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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/601

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585
ELECTRIC AND GAS ILLUMINATION.

Under this last heading there should be added rent and taxes, management, law charges, bad debts, and various incidentals. These can not be separately arrived at with any closeness, but they may be taken in the lump as about the same part of the total charges as in the case of the London companies, which is 16 per cent, exclusive of the interest on investment. This in the present case would be 9*4 cents per 1,000, bringing the total cost per 1,000 up to 71 cents with gas and 60 cents with electricity.

The promoters of the electric light would probably demur to this statement, so far as rent and taxes are concerned, as they insist upon the much smaller real estate required with the electric than with a gas plant. This difference does not, however, seem to me sufficient to be of any practical moment, as the real estate in the case of electricity is in the district supplied, where the price of land is relatively high, while the gas companies can readily place their works in such locality as to compensate in lowered land value for the greater amount required. Gas companies can, moreover, build within much smaller limits than usual when for any reason it is desirable, and closely approach the space requisite for an electric installation.

An item of considerable amount which has been omitted from the estimate for electricity is the cost of the renewal of the lamps. With the general introduction of incandescent electric lighting, this is a charge which would fall directly upon the consumer, but it is one which would steadily diminish with improvement in lamps. Assuming, however, that it is a legitimate charge upon the company supplying the light, the item amounts to 10 cents per 1,000, if the lamps have a life of 600[1] hours and cost 30 cents. This brings the electric account up to 70 cents per 1,000.

So far as coal-gas is concerned, then, these figures show a slight advantage in favor of electricity, and while they are only approximative they are near enough to the truth, I think, to represent the actual relation of the two illuminants. While very much doubtless remains to be done in the improvement of coal-gas manufacture, it does not seem probable that this will affect its cost of production to the same extent as future improvements of electric apparatus may be expected to decrease that of the electric light. Looking closely at the two accounts, it does not seem probable that the item relative to plant will be materially lessened in the future. The cost of the plant has already been taken at a figure very near the lower limit, so near that the substitution of this in its place would make a difference in the yearly plant account of but 212 cents per 1,000. We may, on the other hand, expect improvements to largely reduce the cost of the electric plant. On Mr. Edison's system of distribution, the size of the conductors varies inversely as the resistance of the lamps, so that they may be

  1. I am informed by Mr. Edison that the average life of the lamps is now 900 hours, including 3 per cent breakage in handling.