From Candlelight to LEDs: A Century of Evolution in Home Lighting


The 1920s was a time of transition in the UK when it came to the evolution in home lighting.

Though the infrastructure for electricity had begun to be established in the previous decade, it had not reached all households, particularly in rural areas.

Many homes still relied on gas and oil lamps. Gas lighting was common in urban areas, while oil lamps, often fuelled by paraffin, were more common in the countryside.

Candles also continued to be widely used, offering a more portable light source.



By the 1930s, electric lighting was becoming more prevalent in UK homes, however was slowed due to the Great Slump.

Electric bulbs of the time were typically incandescent, producing light via a heated filament within the bulb.

Incandescents were safer than gas and oil lamps, but their spread was limited by the extent of the electric grid.

In the countryside, oil lamps and candles remained the most common.


The Second World War in the 1940s significantly impacted the progress of electric lighting.

Despite the hardships, the decade saw the development of new forms of lighting, such as fluorescent tubes, which were more efficient than incandescent bulbs.

Side note: this was also the same decade where Searchlight, one of our favourite manufacturers was founded.


The post-war era in the 1950s saw a rapid expansion of the electricity grid, making electric lighting more accessible to homes across the country.

The increased availability of electric power allowed for a greater diversity in lighting fixtures, from table lamps to ceiling fixtures.

Incandescent bulbs remained the standard for home lighting, although the use of fluorescent tubes began to increase as well.


By the 1960s, most homes in the had transitioned to electric lighting. This decade also saw the development and introduction of the halogen bulb, a variant of the incandescent bulb.

Halogen bulbs produced a brighter, whiter light and lasted longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, making them an attractive option for many homeowners.

Despite this, their higher cost and heat output meant they were not immediately adopted in all homes.


The energy crisis of the 1970s marked a significant turning point in the evolution of home lighting, ushering in a new emphasis on energy efficiency. Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) were introduced during this period, offering a more energy-efficient option compared to traditional incandescent bulbs.

CFLs work by passing an electric current through a tube containing argon and a small amount of mercury vapour, generating invisible ultraviolet light that excites a fluorescent coating on the inside of the tube to produce visible light.

However, these tubes were initially used mainly in factories and offices, rather than homes. Many homes still relied on gas, oil lamps, and candles for illumination.


The emphasis on energy efficiency continued into the 1980s.

With improvements in manufacturing and a reduction in cost, CFLs became more popular in homes throughout the UK.

These bulbs used significantly less energy than incandescent bulbs for the same amount of light output, making them a cost-effective solution for home lighting.

However, the warm, soft light of incandescent bulbs was still preferred by many for its aesthetic appeal.


During the 1990s, halogen lamps gained popularity in the UK due to their bright light and high colour rendering, making them ideal for specific applications like spotlighting and task lighting.

At the same time, there was growing concern over the environmental impact of CFLs, due to their mercury content.

This led to the development of more environmentally friendly lighting options.


In the evolution of home lighting, the 2000s are a pivotal period marked by the emergence of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs).

Initially used for indicator and traffic lights, LEDs were developed to a point where they could be used in home lighting.

These lights were incredibly energy-efficient, long-lasting, and contained no mercury, making them a more environmentally friendly choice.

LEDs provide instant light, unlike CFLs which need to warm up.

2010s – 2020s:

By the 2010s and into the 2020s, LED lights became the standard for most home lighting in the UK. With their efficiency and lifespan far surpassing other types of lighting, and a drop in prices due to improved manufacturing techniques, LEDs became the logical choice for most homeowners.

Furthermore, advances in smart home technology made it possible to control lighting wirelessly, with features such as dimming, colour changing, and scheduling becoming commonplace.

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