Mercury Vapor Lighting | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Mercury Vapor Lighting

Jun 24, 2020


In recent years, we have grown increasingly aware of “green” terms, reducing carbon footprints, and improving energy efficiency, to the point where many of these environmentally friendly terms have been added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. But progress and energy efficiency have been goals longer than that.

On this date in 1953, the city of Stanley had just passed final approval for a system of mercury vapor street lighting, and within a few days, had issued calls for construction bids. The cost was to be covered by levies on the property where the new lighting would be placed, although 20% of the cost would be covered by city funds. The hope was to start sometime soon after July, with installation completed by fall.

Plans for the new system consisted of 29 mercury lights, with twelve along the business section on steel poles, and seventeen from the underpass to the school on wooden poles. It was expected that the project would give Stanley “much brighter, more efficient lighting” than the old incandescent lamps.

The Mercury lamp was the first type of mass produced metal vapor lighting for general applications. These lamps had a relatively long life, were fairly easy to maintain, and had a low system cost. With a nice, white light, they were perhaps the perfect value then, and continued to be used across the world for decades.

Installing the new system was a big step for the city, and though it would be costly, it would save money in the long run, as the incandescent bulbs were less efficient and cost twice as much. The mercury lamps had already been put installed in Williston, Kenmare and Crosby, and plans were underway to put them in at New Town, as well.

You won’t see these lamps installed today, though; in 2005, the U-S Energy Policy Act effectively banned the manufacture and importation of mercury vapor lamp ballasts after January 1st, 2008.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker

Mountrail County Promoter, Thursday, June 25, 1953