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Engineering light for the holidays

Engineering light for the holidays

Engineering Lighting

istock_000019643609xsmallWe here at Glew Engineering Consulting would like to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday and hope that everyone has a great start to a prosperous New Year. As we look forward to making new acquaintances, we also look back to the ones we made this past year and say thank you.  Being the holiday season, and since we have been doing our recent blogs relating to energy and technology, this week we will discuss a little history of how we light the holiday season.

Electrical engineers and inventors have been improving the way we look at lighting with electricity since the late 1800’s. Gone are the days of using candle and fire for the main source of lighting up the evenings on our streets and in our homes. While Thomas Edison has been recognized with the invention of the first practical light bulb as well as the development of wide spread electrical power generation and distribution, a somewhat lesser known inventor at the time can be acknowledged for making it possible to pick up those strands of Christmas lights so conveniently located at the corner store. Edward Johnson worked for Edison and was his vice president at Edison Electric Company. In 1882, he powered a light on a Christmas tree in his New York City home using electricity for the first time. Less than eight years later, the mass production of stringed lights was made available to the public. Not only would this create or change traditions as friends and families would get together for tree lighting celebrations, businesses would start to see a new way of advertising and decorating their stores for the holidays. Cities and towns would now have a new look and feel to them as they began to light up that little bit more for a few months out of the year.

Lighting Technology Advances

The engineering and technological advances that have been made since then makes it seem like so long ago. Today, we have so many choices at relatively inexpensive costs, we forget to think back and remember the efforts and advances that make these possible. What was once considered too dangerous and extreme has now become so simple and natural. For example, the annual lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center boasts 18,000 lights and stands 80 feet tall compared to the little, one light tree back in 1882. The stores across the city use tens of millions of lights to decorate instead of the few large stores having one window lit back in 1900. Not only trees and retailers have benefited from the innovations made in lighting, but the way large buildings in some of the biggest cities in the world now use massive amounts of lighting to display their greatness. As these giants grow bigger and tower above the skylines, bright, non glaring types of up lighting are used to warn air traffic of their presence all while showing the beauty of their architecture.

The types of lighting used has changed dramatically since then also. LED’s, fluorescent, incandescent, neon and fiber optics are just some of the advances in lighting used today that come in many different sizes and forms and allow for changes in color at the flip of a switch. LED’s and other methods of using color for light in use today allows for safer and more efficient ways to decorate and are even incorporated into stunning art creations. Lights that were used for ornamentation in the past would have been made using painted glass and considered toxic or at least environmentally unsafe by today’s standards.

So as we wrap up the past year, take a moment to think about the holidays in the past and how far we have come.  We have some great topics for our blogs to start the New Year and hope you will come back and allow us to share our thoughts with you. Again, we would like to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season.

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