Good lighting is not just practical – it's also a way to embellish your home’s decor and colour scheme. From the entryway to the kitchen, the lighting in your home welcomes guests in and creates ambience while providing adequate illumination where needed. Outdoor lighting can be used to great effect to enhance the landscaping at night.
Lighting methods have evolved significantly in recent years, with the introduction of energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs as well as low-voltage light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which are especially suitable for areas that need concentrated lighting or in portable lamps.
If a light bulb breaks and the cap (the threaded cylinder that makes contact) remains stuck in the lamp or wall socket, make a tight ball out of newsprint and, wearing a thick glove, force it into the socket. Applying pressure to the paper ball, simply untwist the cap. When installing an outdoor bulb, apply a light coating of petroleum jelly to the socket to make later bulb removal easier.
Lighting has a significant effect on the colours in a home. A south-facing room lets sunlight or strong natural light into the home for much of the day. This allows for practically any colour scheme. In the north-facing rooms, colours and space are more difficult to balance, and designers will tend to use warmer colours in these areas. East-facing rooms will receive a lot of light in the morning but be darker in the evening. Lastly, rooms on the west side of the house will benefit from the setting sun but will be darker for the first half of the day.
As with all lighting fixtures, lamps require a bulb that is suitable in terms of style, intensity and safety. First, determine the type of bulb to be used: incandescent, fluorescent or halogen. Compact fluorescent bulbs are generally replacing incandescent bulbs, but always read the packaging to make sure the light produced corresponds to the amperage the lamp requires or what it can safely power. Select the intensity according to the lamp's function: you need stronger light over a work surface or for reading than you do for creating ambiance when watching television. The colour tone you choose is a question of personal preference.
Many people spend thousands of dollars on a new kitchen, only to light the space with a standard, overhead fixture. A properly lit kitchen should be a mixture of function, style and mood. The work stations – island, sink, stove and other areas that require close-up concentration – should be covered by task lighting on tracks or in the form of recessed pot lights. Under the cabinets, low-voltage “puck” lights provide bright light that will not flood to other areas. Use wall sconces in food preparation areas or places where you move between work stations. Finally, a softer overhead light will illuminate dark areas around the appliances when natural light leaves in the evening.
In the bathroom, focused light is needed around the sink area with mid-range lighting elsewhere and, if the room is large, an overhead light either alone or part of a fan unit. Vanity lights should be on either side of the mirror aligned with the height of your face or, by default, 60" above the floor. On the ceiling above the mirror use track lighting, which can be adjusted to send light vertically downwards on your face and prevent shadows. Mid-range lighting in a large bathroom can take the form of wall sconces with lenses to match the bathroom decor.
The most common energy-efficient lighting types on the market today are compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), light emitting diodes (LEDs) and energy-saving incandescent bulbs. CFLs use as little as 25% of the energy consumed by regular incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. LEDs may use as little as 15% of the energy of traditional bulbs and produce no heat, so they can be used in places where heat could be a problem or fire hazard. For even greater savings, consider installing a system that uses a photoelectric eye to turn lights on and a timer that switches them off.
Used light bulbs should be disposed of in specific ways, depending on their type. Incandescent bulbs can be placed in a cardboard container and thrown into the garbage. Compact fluorescent bulbs and long fluorescent tubes, which contain mercury, must be disposed of in a recycling facility to prevent poisonous gases from contaminating the earth or air.
Fixed lighting may not always be sufficient for close-up jobs such as painting or working in dark corners. With the arrival of halogen and LEDs, which use much less power than the old incandescent bulbs, portable lamps and flashlights are enjoying a revival. Regular flashlight batteries now provide up to 10 times the luminance that the old flashlights could deliver. And because they use only a fraction of the energy, portable lamps are now available with small solar panels to recharge the batteries.
Many large resorts use coloured lighting to create beautiful landscaping effects. Now, with the increased availability of low-voltage light systems, homeowners can transform their properties in a similar way. The key is to plan your lighting scheme well and to choose a controller that will handle the power, number of lights and the changing scenes. Decide which focal points or areas of interest you want to illuminate. Start with discreet touches and add more lights as you develop your garden.
Whether you have 8' or 9' ceilings, the recommended minimum height for a wall sconce is between 5' 6" and 5' 9". Wall lamps are perfect for lighting a room effectively and take up no floor space. They are easy to install and can be used to highlight wall decorations, for example by lighting both sides of a picture frame.
Whether it is a chandelier or a drum pendant light, the fixture over your dining table should not exceed the width of the table less 12". As an example, for a 36" x 54" table, the maximum diameter of the fixture should be 24". A light fixture does more than provide light – it decorates and sets the tone of a room.