In the beginning, God said “Let there be light” and there was light. He put the sun to light the day and the moon and stars to light the night. This has been the most abundant source of light since the inception of the universe as we know it. The year 10,000 BC, man with his half-witted genius of a brain, discovers fire. Makes me wonder, before then, does it mean man had no source of heat or light since the institution of the heavenly bodies in the beginning? Cloudy or even rainy nights meant no heat or light for the whole period till first light, food was eaten raw and even before man had discovered language, the only other way he could communicate to his mate (yes, mate as in the member of the opposite sex with whom he could procreate with, for the survival of the human species) for them to get warm was through signs and other non-verbal cues. Tough times, ey. Fire changed all this. The myth/fiction behind this is, lightning struck wood only for it to be engulfed by a flame which was bright and hot. I bet the phrase ‘stroke of genius’ was coined from this event. This changed so many things for how man operated in his day to day activities.
Almost 12,000 years later, the industrial revolution was upon us. The period during which man had now explored the might of his intellect, to discover so many things in the existence of mankind in all his works, had now come of age. Agriculture could now be mechanized, transport across continents was now faster and more convenient-the period of renaissance was inevitable. This was the period man had now known how much potential there was in advancing the human race to seizing the infinite opportunities at our disposal. Fire sticks and torches were going to be a thing of our ancestors in the caves with the discovery of oil and its consequent products. America and Europe were leading in this revolution with men like John D Rockefeller. He claimed bragging rights and always found pride in being referred to as the man who lit America, from his massive oil explorations, using kerosene. But the tune of his fiddle would not be danced to for too long.
Come in Thomas Alva Edison, my mentor and hugest role model of all time, invents electricity. Despite the fierce resistance he met, he was able to convince the people of America that electricity was the future and they bought it! The incandescent bulb changed how Americans acquired their night light completely – the killer blow was struck with it’s less of a health hazard than the mainstream light source back in the day, which was kerosene.
I would say man at that time and back in the caveman day, had only physically evolved. Electricity was the game changer and Edison gave clean artificial light to the people. After the “War of Currents”, which made A.C electricity become the mainstream source of electricity, allowed for the evolution of lighting technologies to evolve into what we have in this age.
Then we came to the use of fluorescent tubes to the current energy saver bulbs, which are yet to become mainstream, just shows how people have become inventive. I am surprised that you could actually go to some homes and/or institutions and find their spaces being lit by incandescent bulb. As one local energy efficiency champion once said, “Incandescent bulbs belong in museums”. For purposes of illustration, this is the incandescent bulb.
Incandescent bulbs are inefficient in terms of energy consumption as they lose most of the energy through heat, and since our motherland Kenya is part of the tropics, we don’t need this heat so it’s just being wasteful. So is this knowledge public knowledge? Of course it is! The reason behind the masses adopting the sustainable option which is the Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) popularly known as the energy saver, is lack of aggressive implementation technics. The powers and authorities that be, have not sold the idea of adopting energy saver bulbs at the home level adequately. It’s only until recently when now even the major stakeholders in the energy industry have also started adopting the energy saver lamps in their ads and campaigns. I reckon lighting constitutes like at least 40% of a typical home’s energy costs if you are using incandescent bulbs to illuminate the spaces. Changing your 75 W incandescent bulbs to 21 W energy saver bulbs cuts your lighting energy cost to over 50% guaranteed! That piece of advice is free.
As much as that sounds appealing to your pocket, technology is a rolling stone that will gather no moss as it waits for mere mortals to catch up with it, no sir! CFL aka energy saver bulbs have been ousted as the most energy efficient, clean light source as I type this next period. Light Emitting Diodes, commonly referred to as LEDs, have become the newest kids on the block, adopting all kind of energy sources to provide the most light while consuming very little energy. Some of its energy sources include, dry cells, li-ion batteries, solar panels to name just but a few. The notion is, such technologies cannot be availed to common people and even if it was, they would not have the interest, from how they are portrayed in the media. One starts thinking of how they’ll have to renovate their lighting fixtures to accommodate this new technology which might prove to be an expensive venture at the beginning. Good news! There are LED bulbs which you can fit to the common fixtures in our homes. Changing your 75 W incandescent bulbs to 9 W LED bulbs guarantees nothing less than 80% savings in your light energy costs. I started using these bulbs recently and they deliver hugely on their promise. These bulbs are highly available in the market so I suggest you stop basking in the money you are burning in your inefficient bulbs and use the right bulb for the right light.
We are early in the 21st century and the far we have come, it is like we are even having trouble keeping up. I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for us in the lighting industry and its next evolution. I hear talks of adopting green source of light energy. This should steer the next technology development.
Sunlight is being harvested for light in institutions where lighting could constitute to up to 70% of the energy bills, and it’s not through the use of solar panels. This technology consists of a system of a lens focusing unit and optical fibre devices. Its outdoor collector can collect sunlight always at maximum efficiency and transmit it through optical fibres to anywhere you want. Unlike conventional solar lighting systems which use skylights and mirrors, stable day-lighting is possible all day long without suffering constraints imposed by room location, window orientation and solar altitude.
Collected sunlight passes through quartz-glass optical fibres which transmit visible ray dominated sunlight. Optical fibers are so thin and flexible that they can freely transmit light to any building, old or new. This is what the future holds for us in terms of embracing new lighting technologies. It could be applied in areas where lighting constitutes of the major energy consumers in a utility i.e. commercial buildings, whereby you could save to almost 90%.
It is on this note that I’d like to challenge you my reader: At which point of this lighting evolution are you at in this point in time? Are you still using incandescent lamps in your houses? The world is fast paced; it’s up to us to keep up with the times. Scientists recently discovered water on Mars-plans to go inhabit Mars am pretty sure have already started being drafted and you are here connected to the electricity grid, lighting your house using 19th century technology. Let’s style up and embrace efficiency especially in energy consumption. Let’s not be wasteful of our resources here on earth lest we be left on a decaying planet once Mars starts being colonized. Be enlightened!
On this day in engineering history: Born 22/10/1905, Karl Guthe Jansky an American electrical engineer discovered cosmic radio emissions in 1932. At Bell Laboratories in NJ, Jansky was tracking down the crackling static noises that plagued overseas telephone reception. He found certain radio waves came from a specific region on the sky every 23 hours and 56 minutes, from the direction of Sagittarius toward the center of the Milky Way. In the publication of his results, he suggested that the radio emission was somehow connected to the Milky Way and that it originated not from stars but from ionized interstellar gas. At the age of 26, Jansky had made a historic discovery – that celestial bodies could emit radio waves as well as light waves.