Gas Light History

New Orleans Gas Light

The history of gas lighting dates back to the 15th centrury when people used beeswax, fish oil and other substances to light their lanterns. Permanent gas lights were unheard of up until the then mayor of London, Sir Henry Barton, ruled that all citizens were to hang lanterns with lights from their homes during the winter evenings. Other large cities soon followed this proclemation, with Parisians lighting their homes in 1524. For more than 200 years, large cities and small rural communities were ordering their citizens to hang oil lamps during the evening hours with monetary penalties for those who disobeyed.

The Father of Modern Gas Lighting

William Murdoch, a British engineer and inventor, utilized the flammability of manufactured gas to light his cottage in 1792 and changed the way the civilized world lived. With the success Murdoch had with lighting his cottage, he began to experiment with different types of natural gasses and determined that the gas produced from coal was the most effective fuel available for gas lighting. William then devised a system which allowed him to light the main building of the Soho Foundry, where he worked in 1798 and then the outside of the foundry in 1802. This first public display of gas lights left the public in awe – especially foundry employee Samuel Clegg – who instantly saw the vast potential for gas lighting.

Gast Street Lights

London Gas Lighters

The potential of gas lights was quickly noticed by city gvernments. Pall Mall, London was the first city street to be lit with gas lighting in 1807. In 1812, parliament granted a charter to the Gas Light and Coke Company as the world’s first gas company and on December 31, 1813, the Westminster Bridge was fully lit using gas lights.

In 1816, the city of Baltimore brought the use of gas light to city streets in America. Other America cities would soon follow, with the White House being lit in 1848. The use of gas lighting spread through America like tight-rolled jeans in the 80’s and by 1914, considered by many gas light experts to be the peak year for “incandescent” gas lamps, lamp lighters were out in nearly every city street relighting the city’s gas lights.

Gas Light’s Decline

And just like a fad, the use of gas lighting began to decline as soon as it peaked. During the early 20th century, electric lights began to see a rise in popularity and most cities saw that you could light city street much more cheaply with electric lighting and quickly made the switch.In 1930, San Francisco dimmed its last gas light, putting an end to gas lighting in nearly every city in America.

A Resurgence and Death

The use of gas lights peaked again in the 1960’s with estimated sales surpassing 500,000 – far more than the original “peak” year of 1914. The 60’s saw an increase in the poplarity of outdoor living such as backyard barbecues and late-night parties. Unfortunately this resurgence in the popularity of gas lighting was to be short lived. In 1978, the federal government passed the Fuel Use Act (FUA) which completely extinguishedany use of gas lights in America.

A Slow Rebirth

The FUA was repealed by the US Government in 1987 and gas lights began to slowly make their way back to city streets and homes. Fortunately, with the help of utility companies, the sale of gas lights has been growing steadily each year since. The most successful areas today for gas light sales are where the local utility, such as builder sales, retail merchandisers or gas light relight programs, are involved in spurring public interest in gas lighting. Another factor in gas light popularity is the use of gas-saving and light dimming devices, such as electronic ignition gas lights and gas light regulators, which are a huge draw for the more energy-conscious consumers.

Today, natural gas and propane gas lights are popping up on homes all over America. Even some major cities are commissioning the use of gas lights in areas, such as Cincinnati’s residential neighborhoods, New Orleans’ French Quarter and South Orange New Jersey, where the gas light has been adopted as the town symbol.

Gas light sales continue to grow and do not look to be slowing any time soon. Aluminum gas lights are seeing a huge increase in popularity due to their afordability and durability to the elements, though today, the most popular types of gas light are the more “upscale” models, such as copper and brass, with open flame burners which have become more popular in commercial settings both indoors and out.

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Checking & Removing Old Gas Lines

We recently received the following question from Jennifer in the San Francisco area…

I recently took down a light fixture in an flat built in the late 1800’s to find a metal pipe about 1″ in diameter that hangs down about 4.” My best guess is that it is a old gas pipe for a chandelier. I have photos, but don’t see a way to attach them. Thus far, my internet search for any information about how to remove it, if it is safe to remove it, etc… has led me to your blog.

Do you have any websites or information removing an old, capped, gas pipe could be a DIY project or if it would require hiring an expert to remove, whether or not it was safe to remove, etc.

Thank you.

Great question…

I did a little bit of research myself and came across these great articles fro the San Francisco Chronicle’s Bill & Kevin Burnett. One article provides information on checking if your old gas lines are live and the other provides information on removing old gas lines with as little mess as possible.

Hope these help and keep those questions coming.

Jeff @ Gas Light Guys

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Light Pollution & Gas Lighting

Light Pollution

As the Earth’s population continues to grow, more and more people are utilizing the resources that we have available. While air,
water and soil pollution are having a negative impact on the environment, many environmentally-conscious people are focusing their
energies on reversing the effects of the human race on our fragile planet.

One area that has been ignored in the past but is quickly becoming a topic of interest for many scientists is the effects of
lighting on the environment, especially our night sky. The International Dark-Sky Association, one of the leading organizations
dedicated to fighting the effects of lighting, defines light pollution as:

  • Any adverse effect of artificial light, including sky glow, glare, light trespass, light clutter, decreased visibility
    and energy waste. Source: IDA FAQ

Types of Light Pollution

Light pollution’s major nuisances are that it obscures the night sky and makes the stars less visible for astronomical observations and also has a disruptive effect on ecosystems. There are five major types of light pollution that have a negative effect on the night sky and those looking for a better view of it and the nighttime world.

Light Pollution Scenic

  • Sky Glow – All of the light that has reflected off of what has been illuminated as well as misdirected lighting is known as Sky Glow. Sky Glow has become a major issue in heavily populated areas and can be a real nuisance for amateur astronomers who are trying to view the night sky from their back yard.
  • Light Clutter – Light clutter is caused when excessive groupings of lights, especially street lights and lights intended for advertising, causes confusion and may become distractive. Unfortunately, when the intended purpose of these lights is intended to be distractive, it can cause accidents.
  • Over-Illumination – As its name implies, over-illumination is when lighting is used excessively to illuminate an area. The incorrect use of light fixtures and “daylight lighting” are two contributing factors to over-illumination that can be counteracted with gas lights. By utilizing using and open flame, electronic ignition gas light you can cut down on the amount of energy used for your gas lighting and reduce the amount of light you emit.
  • Glare – When excessive lighting is used it can cause a sharp contrast between the light and dark areas of your properties. This glare is often caused by a badly shielded bright light and can actually cast darker shadows when it is intended to illuminate for safety and thereby making an area even more unsafe. Open flame gas light and even gas lights with mantles emanate lower levels of light and can help to eliminate the glare effects of outdoor lighting.
  • Light Trespass – One of the most annoying aspects of light pollution, light trespass occurs when lighting from a neighboring area intrudes onto a property and illuminates the area. This can cause several problems, including sleep deprivation when the trespassing light enters a persons bedroom.

Night Sky Ordinances

To help reduce the effects of light pollution several states have enacted laws on the types of outdoor lighting that can be used in their state. The International Dark-Sky Association offers a list of the current ordinances for cooperating states.

If you are interested in reducing the impact you have on the night sky, you may want to reconsider the type of outdoor lighting you are currently using for your home. For more information on light pollution, visit the International Dark-Sky-website and maybe consider purchasing gas lights for your home. Gas lighting, especially open flame varieties, can help reduce the amount of light pollution coming from your home while adding an element of style and value to your home.

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More Light Please!

Miranda recently wrote in, asking another great question:

Miranda is back with a new question. As the gas light guys had told me, everything is quite fine with my interior gas lights ;0) Homeowners insurance had no issues, and PG&E came out and was really excited. No, really. He thanked me for allowing him to see the house and thought it was really cool.

So now that we are less panicked, we are easing towards actually using the lights. Problem is, they just don’t put much light out. The flame is blue and no matter how high it gets it just doesn’t really give out light, even at night. On one of the little rings (where the flame comes out) we noticed some residual something… maybe porcelain or ceramic…

What could be the issue? Is there a piece missing? Is a mantle a possibility?

Thanks in advance for any assistance, I saw fun little accessories but wasn’t sure what piece would fit my gas light, if any ;0)

I will take a picture soon, I promise.

Miranda

Thanks Miranda,

There are actually a number of things that could cause your gas light’s flame to flicker and/or not give off the light you desire. One of the most important things to remember, however, is that open flame gas lights naturally have an ambient, low-light flame. If your gas light is only offering a blue flame like Miranda’s, however, there are a couple of things you can check.

  • Bad Regulator – If your gas lights, whether they are for indoor or outdoor use, may be equipped with a regulator. If this is the case, there may be a chance that the gas light regulator has malfunctioned causing either too much or not enough fuel into the mixture. Check to see who installed the regulator if possible and have it inspected. If, as is the case for Miranda, that you are unsure who installed the gas lights, find a local service technician to make the inspection. It is Important to note that gas lines should only be checked by a licensed service technician.
  • Bent Wall Plate or Gas Lines – Another thing that could cause insufficient gas flow is if the gas lines or gas light wall plates were bent during installation or inspection. You can try loosening the wall plate but it may have to be replaced. If the line is bent, then you will need to have it replaced by a licensed service technician.
  • Gas Light Obstructions – The most common cause of insufficient flames on a gas light – and what certainly seems to be the case here – is a residue buildup around the gas light’s burner tip. If the gas light is older, or if the fuel mixture is too high, it can start to build the “residual something” (which is buildup from the burning gases.) around the burner tip on a gas light with mantles or rings on an open flame gas light that Miranda is referring to (the bug screen may also become clogged with spiderwebs, or lint). The best thing t do is to try to clean the obstruction, or in the worst case, replace the bug screen or burner tip.
  • If a bug screen has become clogged, you can use a pipe cleaner to remove the “residual something” (sorry, I like that phrase), or in the case of the bug you can use light forced air. Remember, however, that your breath should be all the pressure you need as gas flow is very light and too much pressure can ruin a perfectly good gas light part.

    As far as your question about the possibility of a mantle: While gas light mantles will definitely provide a stronger light, if there is not enough fuel getting through you may not even notice the difference. Also, switching from an open flame set up to a mantle set up can be difficult and costly and may void any warranty you have. I would try for the fix first and you may be very happy with the way things turn out.

    I hope this helps, Miranda, and anyone else who has a gas light issue. Keep those questions coming!

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Propane Vs Natural Gas

copper gas light

So you’re on the market for a new set of gas lights for your home or business. You’ve done the research and discovered that gas lights are an attractive and affordable solution to run-of-the-mill electric lighting. You’ve even driven around and found other homes with outdoor gas lighting and determined that you like the natural weathered look of copper gas lights over their cast aluminum gas light counterparts.

Whether you are looking for the radiant light that gas lights with mantles provide or are more drawn to the soft, ambient outdoor lighting that open flame burners provide, the most often overlooked aspect of installing gas lights in homes is the fuel type you should utilize.

Before you start digging and running copper gas lines, you may want to read on and get a feel for whether propane or natural gas is your best bet for gas light power.

While natural gas and propane offer very similar levels of performance, there are a number of differences that need to be considered before purchasing gas lights. Unfortunately, gas lights can be very expensive to ship due to their bulkiness and weight. While many gas light retailers, such as http://www.gaslightguys.com, offer free shipping on many of the gas lights they offer, warranties will not cover the shipment of your gas lights to be refitted for another gas type. Therefore, this folly could end up costing you hundreds of dollars in unneeded and unanticipated cost. Additionally, hooking the gas lights up to the improper fuel source may void your warranty, making the repair costs even more devastating.

Things to consider:

  • That thing called gravity. One of the biggest differences between natural gas and propane is that propane is a much heavier fuel than natural gas. This can be a concern for people worried about the combustion factor of using outdoor gas lighting. When released, propane will fall to the earth and collect while natural gas, which is naturally lighter than air, will normally dissipate when released.
  • The efficiency of propane. Propane is a far more efficient fuel than natural gas. For those worried about the environment, this can be a very attractive quality. In fact, for the same volume of gas, propane will burn roughly 2500 BTUs to natural gas’s 1000 – almost 250% better.
  • Money, money, money. Let’s be truthful. For most of us, the bottom line usually falls to the all mighty dollar, and in the case of gas light fuels, natural gas holds the belt. While propane does burn more efficiently than natural gas, natural gas costs about 80% less on average – that’s a difference that the efficiency of propane can’t hold and open flame burner to.
  • Ouch, bad pun.

    propane tank

  • The look of gassiness. Another aspect of propane gas that many people find unappealing is the propane tank. While natural gas can be run from existing gas lines in your city, powering with propane will require the installation of a propane tank. If natural gas is available, this is another consideration you may want to take into account.

So…natural gas it is, you say?

Not so fast.

Unfortunately, natural gas is not readily available in all areas, and if you live in a rural area, propane may be your only option. The bottom line is that no matter what you choose for your gas light fuel, you will want to make sure it is your final decision. Deciding later than sooner that you would like to use another fuel source will be a costly endeavor and may have you looking at your outdoor gas lighting as more of an expense than an investment.

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Basic Gas Light Troubleshooting

Gas lights are loved for not only their beauty, but also their ability to last for years without needing replaced. When properly installed, gas lights should last for years without giving you very much trouble. Just like your trusty car, however, every gas light will need some minor maintenance from time to time.

Fortunately, there are not very many issues that can arise with both indoor and outdoor gas lighting. Much like a car engine, gas lights need two elements to run properly – fire and fuel. When troubleshooting gas lights, these are the two basic areas you should look:

Fuel

Gas lights run off of two main fuel sources, natural gas and propane. When properly installed by a licensed plumber, your gas lights should not give you very much trouble. It is possible for parts of the gas light to become obstructed from time to time. Following are areas of the gas light to commonly become obstructed and are easy to clean:

  • Burner Tip – Gas lights with mantles are equipped with burner tips which the mantles are attached. Burner tips can easily become obstructed by foreign objects, such as lint and spiderwebs. To clean the burner tip, ensure the gas is turned off and remove the gas light mantle. Use a pipe cleaner to clean the gas light burner tip and use a new gas light mantle every time.
  • Bug Screens – All gas lights have bug screens to do exactly what it sounds like they should do. If the bug screens become obstructed, the gas light will not get enough oxygen and the flame will become smothered. Remove the bug screens if they are obstructed and clean the using air (your breath should be powerful enough for cleaning) If you cannot remove the obstructions, replace the gas light’s bug screen.

Here are areas of the gas light that may require the assistance of a professional:

  • Gas Light Regulator – If your gas light does not have a gas light regulator installed in the gas line, it could cause too much fuel to flow through to the gas light, making the air.fuel mixture too rich. Have a professional plumber install the gas light regulator. If the gas light regulator is already installed, have it inspected by a professional using standardized testing equipment.
  • Gas Lines – For gas lights to work properly, the gas line should be no less than 3/8 inch in diameter. If a smaller, 1/4 inch gas line must be used, the gas lie can be no longer than eight feet in length. If your gas line measurements are incorrect, have them corrected by a licensed plumber.

Fire

If your gas light is not equipped with an electronic ignition or a safety shutoff valve, an extinguished flame can be very dangerous, especially for interior gas light – allowing the gas to slowly fill the room. For exterior gas lights, while it may still be dangerous, it can also be expensive due to wasted fuel.

GL300 Aluminum Gas Light

  • Manual Ignition – Many modern manual gas lights are equipped with a push button ignitor – similar to a gas grill – that will emit a spark over the gas to ignite the flame when pressed. I spoke to a service technician from Gas Light America and they informed me that the manual igniter is not known to stop working. If it does stop working, however, you will need to have it replaced because modern gas lights have safety device that will not allow the flame to be ignited using a lighter as you would with a gas grill. if installed properly by a licensed plumber, the igniter will usually be covered under the warranty and you should contact the manufacturer for replacement.
  • Electronic Ignition – If the electronic ignition module has stopped working, you can still relight the gas light manually as stated above. Unfortunately, while they are much easier to use than manual ignition gas lights during normal operation, if you want your electronic ignition gas light to continue to work properly, it can be a little more complicated if the electronic ignition module has stopped working. Have a certified electrician inspect and replace the electronic ignition module if it is required.

It is important to remember that all major repairs to gas lights, such as gas line replacement, installation of a gas light regulator and repair of both electronic and manual ignition modules should be performed by a licensed plumber or electrician. Performing the repairs on your own could void your warranty.

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Interior Gas Lights

GasLightGuys is dedicated to providing as much detailed information about gas lights and gas light products as we can. One of the best ways to get that information to you is by answering the question our readers have. We have recently received a question about interior gas lights from Miranda. Miranda said that she recently discovered that a few non-working interior electric wall sconces were, in fact, working gas sconces.

Some of the specific questions Miranda asked were as follows:

I guess my basic question is- are they safe? Do homeowners insurance plans cover them? How do I know how high to turn on the gas? I know I need to crack a window when using them internally- any other requirements I should be aware of?

While interior and exterior gas lights operate off of the same basic principles I decided to go to the source to see if I could find some better answers. The first things I tried to answer were Miranda’s questions about safety:

Are interior gas lights safe?

I spoke to two different gas light technicians – Jane from Legendary Lighting and Art from Gas Light America – and both of them gave me the same basic answer. As long as the interior gas sconces were properly installed and meet your local building codes they should be perfectly safe for use – that is, providing they have a safety shut-off device installed. For Legendary Lighting, the light will actually say Indoor CSA Approved somewhere on the gas light and must have electronic ignition controls.

GLS001 Safety Shutoff Valve

For Gas Light America gas lights, they will need to have the GLS001 Safety Shutoff Valve or electronic ignition controls. The reason for this is that without some form of safety shut-off, an interior gas light will act much like a gas stove when the pilot goes out. Without the flame gas will slowly fill your home and this could end in disastrous results if a spark is ignited. Safety shut-offs and electronic ignition controls will stop the gas flow automatically if the flame is extinguished for more than a few seconds.

They did also say that as long as the interior gas lights are properly installed there should be no reason to crack your windows while using them – but that is more of an issue of personal safety and comfort.

So the next logical question is…

Does homeowners insurance cover interior gas lights?

For the answer to this question I spoke to State Farm agent Ryan from Baton Rouge, LA.

Unfortunately there is no clear cut answer to this question. According to State Farm, it is more of a state or county question than anything else. They did say, however, that as long as the interior gas lights meet your local building codes then it should be covered, but you will need to contact your individual homeowners insurance agent to be sure.

Legendary Lighting' Maple Leaf Flame

How high should you turn on the gas for your interior gas lights?

For this question I again went to the source – our friendly technicians at Gas Light America and Legendary Lighting. Art at Gas Light America said that when the gas is set right your flame should be between 1 1/2 and 1 3/4 inches high and flickering. Jane from Legendary Lighting said that if it is a Legendary Lighting gas light you will have a Maple Leaf Flame which they are known for. There are several interior gas light brands out there, however, that do feature gas light mantles. If your gas light is one of these, you should contact the manufacturer to determine how high the gas should be.

Other than meeting your local building codes and having a safety shutoff for your gas there are really no other requirements for the use of interior gas lights. I would recommend that you have your interior gas sconces inspected by a professional in your area before you try to use them to ensure that they are connected correctly. If you did not have the interior gas lights installed and don’t have any documentation for the installation, you are running the risk that they were installed by a home “engineer” and they could be unsafe.

I hope this helps to answer your questions Miranda. If we at GasLightGuys can be of any more help to you or anyone else that has questions about interior gas lights, exterior gas lights, gas tiki torches or any other gas lighting products, please email GasLightGuys at gaslightguys@gmail.com.

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