What fuels did/does a lighthouse (pharos – the Greek word for lighthouse) use? I became curious about this when I discovered in an Internet article the name Colza oil. What the heck is Colza oil? Somebody’s mispelling of Coal oil? I had to find out.
The principal methods and types of illuminating a lighthouse are below in order of usage. The dates and equipment used are from the photo and webpage on the left. Two other excellent pages on illuminants for lamps are Illumination Sources and the lighthouse page called Pharology.
1. Open fires of wood, charcoal, tar, or coal
3. Fish oil
6. Mineral oil – non-vegetable oils (hydrocarbon, petroleum or paraffin oils) including white oil, liquid paraffin, and liquid petroleum used as lighting oils.
7. Manufactured fuel gas, Manufactured gas or more commonly known as just Gas – gases with such names as Coal gas, City gas, Oil gas, Illumination gas (1904-1980) derived mostly from coal, but also wood, and oil. Acetylene was another manufactured gas.
8. Kerosene (1884-1955) used as a lighting oil in the vapourized oil burners
9. Electricity (1898-now) carbon-arc lamps up to present day light-emitting diode (LED) lamps
The dates when these fuels were used are for the USA lighthouses. This overlaps and changes depending on the country and type of fuel, but the lamp machinery invented to use these fuels does have dates. An excellent page here and a small edition on the left shows the machinery and dates for US lighthouse installations – excellent!
More information on this page: The Lights in a Lighthouse