Lighting Tips from Pros

Lighting Tips from Pros

What is layered lighting?

The most aesthetically pleasing and effective way to light a room is to have three layers: overall, task and accent.

  • Overall lighting is the main illumination in a room. This will be the light above the main work or living space. The overall light could be from a chandelier, multiple pendants, recessed lights, a ceiling fan with a light, or some other main light source.
  • Task lighting is the light needed for specific tasks such as cooking, reading, applying make-up, etc. Examples of task lighting could be portable lamps, sconces next to a dressing area, and recessed lights or pendants directly over a work area.
  • Accent lighting could be toe-kick or in-cabinet lights, cove lighting, or small portable lamps.

Depending on where and how some fixtures are used, they could be any type of lighting. For example, pendants might be considered overall lighting or task lighting, even accent if small and in a corner. The important thing is to layer the lighting so that appropriate illumination can be achieved for the activity taking place.

My kitchen renovation includes an island with a main sink on one side and barstools on the other side. Should we center the pendants on the center of the island or move them more toward the sink?

In most applications where pendants are placed above islands, it is more common to place the pendants in a symmetrical configuration centered directly on both the long and short sides. However, this is ultimately a personal decision that is dependent on your priorities and on the visual relationship of the pendants to the space.

If the island is going to be used for reading or working, then placing the pendants closer to the bar stools will be useful. However, if persons seated at the island will be there mostly for eating and conversation, it will be less important to move the pendants closer to the seating.

Does a light fixture for a round table have to be round?

The most important fact related to your question is that these types of issues are ultimately very individual and personal decisions, and there is no one or absolute answer. Most designers will tell you that either a square or round fixture is appropriate over a round table as long as it matches the general style and finish of the overall design concept in your space. In today’s design climate, it is very appropriate to mix and match styles and finishes.

It would be a good idea to take a photo of your space to an ALA-member lighting showroom where they have trained lighting consultants to discuss your options and help you choose the best fixtures for your home.

What's the difference between watts and lumens?

Watts indicate how much electricity is used by a bulb. Watts are not an indicator of a bulb's brightness.

Lumens measure the amount of light a bulb emits. A bulb's lumens let you know how it performs as it comes out of the light source.

For comparison, a standard 60-watt indandescent bulb and a 9-watt LED will both emit about the same 750-850 lumens.

What's on the horizon for outdoor lighting in the next five to 10 years?

One of the biggest trends will be the influx of LED technology. Also, you will see slimmer profiles and more creative designs for outdoor fixtures. Homeowners will continue to trend toward simplification of design -- fixtures with clean, simple lines that are more contemporary.

We are doing a new build with an open concept. From the front entrance, seven light fixtures will be visible. Should they all match?

It is generally a good idea to use one concept that connects all fixtures within a space, such as a common color like black (referenced in above article and video), or gold tones (as shown at right), or the same style family. The fixtures do not have to match exactly, but having one or more design elements that are common to all of the fixtures is a good idea.
For example, if you have a design concept that is more modern, it is a good idea to use black and/or brushed nickel and/or stainless steel finishes that provide a modern connection. The lines, forms and shapes also provide a common relationship.
Style decisions in a home are always subjective and depend entirely on a homeowner’s preference. Some people prefer an eclectic design concept with very diverse fixtures, while others feel comfortable with fixtures with a more cohesive look.
When in doubt, or for more ideas and guidance, consult with a lighting expert at an ALA-member showroom.

What is the best LED lighting for a 6x8-ft. bathroom? The only light will be above the mirror over the vanity.

A useful rule of thumb for bath vanities is to use a minimum of two 60-watt incandescent bulbs, which typically produce approximately 800 lumens each for a total of 1,600 lumens. In your application you have several choices:

  • You could choose a fixture with standard medium-base sockets and install LED bulbs that fit the sockets. You would need LED bulbs equivalent to the standard 60-watt incandescent bulbs with approximately 800 lumens each.

  • Considering there is only one fixture in your bathroom, you could go to a higher lumen output, and perhaps go to a 75-watt equivalent and use a dimmer, which would allow you to lower or increase the light level as needed.

  • You could use an integrated LED fixture, which does not have light bulbs but instead is integrated with the LED lighting as a permanent part of the fixture. LEDs have extremely long life (about 50 times that of incandescent) making this essentially a lifetime fixture purchase. With this option you would want a fixture in the range of 1200-2000 lumens. Integrated LED fixtures are more efficient in delivering light, making it possible to go with a slightly lower lumen output (1200 lumens).

To look at the many options available, visit an ALA-member showroom where a certified lighting consultant can show you a variety of design options.

I have elderly relatives coming for an extended visit. What are some easy ways to adjust my lighting to make them more comfortable?

Preparing for your older visitors by adjusting your home lighting is a great idea. As we grow older, our eyes change. Research shows that a 60-year-old needs twice as much light as a 30-year-old. With that in mind, it will help to set up special lighting for task areas before your older guests arrive.

It is important to have light that you can direct, such as a pivoting or adjustable head on a task lamp. If possible, have a few table lamps or a torchiere that can be turned on while they watch TV. That will help reduce the contrast between the bright screen and the surrounding darkness of the room.

Dimmers are ideal in the bathroom to add a bit of illumination to navigate during the night. That is helpful for people of any age.

What is color tuning?

Color tuning is the technique of adjusting of the color of electric lighting in a space. More complex than dimming, color tuning further enhances the ability of lighting to dramatically change the look of a lighted space. While dimming simply results in more or less light, color tuning actually changes the appearance and "feel" of color. Used together, dimming and color tuning proide a way to greatly expand lighting's role in a person's visual and emotional experience.

According to Lutron Electronics Company, as LEDs (or solid-state lighting – SSL) becomes more advanced, new technologies allow LED color to be adjusted almost infinitely to deliver the perfect light. Color tuning can be warm dimming, tunable white or full-color tuning. More information about color tuning is available on Lutron’s website.

About how long will an LED bulb last?

According to the Department of Energy, a good-quality LED bulb will last about 25,000 hours. That is 25 times longer than a traditional light bulb, which is the equivalent of 24 hours a day, seven days a week for three years.

Will leaving my ceiling fan on all the time, even if no one is in the room, help reduce my overall A/C expense?

No, a ceiling fan will not save energy if no one is in the room. Ceiling fans do not actually lower the temperature of a room. They make us feel cooler by moving air over our skin, which increases evaporation of the moisture on our skin. Instead of running your AC at 72 degrees, a fan allows you to set your thermostat to 78, yet still feel as if it is about six degrees cooler. A fan costs pennies per day to operate versus dollars per day for the AC.

What kinds of bulbs can be used in the recessed can lights in my kitchen? My electrician says I must only use Halogen bulbs (50 watts max), and others tell me I can use any bulbs, including LEDs.

There are LED bulbs that are designed to be replacements for halogen bulbs. It is fine to use the LED replacement bulbs, because they have very low wattage. As long as you are not exceeding the 50-watt limit of your fixtures, it is fine to install LEDs. To see the best LED replacement bulbs, you should take one of your existing bulbs to a lighting professional at your local ALA-member lighting showroom.

What types of bulbs are available today for home lighting?

There are three basic types:

  1. Halogen incandescent

  2. CFL (compact fluorescent)

  3. LED (light-emitting diode)

The halogen incandescent is very similar to the traditional household incandescent bulb, except that it is somewhat more efficient.

The CFL is more efficient still, but its use is expected to decline because of the growing popularity of LEDs.

Today, the LED bulb is the most efficient, long-lasting and often the most suitable for home lighting. The new models look very similar to traditional bulbs. The slightly higher up-front cost of these bulbs is mitigated by their very long life.

We are remodeling our bathroom. What suggestions or advice do you have regarding the use of LED can lights in a bathroom?

Adding LED can lights is a very good idea. Be sure to select LED fixtures with a warm color. LEDs are available in a variety of color temperature options: 2700K, 3000K, 3500K and 4000K. To get the same warm color as incandescent lighting, choose 2700K. You may need to replace your dimmers with a type that can dim your LEDs. If you are purchasing new LED can lights manufactured by an ALA member, they will be able to recommend the best dimmer to optimize your lights.