Principles Of Lighting
What you should know before investing in your lighting choices.
Lighting plays a key role in interior design and is a major part of any electrical wiring project. Good lighting design has an elusive quality. When you walk into an effectively lighted room, your eyes sense that everything is readily visible, but you’ll rarely remark, “What fantastic lighting!” Home lighting should be varied and dramatic. Fixtures should be connected to dimmer switches that can create different effects. The lighting should be flexible enough to illuminate many activities as well as be a focus of interest in itself.
An essential ingredient in lighting design is simple common sense. The best lighting designer is a problem-solver, determining where light is wanted and needed, and then putting it there with economy and flair. You can take the same approach using three main types of lighting: task lighting, accent lighting, and ambient or general lighting.
Task lighting illuminates a specific area where a highly visual activity like reading, sewing, or food preparation takes place. It’s often achieved with individual fixtures that direct light onto a work surface. Accent lighting is similar to task lighting in that it consists largely of directional light. Primarily decorative, accent lighting is used to focus attention on artwork to highlight architectural features, and to set a mood. Ambient or general lighting fills in the undefined areas of a room with a soft level of light– enough to watch television by or navigate safely through a room. Ambient lighting usually comes from indirect fixtures that provide a diffused spread of illumination.
The first step toward improving your lighting involves careful consideration of the design and layout of your rooms and the types of activities that take place in each one. If you’re planning new lighting, you may want to draw a basic room plan that will help you determine where to place your fixtures and where you’ll want new outlets or wall switches.
Once you have some ideas in mind you may want to contact a lighting consultant, either for advice of for a complete plan depending on your project and your budget. Architects and interior designers may also do lighting as a specialty. All types of consultants usually belong to the Illuminating Engineering Society. Light fixture stores and electrical supply houses dealing in lighting fixtures may have in-house consultants also.
There are general lighting criteria that should be employed when designing lighting systems. For example, general lighting in living and sleeping areas should be equal to one watt of incandescent light for each square foot of space. Therefore, if a bedroom measures ten by twelve feet, or 120 square feet, it should contain general lighting of about 120 watts.
The “one watt per foot” rule should be doubled for a kitchen or workshop where there is more to see and the potential for injury is greater.
Energy efficient compact fluorescent and LED bulbs require less wattage than conventional incandescent lighting. The per-foot minimum drops to about one-third watt for living areas and three-quarter watt for kitchens.
Reflector light bulbs are also energy savers. A 50 watt “R” bulb is as bright as bright as a 100 watt “A” bulb. “A” is the code for a standard incandescent light bulb. We mention incandescent lighting as an alternative, but the trend is to completely replace this style of lighting with more efficient choices such as LED.
The real rage in lighting has been with accent lighting. This consists primarily or recessed fixtures and surface mount track lighting. Both types offer countless possibilities with the various styles and trim accessories that are available.
Recess and track lighting can illuminate an area, wash a wall or throw a defined beam of light to a piece of art across a room. They can be used stand-alone or in combination with other types of lighting, however, they should be installed at a distance of twelve to twenty-four inches from the wall they will be lighting.
Of the three types of lighting, task lighting is one of the least used, yet one of the most important. One common location for task lighting is within a range hood just above a cook top. Unfortunately, that’s where it stops in many homes.
Safety conscious folks are finding that task lighting installed at the underside of upper cabinets in the kitchen, for example, can make working conditions increasingly easier, safer and eliminate eye strain.
Although task lighting is use most often in the kitchen, it can also be found in the laundry room, bathroom, craft area and workshop. The most popular style of task lights are thin, narrow rectangular fixtures that have their own switch. While fluorescent task lighting has been the standard for many years, LED task lighting is growing more popular.