The History Of Home Lighting

Home lighting has evolved over the last couple hundred years. The lighting sources we are accustomed to today are the result of hundreds of years of innovation. Although the method of home lighting has changed over time, the overall purpose remained the same: attractive lighting that lets you see inside your home when sunlight is not available. Does this Spark an idea?


Although candles are still used today to create a soft mood, they were used from 1620-1850 as a primary source of home lighting. Until the 19th century, candles were made of the solid part of animal fat called tallow. Tallow was very cheap, but it had an unpleasant odor and produced a lot of smoke when burned.

Oil Lamps

Oil lamps were used as a primary source of illumination in many homes during the late 19th century. Oil lamps were safer than candles because the flame is surrounded by a hurricane glass cover. Oil lamps produced smoke and soot; therefore they were not a clean light source. Homeowners had to constantly trim back the wick of oil lamps so that the flame would not get out of control. Kerosene was used in many oil lamps until the development of lamp oil, which produced less soot.

Gas Lamps

Gas lamps came along during the 19th century and offered a few benefits over oil lamps and candles. Homeowners didn’t have to continually trim the wick of gas lamps as they did for oil lamps. Furthermore, gas lamps did not produce messy wax spills characteristic of candles. The downside to using a gas lamp was that it made a room feel hot and stuffy because the lamp used some of a home’s air source.

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Invention of Electricity

Candles, oil and gas were all inconvenient ways to light the home. Fumes and wax drippings were a constant nuisance to homeowners. Electricity showed a promise of mess-free lighting, although finding an affordable electric source was a big problem. The earliest electric lighting produced was the arc light, which was used outdoors. Practical incandescent lamps suitable for indoor use were not invented until 1870.

Electrical Home Lighting Gains Popularity

Metal filament lamps were perfected in 1911. Electrical lighting for the home was limited to wealthy individuals. It was only after the Electricity Supply Act in 1926 that electrical lighting was available on a widespread basis. Although you might think that electrical lighting was popular from the start, it took a considerable amount of advertising to get consumers to see the benefit of using electrical lighting in their homes. Women were a crucial force behind the success of electrical lighting. The Electrical Association for Women put out a vast array of literature and advertisements explaining how a housewife’s life could be simplified through electrical appliances.