Why Good Lighting in your Home so Important, and How Easy is it to Improve Your Interior Lighting?
Are you building a new home or remodeling? Maybe you have already done so, have spent a lot of money, bought beautiful furnishings, and the space still doesn’t look as exciting or special as you expected? Perhaps it’s the lighting that is sadly inadequate or overlooked. Maybe the lighting hasn’t been given enough importance or thought, other than the bare essentials or “cookie-cuttered” plan. Nothing will look its best or function well without proper illumination. No colors or textures, finishes or fabrics will show how much time and care was spent in their selection without proper lighting, detailed planning, and utilization of the space.
If you are building a new home, the possibilities are endless, but you need to know your options up front to plan and budget properly. Not only can you lay out a plan that is adequate for all functions, but it can also be aesthetically exciting and safe. First, how are you going to use the space, and what are you bringing to the space? For example, in what areas will you be playing, resting, reading, or working? These functions have different lighting requirements, not to mention higher levels of lighting required for all the areas for general cleaning. The important thing to remember is to control the lighting and vary the sources. Too much lighting is just as bad as too little, especially from onesource. With new construction, you can have more sophisticated controls. Direct wire or homeruns can be done and allow for technology that can integrate systems like media, telephones, security, window treatments, HVAC, etc, with the lighting. This allows you to create moods for a quiet evening at home, or for entertaining, by pressing a button. There will be less “wall acne” with fewer switches and yet complete control of your environment. These systems can be as simple or complex as you want.
Remodeling offers many of the same opportunities as new construction, but with some limitations depending on the extent of the remodeling. Maybe you can’t run homeruns for integrated systems, but a lot of the same results can be achieved with radio frequency controls. Often when remodeling you will be confronted with no perimeter lighting in a room, but perhaps only one overhead surface mount fixture or ceiling fan. Sometimes there is attic access, and putting in recessed cans and accent lighting is relatively easy; but often there is a second story and no access from above. In that situation, look for existing outlets that the electrician can fish from. Depending on their location, you may be able to install cans, but if not, maybe sconces are possible.
Another problem situation sometimes confronted in remodeling is in older high rises with concrete ceilings and no lights. How do you get any lighting from above for art or accenting walls or a special accessory on a table? Sometimes there is one overhead, and the rest of the area is dependent on table lamps. In this situation, you may use track lights or cable lighting and feed off the one overhead or from an existing outlet. Another solution is to run wiring and create a layered or decorative detailed ceiling with sheetrock that can cover the wiring.
What if your space has already been completed but needs help, or you bought a place with inadequate lighting and can’t afford to remodel it? Maybe you just hope to enhance or wake up your existing environment. Consider art lights that attach to your art or up lighting on a sculpture or a textured wall that can just be plugged in to existing outlets. Next, examine what kind of lamping is in your existing fixtures. Maybe they are not the right kind of color corrected lamps (bulbs) and are distorting the colors of your finishes and fabrics. For example, one client who wanted to renovate his kitchen because he hated the color of the cabinets, changed the lamping, and the cabinets took on a totally different color that worked with the other existing hard surfaces. Needless to say, there was no need to remodel.
You can also work off existing outlets and install sconces with wire covers. Evaluate the fixtures you have to see if perhaps the updating of a chandelier, entry fixture, or bathroom strip light would make your space more current and add more light. Then don’t forget that all rooms benefit from lighting controls. You may not have the budget for even the radio frequency systems, but it is not expensive or hard to install dimmers on your existing switches.
Finally, with all of these situations, everyone needs to consider green design. Choosing energy efficient lighting helps to save money and helps to save the environment. From something as simple as just changing light bulbs to installing solar panels, there are many options for green design. If you consider that 90 percent of the energy of a standard light bulb goes to heat, which then costs more to air condition the space, you may consider starting by replacing some areas such as kitchen, laundry, home office, etc. with CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs). Not only do they give off less heat, but they last as much as 10 times longer. Also, consider motion detectors, photo sensors, and timers.
If everyone replaced just one incandescent light bulb with a CFL, it would save enough energy to light more than three million homes for a year and more than $600 million in annual energy costs. In addition, it would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars, according to the government’s Energy Star program. According to “Green Light”, if every household replaced five high-use light fixtures with energy efficient alternatives, it would keep more than one trillion pounds of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, which is equal to the annual emission of a million cars. Plus, they use about 75 percent less energy, which saves on cooling. The spiral CFLs perform better in open fixtures like lamps, sconces, pendants, and outdoor fixtures, but for recessed fixtures, choose a reflector CFL, and if a dimmer is involved, look for those that specify that use. CFLs also have color variation from warm or soft white to a cool tone.
Solar lights are becoming more and more popular with an increasing number of choices. The sun contains 10,000 times the energy that humans consume yearly, and it has been predicted that in just two decades, solar can grow from currently producing one percent of the world’s energy to producing most of the energy we need. Solar lights are great for landscaping, lighting pathways, and for security. They absorb light during the day and don’t require any wiring or expense to run. Generally the brighter, larger lights are more expensive. However, be aware that a high qualitysolar light with good LEDs will producea beam of about 40W versus a standard 100W outdoor floodlight, but it is also free energy.
LEDs (light-emitting diodes) create light without the heat; they are bright and require far less electricity to operate, and usually last the life of the product. The Department of Energy estimates that LEDs could cut national energy consumption for lighting by 29 percent in 20 years. They last about 50 times as long as an incandescent bulb. Watch for these to become increasingly more available with more options. There is currently a national competition going on to attract viable replacements for 60W incandescent and PAR 38 halogen lamps.They will then be tested extensively with the hope of more energy efficient solutions within just a few years. So, stay tuned and do what you can in themeantime. Be enlightened!
If you have any questions or need any help with lighting plans, our Design Studio will be happy to give you a free consultation on improving your lighting! 713.803.4949 ext. 102