It is safe to say that the invention of artificial lighting sources is one of the revolutionary moments in mankind’s history. Artificial electric lighting has transformed human life in very important ways. It has not only enabled activities after dark but has also expanded the hours of leisure and activities. With an ever-increasing demand for energy, artificial lighting has worked successfully as a great alternative and has played a very important role in economic development. Artificial lighting refers to the light that is produced from artificial sources such as candles, fire, electricity, etc., and has become one of the most important factors of modern living. You can not imagine a modern household or workspace without artificial lighting. And with great strands of technology, it has become easier to customise artificial lighting as per your mood, needs, and décor. You can now control the temperature, colour, and even intensity of light with the flick of a switch or a remote which is not possible when it comes to natural lighting. The new era of artificial lighting means that you can easily mimic daylighting also.
How Does Artificial Lighting Work?
Fire has been one of the first sources of artificial lighting known to humans and it is still used by a significant proportion of people around the world. The first modern electrical light sources worked on very similar principles as that of fire. Incandescent light bulbs, for example, emit light when heated. Similarly, halogen lamps also use tungsten filament and a mixture of noble gases which allow the tungsten to heat up without melting. This makes the light brighter, more efficient, and long-lasting. Fluorescent lamps use the fluorescence of a phosphor coating to produce visible artificial light. The phosphorous coating glows in response to the intense UV light produced by the mercury vapours inside. LED or Light Emitting Diodes, on the other hand, require less heat to produce more light than other traditional lamps. These are semiconductor devices that emit light when current flows through them. These not only produce the least amount of heat but also last longer and save energy and sources.
What are Artificial Lighting Sources?
It is hard to imagine a world without light since it provides us with the ability to see and perceive things. In reality, we have quite a few sources of light and all of these sources can be categorised as either natural or artificial. We have previously talked about the sources of natural light so we continue the conversation by talking about the sources which can be counted as artificial. There are three major categories of artificial sources of light:
- Incandescent Sources: Incandescent sources work on the principle of heating certain objects until they emit light. This process produces infrared as well as visible light. Candles, fire, and incandescent lamps are some examples of incandescent sources.
- Luminescent or Fluorescent Sources: Under these sources, light is produced by accelerating changes in the material of luminescence or bypassing current through the material. Electric bulbs or fluorescent tubes are common examples of luminescent sources.
- Light Emitting Sources: These are also known as gas discharge sources. Under these sources, the electricity is passed through a certain gas at a very low pressure to produce light. The most common examples of this source are LED lamps, sodium lamps, neon lamps, etc.
The torchlight can be traced back to the usage of traditional torches before electric sources of light were invented. The traditional torch is a stick built with a combustible material at one end, which is then ignited and used as a source of light. Torches have been a popular source of electricity throughout history and are still used for practical as well as symbolic purposes. Modern torches are very much based on the same principle but are mostly battery-powered now. They are commonly used as portable, handheld electric lamps. These devices are very popular as they work as an emergency source of light, are made up of water-resistant materials and since most of these use LED bulbs, they are energy efficient and last longer as well.
A bulb is an electrical device that consists of a transparent or a translucent glass housing. It has been used for the purpose of illumination for centuries. The invention of the electric bulb or lamp truly revolutionised the use of electricity and the way we use energy today. There are three main types of bulbs that are used; incandescent bulbs, fluorescent bulbs, and gas discharge bulbs. As the energy efficiency of electric lighting has progressed, these different types of bulbs have been introduced to ensure energy conservation. Currently, LED bulbs are considered the most energy-efficient option for our everyday needs.
Candles and oil lamps were commonly used sources of illumination before the invention of modern light bulbs and electric lighting. Made up of an ignitable wick embedded in wax or tallow, candles are still quite popular in areas where electricity is not available. These provide light as well as fragrance. They are also used for their aesthetic appeal and scent, particularly to create a warm and comfortable mood or ambiance and as an emergency light alternative during power failures. Historically, candles have also been used to tell time with time measurements marked along the wax.
Why is Artificial Lighting Used?
Artificial lighting was invented as an alternative to natural lighting and has gradually become a necessity in our everyday lives. It has significantly increased working hours and has helped us illuminate our surroundings during the night as well. A huge part of modern technology also relies heavily on artificial lighting. Moreover, artificial lighting has become foundational in architectural designs as well since all of our work is very much dependent on it.
The usage of artificial lighting can be broadly categorised into three aspects; aesthetic, function, and efficiency. Aesthetically, it is used to focus on the emotional and mental effect it has on the occupants of a building or people who work in an office space. Lighting has a very powerful effect on the mental well-being and productivity of a person therefore adequate lighting design is crucial for any architectural plan. Functionally, the focus of installing artificial lights is to make sure that there is ample visibility and also to ensure illumination and safety during the night as well. Given how much we need artificial lighting for everyday tasks, it is important to ensure its efficiency as well. Necessary lighting should be sufficient but also efficient to help conserve energy consumption. In all its glory, artificial lighting has become as if not more important than natural or daylighting. We are heavily dependent on it and can not imagine our lives without it.
What are the features of Artificial Lighting?
Artificial lighting certainly possesses certain advantages over natural lighting owing to its distinct features. Unlike natural lighting, it is not limited by the time of the day. Instead, it has helped expand work and leisure time as well. It is customisable as well so you can adjust it to your liking. You can design the lighting for your space as and however, you like. You can also adjust the colour, intensity, and brightness of the light as per your preference. You have multiple options available when it comes to choosing a particular type of lighting for certain tasks such as ambient lighting, accent lighting, or task lighting. With new advances in technology, artificial lighting is only getting more popular. We talk more about the advantages of artificial lighting in the next section.
What are the Advantages of Artificial Lighting?
It is true that there are numerous advantages of natural lighting but of course, we do not always have the luxury of it. This is one of the major reasons why artificial lighting was invented in the first place. As a result, willingly or unwillingly, we spend a lot of our time under their glow. The invention of the light bulb has revolutionised modern lives. We get extra time for work and relaxation and our days are longer. Instead of retiring to bed the moment the sun goes down, we can continue our activities for as long as we wish. We are no longer dependent on only daylight. Rooms with no windows or poorly designed windows can also stay illuminated throughout the day, with the flick of a switch. It also works as a great design tool, dramatically changing the décor of your house and making it more comfy and desirable. Highly concentrated light fixtures such as spotlights or task lights can really help you with tasks that require targeted illumination such as reading, craftworks, etc. During the cold and dark days of winter or rain, artificial lighting works as a great tool to stay illuminated and productive. As outdoor lighting sources, artificial lighting plays a very crucial role in ensuring safety at night. Without proper street lighting, the chances of accidents are very likely to be higher. Even within their house premises, people use outdoor lights such as lamp posts or flood lights to improve security at night. With great strides in lighting technology, we now have options of efficient outdoor lights that can stay on for longer periods of time without causing a dent to your wallet. Artificial lighting has effectively stimulated several other possibilities such as indoor gardening which were unimaginable before. Places which have short summers or houses which do not have balconies can also grow house plants without much trouble. Even the houses which get ample daylight need artificial lighting during the days when the sun is hiding. After all, there is a reason why the use of artificial lighting for daily uses has been considered as a breakthrough moment in mankind’ history.
What are the Disadvantages of Artificial Lighting?
It may be difficult to imagine modern lives without artificial lighting however, the truth is, this defining invention has its disadvantages too. Like most of the scientific inventions out there, debates can be held to discuss the way artificial lighting affects our lives. While it has made our lives longer, it also means that it has messed up our natural cycle of work and sleep. With no work and personal life balance, many of us tend to work till midnight or even after that. Constant exposure to artificial lights for such long hours has severe negative impacts on our sleep patterns and our overall health as well. The background noises coming from the lighting ballasts also create difficulty in sleeping, eventually causing insomnia or even seasonal affective disorders. Poor sleep has several other effects on our health such as it may indirectly lead to unwanted weight gain, migraine, work fatigue, and even an increase in stress levels. With desired lighting available with a flick of a switch, we are becoming more dependent on artificial lighting. A lot of people do not even see the sun for days because they prefer working indoors or are required to work indoors. Studies have shown that these people are more likely to suffer from depression because of a lack of exposure to ample sunlight. It also leads to a deficiency of vitamins D and C which are some of the fundamental elements to maintain the human immune system.
Other than health disadvantages, artificial lighting is also financially straining. Lighting fixtures are very expensive and the more fixtures you use, the more lighting costs you incur we all know for a fact that energy is very expensive. It accounts for almost 20% of the average household. So, if you are not using highly efficient bulbs and fixtures, you are very likely to be severely hurt by your lighting bills. The financial strain also comes from the fact that you need professionals to install complicated fixtures and need to clean and maintain them. Its cost to the environment is also something that has been a major concern over the years. The gases that are required to make artificial light such as the mercury in fluorescent lights are highly toxic for humans as well as their environment. The disposal of used bulbs in water has been a major cause for concern for climate activists. However, the advantages of artificial lighting clearly outweigh the disadvantages which is why it is an indispensable tool in our lives. To make artificial lighting more efficient and less harmful for human beings as well as the environment, scientists are constantly coming up with better and improved technologies. We have come a long way since the invention of traditional incandescent bulbs and are now living in the era of CFLs and LEDs which are sustainable, efficient, and have the option of customisations so that you can control your light intake. We can stay hopeful as long as we all practice responsible energy consumption.
What are the Differences Between Artificial Lighting and Natural Lighting?
Let’s recap with a simple definition for both natural and artificial lighting. Natural lighting or daylighting is the lighting that is available to us. It comes from natural sources of light such as the Sun, other stars, certain bioluminescence, etc. Artificial lighting, on the other hand, is produced from artificial sources such as lighting fixtures. It was invented as an alternative or an addition to natural lighting. The most prominent difference between artificial lighting and natural lighting is that natural lighting is available in abundance and is free of cost. However, its usage is limited. During the times when natural lighting is not available such as during the night or dim days of winter, artificial lighting works successfully to provide us with ample light and heat.
Apart from the sources, the two types of lighting differ in terms of the intensity and colour of light they emit as well. Natural light has a higher intensity of light but the intensity of light emitted by artificial sources can be controlled easily with the help of a dimmer switch or remote. Similarly, while the daylight does incorporate all colours of the rainbow and changes over the daytime, it can not be customised as per your mood. You get that option with most of the artificial lighting options. While natural lighting is widely considered as healthy, artificial lighting can have certain health disadvantages such as irregular sleeping patterns, cluster headaches, etc. However, with advances in technology, you can now get specific fixtures that can help regulate these disadvantages as well. With all their differences aside, it is safe to say that artificial lighting has become as crucial as natural lighting in today’s world and therefore more attention should be given to combining the two in order to get sufficient as well as efficient illumination all year round.