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Lighting Tips


Bathroom Lighting Tips

The bathroom has become a personal retreat that is used for a variety of activities, including grooming, bathing, and exercising, or just a relaxing escape. A combination of different lighting techniques will provide your effective lighting for all these activities while enhancing the overall look of the bathroom. Effective lighting for your daily grooming tasks is important. The mirror, sink and counter area of the bathroom is the primary task area.

For a large mirror and a double sink vanity a long horizontally mounted vanity light will provide sufficient shadow free illumination light for two people. Idea height for a vanity strip mounting is 78" off the floor.

To light a smaller powder room you can use a suitable sized decorative vanity strip mounted above the mirror or decorative wall sconces mounted on either side of the mirror. Wall sconces should be mounted between 60" to 70" off the floor and should be mounted no further than 30" apart to avoid shadows. Wall sconces and tulip bars may be available with mix and match glassware for your style considerations. Recessed lighting over the mirrors is nice but only if used in conjunction with wall lights. Recessed alone will produce shadows on the face.

Lighting in the shower or tub should be bright enough for safety, grooming, and reading labels on soap, and shampoos. Mini chandeliers are now very popular in the bathroom; however check with your local building codes concerning lighting in the tub area.

Bedroom Lighting Tips

A combination of general and task lighting that takes into account the age and lifestyle of the occupant is needed. Remember, dimming controls give you flexibility to vary the light to suit different moods and activities.

General lighting can be provided by ceiling fixtures, chandeliers, fan lights, recessed down lights, or wall sconces, giving you the illumination you need. Ceiling fans are very popular in bedrooms but make sure you get a good fan that makes no noise.

At the dressing table, an adjustable, lighted magnifying mirror will provide ideal lighting for grooming and applying makeup. For closets, a surface mounted or recessed closet light is suggested.

Swing-arm wall lamps on either side of the bed will provide adequate light for reading, while leaving night tables free for a clock radio and books. Another idea is to hang pendants next to the bed, or install recessed down lights in the ceiling over the bed.

Children's rooms will benefit from the use of track lights, which can be swiveled, rotated, and aimed in any direction to shed light on play areas, hobbies or homework.

Ceiling Fans Lighting Tips

A well known brand from a respected factory would not have sloppy construction causing clicks and hums or second grade ball bearings which cause a grinding noise. A good fan usually has a dual or triple capacitor which helps cut down the 60 cycle hum caused by the speed control. Another thing to look out for is the blades, warped blades and blades of inconsistent weights cause wobbles.

An increase pitch of blades with a corresponding increase in motor capacity will increase air flow dramatically whereas a cheaper fan with less pitch and a lighter duty motor may look nice but throws less air. Another method to make a cheap fan would be use a motor designed for a 42" fan and use blades from a 52" fan, this would create too much drag on the motor and would slow the fan down lessening its usefulness. Air flow difference between a 4 blade and a 5 blade is too small to worry about instead concern yourself more with the motor size and blade pitch.

Dual mount stem drop fans, this means you can mount them as a stem drop using the stem or as a close up fan without using the down rod. Vaulted ceiling canopies and the availability of extra length down rods. Now most (all) stem drop fans can be mounted on vaulted ceilings usually with the extra purchase of a longer down rod, the blade on the lower side should miss the ceiling by a minimum 6" to a preferred 12.

Most building codes require a flush to the ceiling fan if your ceiling is 7'6" or lower is you are 8' or higher you should use a standard drop fan because flush mounting a fan will cause it to lose about 1/3 of its air flow.

Ceiling fans can be used in almost any room of the home, they will not only cut down on your cooling costs in the summer but also it will save on your heating bill in winter. There are also fans made for outdoor use, be advised do not use an indoor fan for outside, its lifespan will be dramatically reduced and the warranty will be voided.

Sizing a fan is very simple... a room up to 10'x10' will use from a 32" to 42", a room up to 12'x12' will use a 42" to 48", larger than a 12'x12' should use at least a 52" or larger. Also if you have a very tall ceiling (2 story) try to get the best, strongest motor in your budget.

Desk Lamp Lighting Tips

Desk lamps come in many sizes, shapes and colors. They use a multitude of different types of light sources including fluorescent for a wide even light, halogen for extra bright concentrated light, or incandescent for a somewhat concentrated and somewhat even light. Points to consider in choosing a desk lamp are: where is the base going to sit or the clamp to clamp on, is the arm long enough and flexible enough to get you the light where you need it and out of your way when you don't need it, and what kind of light you are going to need for your task at hand. Desk lamps are usually considered a secondary light source for a home, a primary source such as a cloud fluorescent fixture, or better still halogen track lighting, should definitely be used to prevent eye strain and headaches.

Dining Room Lighting Tips

A chandelier is the focal point of the dining room. Suspended over the dining table, it serves as a decorative style element that enhances the beauty of your fine furnishings. When the light is dimmed a soft glowing atmosphere similar to candlelight is created. If equipped with a down light the chandelier provides task lighting for the table and accent lighting for the centerpiece.

Recessed or track lighting provides general lighting while enabling you to highlight prized possessions throughout a room. A ring of four recessed down light around the dining table supplements the light from the chandelier, while providing accent light for your tableware. The white light of low-voltage fixtures and tungsten-halogen bulbs will make your silverware and crystal sparkle.

To determine the size chandelier you need, simply measure the width of your table and subtract 12". Now this is your target size however you can go a little larger or smaller depending on the size of the room. Also the bottom of the chandelier should be 30"-36" of the top of the table... make sure you factor in at least a few links of chain. Don't forget about a medallion on the ceiling for a dressed up look.

Fluorescent Lighting Tips

Fluorescent fixtures come in many styles, from clouds and sunshine ceilings in the kitchen to wall sconces in the living room and desk lamps in the home office, for the many different lighting jobs you may have around the house, be it general illumination, decorative and even task lighting. They create light quite differently than an incandescent bulb in their light output. Fluorescents can save you a lot in energy costs over the life of the fixture; however their downside has always been the color of light they give off. Even with today's warm light bulbs you just don't get the same warmth that standard bulbs can give you. However if energy savings is important there is a fluorescent made for just about any application including decorative outdoor.

Flush/Semi Flush Lighting Tips

Flush light fixtures are fixtures that are mounted right tight up against the ceiling, while semi-flush light fixtures, although still close to the ceiling drop about 12" (30cm) from the ceiling, in an attempt to increase the amount of ambient light you get reflected off the ceiling. Flush & semi-flush light fixtures are usually found in: hallways, entry hallway, living room, and family room.

Foyer Lighting Tips

Your entrance hall should have a warm, welcoming feeling. Ceiling or wall lights are the best options for ambient light. Stairs should be well lit to avoid accidents. Track or recessed lights might be used to highlight architectural features, paintings, or "objects d'art." Light fixtures designed for your foyer, cathedral entrance, or stair well are usually chandeliers with 2 or 3 tiers of arms, sized to suit the area they're meant to fill. It is usually a longer variation of your dining room chandelier, be it a brass, crystal, or even an iron chandelier. If your ceiling height is between 8' to 9' feet your best to use a larger semi flush, hence giving your the feel of a chandelier but not the height. In a 2 story foyer multiply length by width of the room then divide by 4.5; this will give you in inches the approximate width of the fixture to use. The bottom of the fixture should be no lower than 9' or 10' from the floor. Other light fixtures that might be used in foyers include wall sconces.

Hallways should have a light every 8-10 ft. or one in every bend of the hall; it usually is a flush or semi-flush mount fixture that matches the foyer fixture. Stair wells and hallways should be wired with three-way switches at both ends of the hallway or top and bottom of the stair well for your personal safety.

Kitchen Lighting Tips

A large ceiling fixture, equipped with energy efficient fluorescent tubes will supply plenty of well diffused general lighting, but it may leave you working in your own shadow at the sink, range, and countertops. These areas need supplemental task lighting.

At the sink and range, an individual recessed down light or a small decorative fixture will give you enough light.

Dinettes, nooks, and island counters can be lit with mini pendants, small chandeliers, or increasingly popular are decorative mini chandeliers. Over your kitchen table decide first if the table will be used for just eating or will there be a lot of homework, bill paying, and reading done there. If so you will want to consider a chandelier with the lights facing down, or with a separate down light that will help with tasks done at the table.

Under cabinet lighting is ideal for countertops. Mount as close to the front of the cabinets as possible to avoid glare reflecting off work surfaces. This will also help avoid the shadow effect from the main light source.

Landscape Lighting Tips

You plant flowers and shrubs, build patio decks and swimming pools in an effort to enhance the beauty of your home. Landscape lighting allows you to show of your home and enjoy the outdoors once the sun goes down. It can highlight trees or shrubs and give dramatic effect to fountains, statues, or other landscape focal points. Along with the decorative benefits there are practical benefits as well, safety, security and investment. The popularity of landscape lighting is due to the ease of installation, the safety, the fashion and the affordability of the low voltage style garden lights or now also solar powered garden lights. As with other lighting jobs, there are many different types of landscape lighting fixtures to fill the many different lighting tasks you may find around your yard and many different techniques to use them on.

To help you decide what types of landscape lighting you need, here are a few important guidelines to consider:

  • Where ever possible conceal the light source.
  • Don't over light the subject just highlight it.
  • Use photo cells or timers to turn your lights off and on.
  • Don't aim lights are your neighbor's property.
  • Be creative, use many different lighting techniques.

Types of Landscape Lights

  • Mushroom Lights - These fixtures have a wide shade to conceal the light bulb, ideal for lighting areas of low flowers, or areas of decorative ground color.
  • Tier Lights - These fixtures have tiers of rings that both cast the light downward as well as shield the eyes from light bulb glare, ideal for garden paths and stairs.
  • Well Lights - These fixtures are designed to be buried in the ground and through the light upwards, ideal for grazing the light up a tree's bark.
  • Globe Lights - These fixtures have the light bulb enclosed in a globe with no metal shade, it is designed to throw the light in every direction for a diffused general illumination, ideal around hot tubs or swimming pools.
  • Flood Lights - These are designed to throw all the light in one direction, ideal for most of your more decorative lighting techniques.

Easy to Install

With low voltage systems there is no need for complex wiring. Simply plug the transformer into a power source, run the main cable into the ground and hook-up the lights using quick connectors. No cutting, ripping or splicing of wires is necessary. If after the installation you find you want to change something it's easy to re-route the cable and try it in another location. The maintenance and troubleshooting of low voltage systems are quite easy as well.

Transformers

The transformers should be used to at least half of their rated capacity, as a decrease in capacity increases the output voltage resulting in a shortening of the light bulb's life. Most transformers include built in automatic timers to turn themselves on and off again after a set time. Some only have on/off switches, but some include built-in photo controls to turn themselves on at dusk and off at dawn. Some even include motion sensors to turn themselves on when they detect movement.

Cables

The gauge of the cable should be increased (a smaller number) with both the increase in wattage as well as length of run from the transformer. With too small a gauge of cable you will notice that the lights farther down the cable to be dimmer than those closer to the transformer, this is called voltage drop. The rule of thumb to prevent voltage drop would be not to use the 16 gauge cable for more than 150 watts, or for more than 100 feet, or not to use the 14 gauge cable for more than 250 watts, or for more than 200 feet. Another way to reduce voltage drop would be to make multiple shorter runs of cable from the transformer instead of one long run. You can also run the cable straight out from the transformer then making wire connections you can form a "T" which would result in an overall shorter length of cable. Yet another method to maintain even bulb brightness would be to have the cable circle the yard connecting both the beginnings and the ending ends of the cable to the transformer, watching that you match the polarity of the cable. Note: make sure any wire connectors used are ones rated for wet locations.

Safety

low voltage systems offer safety; bare terminals and cables running throughout the garden can be touched without risk of electrical shock. A real concern if you have small children or pets playing outside during the summer months. Note: the cover over the receptacle that the timer is plugged into should be the one that covers the plug as well as the receptacle keeping everything water tight.

Economical

Low voltage systems use low wattage bulbs, some use wedge based light bulbs, while others use bayonet based light bulbs, halogen bulbs are also quite popular, and all are very energy efficient. Low voltage landscaping lights also require no special wiring and there is no need to dig deeper trenches for cables, nor a need to encase the cable conduit.

Fashion

Low voltage systems also come in a variety of styles from contemporary to old world styles, and a variety of finishes.

Solar Powered Landscape Lights

Solar powered landscape lights are lights that are powered by light from the sun, the solar cells charge up the nickel cadmium batteries, when it gets dark the NiCad batteries power the light emitting diodes. The NiCad batteries do give a respectable life each night, (providing the initial charge was a good one) the main advancement in battery life must be the doing away with light bulbs and using LEDs. Solar lights may just fill that otherwise inaccessible location, you know, that second turn in the garden path where the stepping stones cross over the pond, where it would be next to impossible to run a cable. They certainly help to show the beauty of your yard, but they are not bright enough to create your more dramatic effects of highlighting trees or fountains.

Outdoor Lighting Tips

A well-lit entrance enables you to greet guests. Wall lanterns on each side of the door will provide a warm, welcoming look, while assuring safety. Under a porch or other overhang you can use recessed close-to-ceiling or chain hung fixtures.

A separate rear entrance can be lighted with a wall lantern installed over the keyhole. To conserve energy, consider using high-intensity discharge or compact fluorescent light sources like mercury vapor or high pressure sodium, although these are usually decorative in appearance.

For safety and security, install a wall fixture on the top gables of your home with a motion sensor attached.

Low-level path lights, which spread circular patterns of light, will brighten the walkway, while highlighting nearby flower beds and shrubs. Low level path lights can also be used for long driveways.

Lighting Style Tips

Where would light fixtures be if people looked at them as an assembly of miscellaneous electrical hardware and glassware, but they don't the lighting industry is very much a fashion industry. As with any fashion industry you have trends, styles and current styles and trends influencing new designs which starts yet new trends and styles. The style of your light fixture should compliment your furniture, whether or not you're following a style theme or just picking what you like, they should go together. You don't want colors to clash, or to mix a formal looking item with a casual looking item. Your local lighting professional should be able to help you navigate through the style world to make the right choice for your home, but here is a brief outline of some of the styles that you might find out there.

TRADITIONAL - They are typically ornate with classic lines, made of materials that never go out of style. They have a sense of tradition and heritage.

HI TECH - Black & chrome, sleep straight lines, simple geometric design, the 50's view of space age.

CONTEMPORARY - Similar to modern with broader range of color and material, softer lines, ore organic form.

TRANSITIONAL - This is somewhere between contemporary and traditional.

COUNTRY - Casual, warm, a country design usually brings to mind that home and hearth feeling. For some it might mean the French farmhouse, the English country house, or just the rough timbers and ironwork of the American country.

VICTORIAN - late 1800s style with ornate metal work, fringed shades, and old oil lantern type globes.

SOUTHWEST - This is the casual country style taken from the American old west with cowboy and native American themes. The colors and materials look like they were bleached by the California sun, blasted by a Nevada sand storm, and rusted by the Seattle rain.

ARTS & CRAFTS - This is a style dating from the late 1800's using the pre-industrialized world's hand fabricated techniques, finely wrought iron, simple vertical lines, and craftsmanship. It's the inspiration of architects like Frank Lloyd Wright.

MISSION - The mission style encompasses the honest handcraft elements of Shaker, Prairie, and the Arts & Crafts styling... It was inspired by 3 designers, Gustav Stickley, Charles Rennie Macintosh, and Frank Lloyd Wright. The Mission style is identified by its simplicity of clean design, and rectilinear form and function.

GOTHIC - A formal look, heavy ornate castings, crystal, black irons with scroll work and silk shades.

ROMANTIC/COUNTRY FRENCH - A feminine look, pastel colors, floral shades, tassel accents, and fine porcelain.

NEO CLASSIC - Neo Classic design combines the classic designs of ancient Greece and Rome with modern finishes. Neo Classic lighting design fits in with the Transitional style.

COLONIAL/EARLY AMERICAN - simple flowing designs mostly in brass metals or black iron, these styles were developed in the early years of the original colonies, the most popular being the Williamsburg style of fixtures.

DECO - a style originating from the united states in the early 1920s, long sweeping curves with sharp edges and corners very modern in its day and today is still considered to be a contemporary look.

Table & Floor Lamp Lighting Tips

Table lamps are those lamps that sit on tables and floor lamps are lamps hat stand on the floor. The majority of both types all have 3 way sockets and need 3 way light bulbs although there are models that use regular incandescent bulbs, fluorescent bulbs, or halogen bulbs. Your standard table or floor lamp (not including the touchier lamp) consists of two main parts; the lamp base, and the lamp shade held together with a harp and a finial. The lamp base may come in many different styles, shapes, colors, finishes, and heights, most of which is chosen from a decorative point of view, just as important as is your carpet floor, or wall covering choices, the only functional consideration is that it holds the light bulb and the lamp shade at the height where they're needed.

The lamp shade also come in many different styles, shapes, colors, sizes, and made of a number of different materials, sure a lot of this is chosen from a decorative point of view as well, but there are a few functional decisions to consider, for example; is the going to shade your eyes from the light, is it going to allow the light to shine through and upwards to light up the room, or is it going to allow ample light downwards to read with. To generally light up the room you want a shade with a wide top opening and/or made with a light translucent material of a light color to let shine upwards and/or outwards. Make sure that shades with wide top openings are of a height or in a position that the glare of the bulb out the top is not going to be in view. Shades that are used to read with are usually tapered to direct the light downwards, translucency and light colors are not of importance, they should have a white inside color but any color (including black) is fine for the outside of the shade. The bottom of the shade should be below eye level while sitting and the taper of the shade should be wide enough to throw the light on your reading material.

Tiffany Lighting Tips

Tiffany lights, a great source of decorative lighting, are now available in many styles, shapes, sizes, colors, and methods of construction. They are traditional, mission, and contemporary styles, there are tiffany fixtures designed for over dining room or kitchen tables, others for over kitchen islands or pool tables, and still others for in hallways or stairwells, and tiffany lamps that would suit; living rooms, bedrooms, or even office desks. Sizes could vary from a small 6" diameter bedside lamp to a 60" oval pool table tiffany. As far as colors go they're always keeping up with the latest trends. The three most common methods of construction are:

  • "Copper Foil" - (the traditional method popularized by Mr. Tiffany) - the pieces of glass are wrapped in copper foil and soldered together. The copper foil appears as thin black lines between the glass panels, look for thin consistent; soldering.
  • "Brass Channel" - A "U" shaped channel of; solid brass is wrapped around the glass panels and then soldered together. The brass channel doesn't bend as easy, so the cut of glass tends to have more straight lines with only gentle curves. The soldering is usually on the inside, sometimes only at the corners where the glass panels meet other times along the entire length of the glass panel. The brass channel is usually left unfinished and the soldering may or may not be painted brass.
  • "Lead Channel" - An "H" shaped channel of lead is easily bent around the glass panels and then soldered together. Seeing that the lead channel bends easier than the brass channel more intricate designs are possible at a less labor intensive price as the copper foil style tiffany. After the tiffany is assembled it is then plated (usually brass plated) and sprayed with a clear lacquer paint to keep the finish looking new.

All Tiffanies, regardless of style, make use of a warm blend of colored art glass, stained glass, beveled glass, and rich tiffany glass and all tiffanies have the warmth and character of style to transform a house into a home.

Stained Glass

Stained glass as an art form is the arrangement of different colored glass panes held in place by narrow lead strips and enclosed in a metal framework. Stained glass became a major part of Gothic church architecture. Earlier churches had flat walls covered with mural paintings or mosaics. In Gothic construction ribs and shafts freed walls from bearing much of the building's weight, allowing stained glass to be used as a kind of translucent mural. Although the use of colored glass in windows began in Roman times, the technique now known as stained glass is an innovation of the 9th and 10th centuries. In the 19th century renewed interest in the Gothic period led to the restoration of existing monuments and the building of new churches in the Gothic style. At the end of that century, Louis Comfort Tiffany had made stained glass a popular form of interior decoration.

Tiffany, Louis Comfort (1848-1933), Stained-glass artist, born in New York City; son of Charles Louis Tiffany; invented Tiffany favorite glass and popularized stained glass for interior use. The "Tiffany Lamp" was named after him.

Track Lighting Tips

Track lighting is a system of "heads" (light fixtures) and "track." The heads just clip onto the track anywhere along the track you want and can be turned and adjusted for any direction you want the light to shine.

Other light fixtures you can clip onto your track and mini-pendants, these add a decorative, ambient flair to a normally task oriented lighting system. You can add extra lengths to the track in either straight runs or around corners with the use of joiner pieces. The track can also be cut for custom sizing, and you can add more heads to get just the effect you're after... The heads come in a variety of sizes and styles (gimbal, round back, cylinder, universal, soft square) and use a variety of different light bulbs, to suit different rooms and to accomplish different jobs. The power can usually be fed to anywhere along the track. Track lighting is ideas task lighting for; kitchen counters, desks and work stations or indirect accent lighting, bouncing off of; fireplaces, feature walls, paintings and "objects d'art." The bulbs used in track lighting are called reflector bulbs, which are available both as floods for a wide beam, or spots for narrow beams. There is also available fixed track lighting, although the heads may be able to point where needed, and may be quite stylish, the quantity of the heads and the length of the track is fixed with no add-on options, it remains the length that it was when you first bought it, with the same quantity of heads. The most popular type of track lighting right now is halogen track lighting. Another popular type of track is called rail or cable lighting, these individual lights hook onto a long slender rail that can be bent in exotic shapes around the room.

Wall Lighting Tips

They can be used in just about any area of the home and will serve as a primary source of decorative - ambient light or as a supplementary accent light. Sconces are available in a wide variety of styles, shapes and sizes and can coordinate with most chandelier and fixture designs. They should not be overlooked in your lighting plan as they can be used to provide a variety of effects from subtle to dramatic. Wall sconces are usually mounted at about head height, a little higher for those that are open from the top and a little lower for those that are open from the bottom.