March 18, 2018-Jennifer Dorothy
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Lighting is a subtly powerful thing. It can impact everything from your sleep schedule to your brain power. So it’s understandable that you want your home, the place you presumably spend a big chunk of your life, to be lit nicely. But there are so many different options to choose from. Here’s a basic guide to get you started.
The right lighting can make you feel relaxed or productive, but beyond that, there’s function. Certain types of lighting serve a specific purpose, and when it comes to your home, you want the right type, depending on the purpose of your room. To optimize your home’s lighting, first consider how you’re using each room.
Step 1: Consider Each Room’s FunctionGenerally, lighting function falls in one of three categories: ambient, task, and accent.General or Ambient Lighting acts as the overall lighting of a room. It illuminates all of the room and is considered the room’s “natural light”.
You might use a chandelier, pendant light, track lighting or wall sconces to create ambient light that fills the room.Task Lighting lights up a work or reading area. You want this lighting to be brighter than your ambient lighting, so the contrast focuses the light in the specified area.
Desk lamps and under-cabinet kitchen lights are common task lighting options. But pendants and track lighting can be used for task lighting, too, but it depends on how you layer the lighting in your room, and how bright your bulbs are (which we’ll cover in a bit).Accent Lighting highlights a particular area, like a work of art or a bookcase. It usually creates shadow around the object for a dramatic effect. Wall lights and landscape lights are common accent lights.
Step 2: Choose the Right BulbsYour bulb is your light source, so the type of bulb determines what the light will look like. Different bulbs perform differently, and there are four basic types:
Incandescent: These are the traditional bulbs most of us have used for decades, and they’re starting to phase out in favor of more energy-efficient options. They produce a warm, glowing light.
Compact Florescent Bulbs (CFLs): These use 75% less energy than an incandescent bulb. They also last longer. They usually emit a cooler tone, but you can find them in a range of brightness levels and temperatures. It’s worth noting that CFLs do contain mercury, and while the amounts are small, they still require more careful handling and disposal, says National Geographic.
LEDs: These are just as efficient as CFLs, but they can last up to three times longer. They used to be mostly used for task lighting, because they only provided a harsh, direct light, but like CFLs, they’ve come a long way. They now offer the same look as incandescents, but they’re efficient, they’re less hot to the touch, and they last a long time. For these reasons, they can also be more expensive, but there are utility rebates available.
Halogen: Theese give off a bright, white light, similar to natural daylight. Great for task lighting. They also use 10-20% less energythan an incandescent bulb.
Step 3: Pick Your FixturesNow that you know the function of your lighting, how bright you want it, and what temperature you prefer, it’s time to pick the best type of fixture for optimizing all of those factors. Here are some common fixtures, along with how (and where) they’re typically used:
Ceiling mount fixtures: Pretty standard for ambient lighting. The House Designers say they’re ideal in entry foyers, hallways, bedrooms, task areas, stairways. In hallways, they recommend spacing out fixtures every 8 to 10 feet for adequate illumination.
Chandeliers: When used for general or ambient lighting, they’re best used in dining room or or bedrooms.
Wall-mounted fixtures: These are usually sconces. They can be used in any room for ambient, task, or accent lighting, depending on where you put them and what kind of bulb you use.
Pendant lighting: Used for task or general lighting, they hang from the ceiling and are equipped with shades to avoid glare. They work best over dining room tables, countertops or other work areas.
Recessed lighting: Again, recessed lighting can be used anywhere for general, task or accent lighting. It all depends on how bright they are and where they’re located.
Track Lighting: You can use track lighting for pretty much anything, too. It’s especially versatile because you can often move the individual lamps around and point them in whatever direction you want. This might be as an accent to highlight some artwork, or you might just use them to illuminate the whole room.
Table lamps: Great for accent lighting in a living room or task lighting in a bedroom.