Using Energy Efficient Lighting in the Home
Until fairly recently, lighting was considered solely as a means of illumination with little or no regard given as to the type of light emitted or how that light was cast.
Within the last few decades, however, the rapid progress in lighting design and technology has led to a new appreciation of the value that lighting can provide, both indoors and outdoors.
The most noticeable examples of this appreciation were first apparent in the commercial sector, where carefully positioned spotlights and downlights drew customers attention to store displays, special offers, paintings and statues.
Indoor lighting suddenly took on a dual role. In addition to illuminating an area, indoor lighting was now also being used to accentuate certain features and objects within a given space.
These advancements in indoor lighting technology provided designers with another tool to create not only the look they desired, but most importantly, the atmosphere they desired.
In turn, store owners soon found that they were able to increase sales and profitability simply by using lights placed strategically throughout their establishment, especially on items of high value.
But due to the inefficiency of the lighting technology used at the time, and the high running costs associated with it, this appreciation for indoor lighting remained largely confined to the commercial sector.
As a result, very few domestic establishments used indoor lighting for home design, choosing to use it purely as a tool for illumination rather than for the accentuation of their home.
The advent of low voltage lighting
The recent developments in lighting technology are perhaps the most exciting and important in lighting history. New technologies now allow for lower energy consumption, improved light quality and longer lasting bulbs.
Collectively, these advancements have been grouped together under the heading of “low voltage lighting”, or “energy-efficient lighting” as they are sometimes called.
Technologies such as fluorescent, light-emitting diode (LED) and halogen bulbs all offer greatly reduced savings in terms of the amount of electricity used in comparison to standard traditional incandescent bulbs.
What’s so exciting about low voltage indoor lighting, is that, for the first time, homeowners are being given a versatile and economically viable tool to illuminate and accentuate their home with. Doing so in a similar fashion to the lighting displays seen in the commercial sector.
With the incredible versatility and economic viability that low voltage indoor lighting provides, it’s not surprising that this technology has been welcomed with open arms.
Currently, it’s mainly western countries which have benefited from energy-saving lighting technology.
But as the cost of the technology falls and becomes more widespread, those in less developed regions of the world will also be able to benefit from reduced energy costs.
This in turn will make indoor lighting much more viable and cost-effective for low-income families.
Types of Low Voltage Lights
Low voltage lighting is a term used to classify lighting technology that minimizes power consumption whilst maximizing energy efficiency, and there are three main types of low voltage lights: fluorescent, halogen and LED bulbs.
Below, we will look at each of the different types of energy-saving bulbs and discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages of each.
Fluorescent tubes differ from other forms of low voltage lighting, as they employ a gaseous mixture of argon and mercury as a means of creating light.
As electricity passes from one end of the tube to the other, it excites mercury atoms which then causes them to emit ultraviolet photons. When these photons hit the phosphorous coating inside the tube, visible light is created.
Due to the fact that fluorescent tubes are energy-efficient and have a very long lifespan, they are ideal for use in locations where long-term or permanent lighting is required, such as in hallways of student dormitories or office buildings.
However, their larger size in comparison to regular shaped light bulbs may pose design limitations on how and where the tubes are used.
As a result, most fluorescent tubes tend to be used in areas with a large open space, such as in hallways or office buildings, that require a large amount of light.
In terms of safety, fluorescent tubes are considered to be very safe due to their low power requirements and their cool operating temperature.
There is concern, however, that the mercury found within the tube may pose a severe health hazard if the fluorescent tube is accidentally broken.
Also, because mercury is extremely toxic, there are also environmental concerns regarding the safe disposal of fluorescent tube lighting.
To protect yourself, and the environment, do not smash or otherwise destroy fluorescent light bulbs or tubes which have reached the end of their life. Instead, see if there is a way to dispose of these bulbs safely and in an environmentally friendly manner in the region in which you live.
It is also advisable to keep young children away from fluorescent lighting, as if they were to smash a bulb or tube, they could very easily inhale toxic mercury vapour which potentially could lead to their death.
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb (CFL)
Compact fluorescent light bulbs are becoming an increasingly popular low voltage alternative to the standard incandescent bulb.
They employ a similar technology to the fluorescent tube, using a gaseous mixture of argon and mercury to create light. However, despite this similarity, they have, on average, half the lifespan of their larger counterparts.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs, however, still do provide an extremely cost-effective low voltage indoor lighting solution. When they are used to replace incandescent light bulbs for example, the homeowner can expect to see a noticeable decrease in their electricity bill.
These electricity savings are possible due to the increased energy efficiency of fluorescent lamp technology. As a result, a homeowner can achieve the same level of illumination with a 15 watt fluorescent bulb as they could do with a 60 watt incandescent bulb.
Like the fluorescent tube, compact fluorescent bulbs take time to “warm up” before they achieve maximum brightness and the light may sometimes appear to flicker.
Newer bulb designs, however, have greatly helped to reduce both of these issues, although such bulbs do tend to be more expensive than the regular bulbs.
Finally, as CFLs contain mercury, there are again environmental concerns regarding their safe disposal. There is also the possibility of contamination within the home should the bulb accidentally break.
CFL bulbs are available in both bayonet cap and Edison screw fittings.
Tungsten-Halogen bulbs work in a similar way to incandescent bulbs. Unlike the incandescent bulb however, tungsten-halogen lights have a much thicker and more robust filament.
This allows the filament to run at a hotter temperature and provides less resistance to the passing electrical current. The result, is that halogen lights last longer and can produce more light whilst using less energy in the process.
Due to their versatility and energy efficiency, tungsten-halogen lights are an extremely attractive low voltage indoor lighting solution for home designers. They tend to be used most often in ceiling fixtures as downlights or in display cabinets due to their small bulb size.
Also, because they are capable of producing many lumens of light, halogen lights can also be very effective when used outdoors to illuminate large areas.
For example, you will often find halogen lighting in outdoor security spotlights, motion activated lighting equipment and in outdoor displays.
Another advantage that halogen bulbs have over fluorescent lamps, is that they are not affected by rapid on-off cycling. As a result, halogen bulbs can be switched on and off rapidly without severely affecting the lifespan of the bulb.
However, whilst halogen lights may be more energy-efficient than regular incandescent bulbs, they are still far less energy-efficient than the low power fluorescent or LED lights. They also do not have as long of a lifespan, as they are essentially still based on the old incandescent bulb technology.
Halogen lights also tend to produce a lot of heat if left on for long periods, which can subsequently limit their usage around heat sensitive objects such as plants or animal life.
As a result of these limitations, halogen lights will eventually be superseded by LED lights. But for the time being, the relatively high cost of LED lights means that halogen bulbs are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Note: Halogen lights operate at 12 volts and so they require a lighting transformer in order to down-step the mains voltage. This can increase the overall set-up cost of your lighting display.
Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs are perhaps the most exciting recent development in lighting technology.
They are extremely energy-efficient, and are the longest lasting bulbs of all the low voltage lighting options. Depending on the type of LED light, they may last up to three times as long as fluorescent tubes.
Apart from their extremely low power consumption and long life, LED bulbs also offer many other advantages. LED lights are cool to touch, light up immediately, are small in size, and their lifespan is not reduced by switching them on and off rapidly. These features make them ideal replacements for indoor halogen bulbs.
LEDs also gradually fade in brightness as they come to the end of their lifespan, rather than going out abruptly like incandescent bulbs.
Furthermore, LED lights are “solid state” which means that there is no filament or tube to break, thereby making them extremely robust. In addition to this, they do not contain any mercury which makes their disposal environmentally friendly.
Unfortunately, because LED bulbs are relatively new to the domestic market, they are currently the most expensive type of bulb that you can buy.
But over time, LED bulbs will become cheaper, improve in quality and will likely become the dominant form of lighting that people use in their home. They truly are the light bulb of the future!
Listed below you will find the expected lifespan for the different types of light bulbs.
Standard incandescent light bulbs use electricity to heat a filament that produces light. However, due to the thin filament used, and the resulting inefficiency of the bulb, the approximate lifespan of an incandescent light bulb is around 1000 hours (41 days of continuous use).
The main advantage of using incandescent bulbs is that the bulbs themselves are very inexpensive to buy. In addition, their lifespan is not affected by how rapidly you turn your light switch on and off as some energy-saving bulbs are.
The main disadvantage is that they are quite power-hungry and not very energy-efficient. As a result, they are very costly to run in comparison to the energy saver bulbs.
Furthermore, depending on which country you live in, you may soon no longer be able to purchase incandescent light bulbs as some governments have decided to ban them from sale to help the environment.
So who knows, perhaps in the future the only place you will be able to see these bulbs is in a museum?
Halogen lights are more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs because they have a thicker filament that provides less resistance to the passing electrical current.
The result of this is that halogen-tungsten bulbs can produce more light, whilst using far less electricity. This gives them an approximate lifespan of around 3000 hours (125 days of continuous use).
However, as halogen lights which are fed by a transformer require an equal voltage to be distributed between all lights in your lighting array, if one light burns out, this can disrupt the voltage going to the other lights.
If the dead bulb is not replaced within a short period of time, the lifespan of your remaining lights will eventually be decreased due to the disruption in voltage regularity.
One of the main disadvantages of using these bulbs however, is that the lighting equipment needed to run the bulb can be expensive as you have to purchase the right light fittings in addition to a transformer.
Fluorescent tubes employ a different technology to tungsten-halogen lights, and as a result, are able to run much cooler and more efficiently.
This gives a fluorescent tube an approximate lifespan of around 20,000 hours (833 days, or just over 2 years of continuous use).
As fluorescent tubes are a relatively old form of lighting technology, the tubes themselves tend to be relatively inexpensive to purchase, and because they last so long, you won’t need to worry about purchasing replacement tubes very often.
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFL)
Compact fluorescent bulbs employ a similar technology to fluorescent tubes, although on a smaller and more compact scale. They have an estimated lifespan of around 10,000 hours (416 days, or just over 1 year of continuous use).
It is important to note, however, that even though compact fluorescent light bulbs have a potentially very long lifespan, in reality, the actual lifespan that a homeowner can expect is far lower than their estimated life.
The reason for this is that a CFL is sensitive to being switched on and off within a short period of time. As a result, these bulbs last the longest when they are left on for long periods of time. If they are used predominantly for short periods of time, their lifespan can be significantly reduced.
You can therefore help to maximize the lifespan of your fluorescent lights by ensuring that you only use them in areas of the home that require illumination for extended periods of time.
For example, bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms and hallways are all good places to use fluorescent lights.
But in places where you will only require lighting for short periods of time, such as underneath the stairs or in a cupboard, you may want to consider using halogen, LED or incandescent bulbs, as these are not affected by how rapidly they are turned on or off.
Light Emitting Diode (LED)
LED lights have a lifespan of up to 50,000 hours (2083 days, or just over 5 ½ years of continuous use). This makes LED bulbs the longest lasting low voltage lighting solution available.
The good thing about LED lights is that they are not sensitive to being switched on and off rapidly like the fluorescent bulbs and tubes are, which makes them ideal for use around the home.
Bulb Energy Efficiency
One of the major advantages and most attractive features of low voltage lighting, is the relatively high energy efficiency and low power consumption in comparison to standard incandescent bulbs.
This, of course, translates into lower energy usage, lower electricity bills and more money in your pocket at the end of the month.
Standard incandescent bulbs typically have an energy efficiency rating of about 5-10%. As a result, 90-95% of the energy used by the bulb is wasted, most of which is lost as heat.
This is why regular light bulbs get so hot after they have been on for a while. In fact, incandescent bulbs can get so hot that you could easily burn yourself on a 100 or 120 watt bulb that has been left on for a few minutes.
One of the main reasons why incandescent bulbs are so inefficient, is because they have a very thin filament. This provides a lot of resistance to the passing electrical current, which subsequently causes the bulb to produce a lot of radiant heat.
So in terms of energy efficiency, incandescent bulbs would have to be given an F rating as they are the least efficient form of domestic lighting and the most expensive to run.
Although halogen-tungsten bulbs have a similar energy efficiency rating as incandescent bulbs (around 15%), they are classified as low voltage lighting because they consume far less power than incandescent bulbs.
Rather than being fed directly from the mains electricity supply, tungsten-halogen lights operate at a non lethal 12 volts.
But in order to do this, they must first be connected to a transformer which supplies the appropriate voltage, although some newer halogen lights now come with a built-in transformer.
The latest generation halogen-tungsten lights, often referred to as energy-saving halogen light bulbs, are even more energy-efficient, typically consuming around 30% less electricity than regular halogen lights.
We give halogen lights an energy efficiency rating of C. They are more energy-efficient and use less power than regular incandescent bulbs, but are still based on the same type of lighting technology which means that they can never be as energy-efficient as the other types of low voltage lights.
With an energy efficiency rating of around 60%, fluorescent tubes were, for a long time, the most energy-efficient low voltage lighting solution available.
As a result of their high energy efficiency, fluorescent tubes are cool to the touch and generate very little heat which makes them suitable for use around plants or animals.
Overall, due to their low power consumption and high energy efficiency, fluorescent tubes are given a grade B energy efficiency rating.
It is important to note though, that although fluorescent tubes can have an energy efficiency of around 60%, this largely depends on the quality of the lighting equipment as some may have an energy efficiency rating of as little as 15%.
Compact Fluorescent Bulb
Compact fluorescent light bulbs are being heavily promoted as an energy-efficient low voltage alternative to incandescent bulbs, and for good reason. They use a similar technology to fluorescent tubes, and so can offer a relatively long lifespan with an energy efficiency rating of about 50%.
Because of this high energy efficiency, a 20 watt compact fluorescent light bulb can produce as much light as a 100 watt incandescent bulb. In other words, you would need five 20 watt energy-saving bulbs to use up the same amount of electricity as one 100 watt standard incandescent bulb!
On average, using a CFL energy saver bulb will save you about £2.50 or $4 per year per bulb on your electricity bills in comparison to if you were using an incandescent bulb. If you think about the rooms in an average home you can get a rough idea as to how much money you could save by installing energy-saving bulbs.
An average house for example, contains a kitchen, a hallway, a living room, a study and a toilet downstairs. Then you have a stairway, upstairs hallway, an upstairs toilet and three bedrooms.
In total, that’s 11 areas which require lighting. For arguments sake, we will assume that each area of the house is lit with one energy-saving bulb.
An average three bedroom house could therefore save around £27.50 or $44 per year by installing energy-saving bulbs, and that’s just with having one bulb per room.
If we assume that there are two bulbs per room, then you could be looking at savings of £55 or $88 per year, a truly substantial saving just for making a simple change to your home.
As compact fluorescent bulbs are slightly less energy-efficient than fluorescent tubes, we give them an energy efficiency rating of B-.
LED bulbs have an extremely high energy efficiency rating, which, as the technology improves, should reach around 80%.
Like the fluorescent tube technology, LED lights are cool to the touch but are much smaller and have more than double the lifespan of the larger fluorescent tubes.
Considering the fact that lighting accounts for approximately 20% of the world’s electricity usage, the widespread use of LED bulbs could potentially have a massive positive impact on our environment.
LEDs certainly are the best type of bulb to use if you want to reduce your electricity bills and help save the planet, but at present, their relatively high cost will mean that most people will be using the compact fluorescent bulbs until LEDs start to drop in price.
Overall, being the lowest power user and the most energy-efficient, LED bulbs get a grade A energy efficiency rating.
Using Natural Light
Natural light is any light that enters your home from outside via a window. However, the amount of light that a room receives can vary depending on its relative location to the sun as sunlight is the primary source of natural light. The other source being the moon and the stars.
If you are installing lighting equipment in your home, it’s therefore important to be aware of the amount of natural light that a particular room receives throughout the day, as this will influence the type of lighting that room requires.
In order to do this properly, however, you will need to observe a room from sunrise to sunset throughout all the major seasons of the year. But in general, you can expect to find something similar to the following:
North Facing Rooms
North facing rooms tend not to receive much direct sunlight and so will therefore require the most amount of artificial light.
If you have a north facing garden, you may have trouble getting things to grow and your home won’t benefit as much from the natural heating effect of the sun.
East Facing Rooms
In the morning, an east facing room will receive a lot of sunlight, and so this can be useful for bedrooms if you like to get up early as sunlight plays an important role in the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
But if you like to sleep in, then you will probably require very thick shades, blinds or curtains to stop the strong light from waking you up too early.
Later on in the day, east facing rooms tend to be covered in shadow and do not receive much sunlight. As a result, they can be quite dark and so will benefit from daytime artificial lighting.
South Facing Rooms
South facing rooms get the most amount of sunlight throughout the course of a day, although midday is usually when you will start to notice the sun shining in through your widows.
As south-facing rooms are well-lit during the day and into the early evening, they are especially suitable for kitchens and living rooms.
West Facing Rooms
Rooms that are west-facing tend to receive very strong and intense sunlight throughout the mid afternoon. Whilst this is good for lighting up a room, it can also cause glare which could prove to be problematic.
West facing bedrooms for example, can get very hot during the middle part of the day and the sunlight coming into the room can cause distracting reflections off computer monitors or televisions.
West facing rooms therefore benefit from having reflective blinds to help block out some sunlight, and possibly also from a ceiling mounted fanlight in order to cool the room during the day and provide light later on in the evening when the room is in shadow.
Types of Home Lighting
There are different types of lighting that can be used for different purposes. By being aware of what these purposes are, you should find it a lot easier to illuminate your home in an effective and attractive manner.
So let’s have a look at the three main types of lighting: general, task and specific lighting.
General lighting, also called background or ambient light, serves to provide a given area with an acceptable amount of light so that you can safely carry out your everyday tasks.
An example of general lighting could include natural light coming in through a window during the day, or a light bulb hanging from the centre of a room.
The basic idea of general lighting is not to draw attention to anything in particular, but rather to provide a decent level of light for a particular area or room of your home. This also includes outdoor areas, such as your garden or front porch.
General lighting is therefore the first type or layer of lighting that you should consider in your home, because it is the most essential form of light and the one on which other types of lighting can be built upon.
Using energy-efficient lights
At present, compact fluorescent bulbs are the most common way of providing general lighting. They are cheap, easy to install and can effectively illuminate a large area of space.
Another way to provide general lighting is with an array of recessed wide beamed halogen/LED ceiling or floor lights.
These can be advantageous if you are looking to maximize the perceived space of a room, as you won’t need to have any fixtures hanging from your ceiling.
In fact, most modern homes use recessed lighting for this very reason, and so consequently, hanging ceiling lights are not as popular with interior designers as they once were.
Another alternative for providing general lighting, are ceiling mounted fluorescent tubes. In an office complex these can be very effective for lighting rooms or hallways, but in a home, their large size can make a room look tacky and so they tend not to be used that often in residential properties.
Using natural light
Whilst there are different ways to achieve general lighting with the use of technology, perhaps the best way to brighten up your home is naturally via the sun.
Windows, for example, will provide a large amount of natural and free general light, and so they should be taken advantage of to illuminate your home during the day.
It’s a good idea though, to have blinds on your windows so that you can control the amount of light which enters a room, or block it out entirely if desired. One may want to do this, for example, during the summer months to keep a south-facing room cool.
The best way to utilize natural light is by having lightly colored walls, unobstructed windows and possibly also skylights or mirrors to allow sunlight into dark areas.
Try not to ignore the role of natural light, because if you can maximize its use during the daytime period, you will automatically minimize your use of artificial lighting thereby helping to reduce your home’s overall energy usage.
For general lighting, compact fluorescent light bulbs are most effective.
Task lighting provides a concentrated and directional beam of light that can be used for tasks which require a greater intensity of light than that provided by general lighting.
For example, if you are reading a book, doing some writing, painting, knitting, cooking, making a model, shaving, putting on makeup or doing some DIY, then you are likely to require task lighting in order to properly see what you are doing.
Some examples of task lighting could include a desk lamp, a shaving light attached above a bathroom mirror, a wall mounted swivel light, angled lamps and clip-on spotlights.
Currently, tungsten-halogen bulbs provide the best low voltage solution for task lights, as they can provide high intensity directional light that is perfect for illuminating a small area.
Task lighting can also be achieved with fluorescent lights, such as a desk lamp that uses a fluorescent bulb, but the light emitted tends to be far less directed than you would get with a halogen bulb.
An alternative to halogen bulbs are LED bulbs, but at present they still can’t provide the strong directional light that you get with halogen bulbs.
When installing task lighting, you want to make sure that your light is bright enough to illuminate a specific area and is also adjustable if possible. This will ensure that you are provided with enough light to work with, and that you can make the best possible use of that light.
Some areas of the home that may require task lighting are in the kitchen for cooking and eating, in the living room or bedroom for reading or studying, and in the garage for carrying out DIY activities.
Of course, where you use task lighting will vary from home to home and will depend upon your unique needs.
The easiest way to determine where you will require task lighting, is to simply think of what you will do in each room that general lighting will not be sufficient for. You can then install additional fixtures to meet those needs and requirements.
Finally, because most task lighting fixtures tend to be portable, such as desk lamps and standing lamps, don’t worry too much about getting the perfect position the first time you place your fixture in a room, as you will always be able to relocate them at a later date if necessary.
For task lighting, tungsten-halogen or LED lights are most effective.
Specific or accent lighting is used to highlight certain features or objects within a given area. It was first used in museums to highlight displays and pictures, and also in retail establishments for drawing attention to high value items such as jewelry or for promotional store offers.
However, since the advent of low voltage lighting, specific lighting is becoming increasingly popular in the domestic market. This is especially true for outdoor lighting, as it can be used to accentuate interesting features of homes, plants, ponds and fountains.
Currently, tungsten-halogen bulbs provide the best low voltage indoor and outdoor solution for specific lighting due to the strong intensity of directional light that they are capable of producing.
Where you choose to use specific lighting really depends on what areas or features of your home that you would like to draw attention to.
The most common usage is for highlighting pictures, plant displays, statues and ornaments. But just about anything that you feel would look better with additional light can benefit from specific lighting, so it really comes down to personal preference.
There are two main ways of achieving specific lighting in your home. The first is with halogen or LED recessed downlights. These are advantageous because they are very discreet, but suffer from the fact that they cannot be repositioned once they have been installed.
The other option is to use a ceiling mounted spotlight. The advantage of using a spotlight is that you can easily direction the light to wherever you please, and then later redirection that light if required.
The downside to using spotlights however, is that if anything blocks the beam of light generated by the spotlight, then that will also block or interfere with the light that your display is receiving.
So when using spotlights inside the home, it’s important to consider the path of the light emitted and to ensure that there are no cross over effects or unintended shading effects from surrounding objects.
For specific lighting, tungsten-halogen or LED lights are most effective.
When you install different types of lighting in your home, you may discover that some luminaires don’t work well together or produce unexpected and undesirable effects. These are known as “conflicts”.
For example, a poorly positioned luminaire, such as a table or floor lamp, can cause reflections off reflective surfaces such as glass or a mirror.
Another example of a common conflict can occur when trying to highlight certain features within your room.
You may discover for example, that by highlight one area, it subsequently causes the rest of the room to look bland and uninteresting. Or, you may find that some areas of the room are not being sufficiently lit which then makes the room look unbalanced.
You are bound to experience conflicts when using multiple lighting arrangements, but if you can keep such conflicts in mind during the installation of your equipment, you should be able to keep the amount of unintended effects to a minimum.
Using Low Voltage Lights Inside the Home
Below we look at some of the different ways that you can use energy-saving lights throughout your home, and which type of technology would be best suited to your particular needs.
Hallway & Staircase
The hallway and staircase should be well-lit, and so require an adequate amount of general lighting.
The basic purpose of any hallway or staircase light should therefore be to provide enough light to sufficiently illuminate the hallway or staircase area, but not necessarily draw attention to any particular feature.
This can be quite effectively done using compact fluorescent bulbs with a hanging ceiling light fixture. A single 20 watt fluorescent bulb for example, can provide enough light for an entire staircase.
For hallways, a single light bulb may also be sufficient, although you may wish to use a chandelier fixture that houses several light bulbs for a more regal looking display.
If there are features within the hall that you would like to highlight, such as a statue, a piece or artwork or a plant, then you could use a spotlight or downlight (i.e., overhead positional track lighting) to provide specific lighting with a halogen-tungsten or LED bulb.
The advantage of using spotlights is that they can be easily angled to light a specific area, but come at the disadvantage of having a more obtrusive fixture.
With recessed downlights, a room can be made to look more spacious, but the fixtures cannot be easily repositioned once put into place. This could potentially cause problems should you redesign your home at a later date.
An alternative to using ceiling lights for your staircase, is to use floor lights or lowlights with halogen or LED bulbs. These can look extremely stylish and will give your home an almost futuristic look to it.
Bathrooms benefits from a good amount of general lighting. This can be provided by downlights or a hanging ceiling lamp with an energy saver bulb.
But if you have a choice between downlights or a hanging fixture, you are probably better off using downlights.
The reason for this is that in a bathroom you are likely to have many reflective surfaces such as mirrors, wall tiles and glass from your shower enclosure.
All of these surfaces could result in unwanted reflections from hanging lights that distract you from your bathroom activities.
Your other concern for bathroom lighting, should be for specific or task lighting. You are likely for example, to require bathroom mirror lights in addition to lighting for any cabinets that you have.
Generally, this is best achieved using halogen downlights, although it may be possible to position a small fluorescent tube above your mirror, such as above a shaving mirror or inside a bathroom cabinet.
If you require lighting for your shower or bath, this again is usually best achieved with halogen downlights positioned above or near your bath or shower.
Note: The safety rating of a light is dependent on how close it is to a source of water. The closer a light is to water, the lower its safety rating will be.
This rating will vary depending on your country’s regulations and may influence your bathroom lighting layout/design.
When it comes to kitchen lighting, your primary concern should be to provide an adequate amount of light so that you can eat and move around with good visibility.
Energy efficient kitchen lighting can be achieved with well positioned wide beamed halogen or LED downlighter, or with hanging ceiling lights that house compact fluorescent bulbs.
You may also be able to use fluorescent tubes in your kitchen if you have enough ceiling space.
These are capable of illuminating a large area, although they are not necessarily the most attractive light fixture as the tubes themselves are very large and tend to be housed in bulky fixtures.
Task lighting can be positioned underneath wall mounted cupboards with undershelf lighting to illuminate the work area beneath it. This is best done with fluorescent tubes, as the tube and its fixture can be concealed underneath a cabinet.
Fluorescent tubes are very suited to this purpose due to their long length, which is advantageous because it provide an equal amount of light along the work surface below it.
Specific lighting may also be used should you wish to draw attention to particular features within the kitchen. Halogen/LED downlights or spotlights can be used quite effectively for this purpose.
A dining room will benefit from well placed general lighting in combination with specific lighting to create a relaxing atmosphere in which you can enjoy your meal.
Generally, a chandelier with lamp shades that direct light upwards toward the ceiling is the best option for illuminating a dining room, as this prevents light from shining in your face and reflecting off glass surfaces while you are eating your meal.
If you require more light to be directed towards the table, then consider a pendant lighting fixture as this will direct light downwards but without causing too much light to shine in your face.
To emphasize the table within the room, you could also use shaded ceiling uplights to provide a gentle and subtle level of background light.
If there are specific areas of the room that you wish to highlight, strategically positioned halogen downlights can do this discretely, and in some cases, standing lights may also be appropriate.
Installing a dimmer switch can be an excellent choice for the dining room, as it will give you much greater control over the type of atmosphere that you are able to create.
This can be especially beneficial if you regularly host guests for dinner parties, as it can help to create a relaxing and sophisticated feel to your room.
The living room is where people spend most of their time, and so this room will likely require a mixture of light fittings.
General lighting can be provided via a wide beamed downlighter, ceiling uplights or hanging compact fluorescent bulbs from ceiling or wall lights.
If there are features within the room that you would like to highlight, the use of directional spotlights or downlighters can be considered.
For activities which require a greater amount of light, such as reading or sewing, you may also want to install a standing floor lamp or table lamp.
Overall, when installing living room lighting, you need to consider what you will be using your living room for and then try to find the most appropriate light fittings to meet those needs.
For example, as you will probably be using your living room for watching TV, you need to have some way of reducing or dimming the overall level of illumination in the room.
One of the simplest ways to do this is with a dimmer switch that allows you to dim your main ceiling or wall lights. An alternative option is to have different sets of lights that you can switch on (e.g., wall lights or a table lamp) or switch off (e.g., ceiling lights).
It’s also worth paying close attention to where you position your lights, as lights positioned in front of a TV for example, will cause a reflection on the screen that is likely to disrupt your viewing experience.
Likewise, if you are placing mirrors or glass cabinets in your living room, be aware of any cross reflections that they cause as these could also potentially cause disturbance.
A bedroom can be adequately lit with one or two centrally placed ceiling mounted compact fluorescent bulbs, or alternatively, with halogen or LED downlighters.
Overall, your aim for bedroom lighting should be to provide a versatile mixture of light fittings that can accommodate a wide variety of bedroom needs.
So in addition to general lighting, you may also require task lighting such as by installing a desk light, bedside reading light, table lamp or a standing lamp.
To create a more relaxing atmosphere in your bedroom, a dimmer switch can be used to control the intensity of light that is emitted.
This can be useful, for example, if you want to have a romantic night in with your partner, or if you wish to dim the room in order to watch a movie.
Finally, if your bedroom tends to get hot during the summer, consider installing a ceiling mounted fanlight to keep your room cool.
Additional Lighting Equipment
If your low voltage lighting equipment requires a transformer, such as with halogen-tungsten light arrays, you must ensure that the transformer is situated in a dry, shaded and well ventilated area. Never leave the transformer in an area where it will receive prolonged direct sunlight.
There should also be at least 200 mm of clearance around the transformer to prevent thermal insulation which could cause the transformer to overheat.
Transformers can also be very heavy, so always ensure that it is placed on a solid and stable surface. Ideally, this should be in a location that can be easily accessed so that maintenance and repairs can be carried out when needed.
If you are installing lights in areas of your home that would make installing electrical wiring difficult, such as in your garden, solar-powered lights are a good choice to go for.
However, although you won’t have to worry about electrical wiring and will be able to reposition your lights anywhere you please, be aware that the amount of light emitted by solar-powered lights will generally be far less than mains powered lighting.
Lamp shades play a big influence in determining the type of light that is emitted into a room.
There are lots of different types of lamp shades available, such as glass lamp shades, paper lampshades, silk lamp shades and string lamp shades. If you are aiming for a more modern look to your room, then tinted glass lamp shades are usually the best option to go for.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for something a bit more traditional, then a silk or string lamp shade is probably the better option for you.
It is important to bear in mind though, that the denser the material used for your lamp shade the less light your room will receive.
This might be desirable for some bedrooms or even a dining room, but for living rooms, you would benefit more from having a lamp shade made from a lighter material or from glass in order to maximize the amount of radiant light that your room receives.
Lamp shades can also affect the color of the light that your room receives. So you also need to take into consideration the color of your shade and ensure that it is in keeping with the general decor of your room, such as the color of the walls, the carpet and the furniture.
All lights are turned on and off with a light switch, so don’t forget to choose a light switch that is in keeping with the overall design of your room and the style of the lights that you are using.
Generally, metallic switches look the best, as plastic switches can end up looking cheap and tacky. Although, if you are installing lighting equipment into a child’s bedroom, you may want to get a colorful plastic light switch if you or your child likes the design.
For bathrooms, a pull cord switch may be more appropriate than a wall mounted switch, especially if you can only install a wall mounted switch in an inconvenient location.
Finally, don’t forget about dimmer switches if you wish to control the level of light in a room. These can usually be installed alongside an existing switch so that you can use the dimmer function only when required.