Gas lanterns produce an intense light that makes them a popular way to illuminate the entrance to your home. Unlike electric lanterns, they are always on, which make operating costs higher than for an electric model that can turned on and off with the flip of a switch. If they are extinguished by wind, gas lanterns must also be manually relit, an inconvenience as compared to electric models. To combat these shortcomings, some lantern manufacturers offer electronic ignition systems. Economy and convenience make the electronic igniter appear to be a desirable feature on contemporary gas lanterns, but is it as good an idea as it seems?
The Proposed Advantages Of An Electronic Ignition System
Some manufacturers of outdoor lighting feel that the electronic igniter is a revolutionary idea that offer two main benefits:
- Using a wall switch or timer, you can turn your lantern off or on when you want. You can even install a photo cell that can automatically ignite the lanterns at dusk.
- If the flame blows out, the igniter will make up to three attempts to relight it. After three tries, it will turn off the gas flow for both economy and safety
Considering that each gas light can add as much as $25-30 to your monthly gas bill (depending on your local rates), being able to keep your lights off until you need them appears to make good economic sense.
This is especially true if you are frequently out of town and leave your primary residence unattended; you might want to quickly turn off you gas lights as you leave so as not to waste energy in your absence. Also, if you have gas lights installed at a vacation property or second home your occupy for part of the year, you might want a timer to activate the lights at night or might not want the expense of having the lights on at all. The best idea is to leave the lights off, so having a switch makes it easier.
Gas lights can be turned off at the shut off valve at the base of the lanterns. This is a quick and easy task if you just have a lantern or two, but can be difficult if the lanterns are hanging from the ceiling or mounted high on an exterior wall. If you have used several post mounted lanterns to illuminate a deck or patio, turning them off and on manually can be time consuming.
How The Igniter Works
Electronic igniter systems consist of a small unit that mounts to your lantern and includes a valve, transformer (on some models), control box, and igniter that will restart the flame if the gas goes out. The system is attached to the gas line via a 1/4″ flare fitting located on the bottom of the light, or in the case of a hanging light, via a ¼” fitting on a yoke. It is plugged into the electric line using a modular plug and mounting plate for a standard junction box. Most units are compact enough to fit unobtrusively in the lantern.
Once the power is switched off or interrupted by wind and weather, the flame extinguishes and stay off until the power is turned back on or resumed, which re-ignites the flame. The un-ignited fuel flows through the system for just a few second as the igniter restarts the flame.
Are Electronic Ignitions Worth It?
While an igniter is a convenience if wind occasionally blows out the gas flame, frequent blowouts shorten the life of ignitors. Installing a wind guard is often a better choice in these cases. Shortening the life of the igniter is a big, expensive deal as the ignition system costs about $400-500 per lantern. While it can cut the monthly charges for continuous burning in half, it takes over five years for the ignition system to pay for itself. The igniters usually have a one-year warranty, so when you factor in the cost of repairs after the warranty is up, the actual price tag of the igniters goes up. Five years is the anticipated life expectancy of the igniters, which would keep you in the cycle of “waiting for the igniter to pay for itself.”
Lantern & Scroll, a company that reproduces the fine lanterns of the past in solid copper and adapts theme for modern us, believes that electronic igniters are a bad idea. Their position is that keeping lights on a timer with an electronic igniter would burn the same amount of gas as the traditional burners do when left on continuously. Why? Electronic igniters do not use the tip effectively and require different tips that burn approximately twice as much gas per hour. The igniters only have an average life expectancy of two years before they need repair or replacement. By crafting lanterns with the customer’s expense in mind, the burners in Lantern & Scroll products are very efficient without adding a device that appears to be useful but more costly in the long run.
Deciding On The Right Contemporary Gas Lanterns Or Electric Alternatives
Before adding lanterns to your property, you should assess both the look you want and the requirements you have for lighting. If you love the idea of what an electronic ignition system can do for you, quality electric lanterns might be your choice in exterior lighting. They turn on with the flip of switch and can easily be set up with a timer or a photocell. If you want the look of gas lanterns, you can add a bulb with a flicker flame in incandescent or LED styles.
The friendly personnel at Lantern & Scroll are glad to discuss the pros and cons of electric vs. contemporary gas lanterns. They can explain the efficiencies of both types, as well as helps you evaluate the best fuel choice for your aesthetic and your situation. You will be pleased to learn that both types of lanterns are carefully handmade with quality materials in styles you’ll lover and are available with a variety of upgrades in glass, accessories, and finishes.
We love helping matching our customers with just the right copper lanterns for their home.