Gas lamps

Gas lamps

Lighting with gas (methane) with illuminating gas products added for a brighter light, was begun in England in the early 1800s for lighting the streets of cities using coal gas, but its value was soon recognized and use spread to industrial, commercial and residential lighting purposes, being less expensive than either candles or oil for lamps.

With the invention of the gas mantle, attributed to the Austrian scientist Carl Welsbach in the mid 1880s, a much more efficient, brighter and whiter light was available, and this is the vastly predominant form of gas lighting remaining today, almost exclusively as street lamps such as in the village of Wyoming, New York.

Many homes built in the more populated areas of the United States where natural gas or manufactured gas was available prior to the ready availability of electricity starting in the early 1900s, were built or retrofitted with wall or ceiling mounted gas mantle lamps for illumination.

The use of natural gas (methane) for indoor lighting is nearly extinct. Besides making for a lot of heat, the combustion of methane tends to release significant amounts of carbon monoxide, a colorless and ordorless gas which is more readily absorbed by the blood than oxygen, and can be deadly. Historically, the use of lamps of all types was of shorter duration than we are accustomed to with electric lights, and in the far more draughty buildings, it was of less concern and danger. There are no suppliers of new mantle gas lamps set up for use with natural gas; however, some old homes still have fixtures installed, and some period restorations have salvaged fixtures installed, more for decoration than use. New fixtures are still made and available for propane (sometimes called "bottle(d) gas"), a product of oil refining, which under most circumstances burns more completely to carbon dioxide and water vapor.

In some locations where public utility electricity or kerosene are not readily accessible or desirable, propane gas mantle lamps are still used, although the increased availability of alternative energy sources, such as solar panels and small scale wind generators, combined with increasing efficiency of lighting products, such as compact fluorescent lamps and LED's are making their use diminishing. For occasional use in remote cabins and cottages, propane mantle lamps are still far more economical and less labor intensive than the investment in and ongoing maintenance of an alternative energy system.

A criticism of gas lamps is their high operating costs. []


Caution can not be too heavily advised with the use of any combustion device in enclosed or sheltered spaces not having a substantial flow of fresh air, as not only will the process of combustion remove oxygen (the essential part of air which keeps us alive) and release carbon monoxide and other noxious products of combustion, the heat released can cause severe burns, and may ignite other materials causing property damage, injury, or even death. Gaseous or liquid fuels can also leak, with a potential of fire or explosion. Gas lamps are not inherently safe, but their safe use is possible based on the knowledge and ongoing safe practices of the user.

ee also

*Gas lighting
*Sewer gas destructor lamp

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