The Key To Fluorescent Kitchen Lighting
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 inter¬est 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 light¬ing, 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.
While all three styles of lighting can be used in virtually any room in your home, the kitchen is a perfect candidate. Task lighting can make cooking and food preparation tasks safer and easier. Ambient lighting makes the space more cheerful and inviting. And accent lighting can add a decorative touch.
One of the most popular sources of lighting in a kitchen is fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent bulbs are more readily available than ever before and they provide soft, even lighting. And even though they’re more expensive to purchase they last ten- to twenty-times as long as their conventional incandescent cousins. Actually, in the long run you can make a profit by using fluorescent bulbs.
For example: A fluorescent bulb that we know of uses 13 watts of energy and provides light equal to that of a conventional 75 watt bulb. That’s an energy savings of 82% – for the same amount of light. And remember, it’s light that’s easier on the eye. On average, fluorescent lights produce two to four times as much light per watt as a standard incandescent light bulb.
The average life of a $2 incandescent bulb is about 1000 hours. With fluores¬cent bulbs $14 gets you 10,000 hours. By the way, 10,000 hours is considered as a short life for a fluorescent bulb – many styles last for 20,000 hours or more.
One or more fluorescent fixtures mounted on the ceiling in your kitchen will provide excellent ambient light. If it’s task and accent lighting that you’re looking for, we have a couple of suggestions.
One of the least expensive and easiest means of adding task lighting is to install a thin fluorescent fixture at the underside of upper cabinets. These should be strategically placed to offer the maximum amount of light where most task-oriented work is performed in the kitchen. Most home improvement retailers offer a host of styles and sizes. Some models are about an inch thick and have their very own switch for clean, hidden installation.
Another method of adding task lighting is by installing a single fluorescent light tube mounted to the underside of upper cabinets. This style of fixture is typically less expensive than the alternative discussed earlier, however, it is not nearly as compact or appearance friendly. You can, however, conceal the fixture by installing a decorative wood valance immediately in front of the fixture. The valance can consist of a piece of wood that is stained, painted or laminated to match the cabinetry.
This method can also be used when installing a fluorescent fixture in the space above an upper cabinet. Installing a fluorescent fixture at this location is one of the most effective and energy efficient means of garnering accent lighting.
If the area above your cabinets isn’t open and you have a soffit, there is an alternative to the method described above. Simply cut an opening in the soffit, install a four-foot single or two-tube fixture, and frame for and install a single sheet of plastic lens material. Be sure to install a reflective “bounce board” at the rear of the soffit to maximize the amount of light distributed by the fixture.
If you aren’t comfortable working with electrical, now would be the time to call in an electrician.