also has a swivel feature, which means that the lamp can be moved either to the left or right. For artistic table lamps, different metals such as iron or bronze are used as materials for the base. Delicate silk lampshades are also combined with wrought iron and designed with floral patterns. Artistic designer lamps offer a unique look by integrating works of art with illumination.
Floor lamps are the best choice if you need to light a particular corner. Thus, these lamps are also utilized as spotlights, wherein the beam of light is directly focused on one area.
Various designs of lamps combine a unique sense of style and a wide range of artistic elements to achieve an innovative look, while at the same time meeting illumination needs.
The Cost of Lighting When you look closely, the real cost of lighting is incurred by electricity consumption, rather than the initial cost of the lamp or its replacement. This means that a bulb is more than just a piece of glass globe. The cost of light is how much you are paying annually, thus we have the Annual Cost of Lighting. There are two simple formulas used to compute the total cost of lighting.
* Cost of Energy = Watts Used X Energy Rate X Hours of Operation 1000 *Energy Savings = Watts Saved X Energy Rate X Hours of Operation 1000 By using the above formula, you can get an evaluation of the lighting expenses that are expected in a certain bulb type that you purchase.
So much has been improved and developed since the time the first bulb by Thomas Edison came out. Lighting is used and modified for various purposes—advertising, industrial, decorative, and artistic applications.
One of the highlights of lighting nowadays is the development of Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps, which signifies the latest in lighting technology with rapidly increasing applications, specifically color applications. Colors are available in red, yellow and amber, green, orange, blue, blue-green, and white.
From the time when the world was illuminated by natural light and the use of fire, multitude of innovations and advancements have taken place. Lamps are not merely for providing light, but are maximally utilized to offer a sense of comfort and beauty.
The journey of lighting has come a long way and is constantly thriving and moving forward. Indeed, human kind will continue to experience the inexplicable wonders of illumination for many years to come.