18 Nov 2015

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing lighting for your home, with the two main principles being efficiency and design. These two factors must come into play if clever lighting is the goal, working together to create the right feel for your home, while minimising cost and your home’s environmental impact.

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing lighting for your home, with the two main principles being efficiency and design. These two factors must come into play if clever lighting is the goal, working together to create the right feel for your home, while minimising cost and your home’s environmental impact.

Lighting consumes 8-15% of the average household electricity bill, so the more efficient and well-designed the lighting, the more savings you can make and the more energy you’ll conserve.

Ideally, the amount of natural light entering your home will have been considered during the planning stages. The science of ‘daylighting’ deliberately uses daylight to reduce or negate the need for electric light, and this principle is something we feel strongly about here at Gemmill Homes. A goal of all new homes should be to require very little need for electric lighting during daylight hours.

But even the most well-built of homes require electric light at night. So what type of lighting do you choose?

There are three main types of lighting: ambient lighting, task lighting, and accent lighting. For the most effective lighting scheme, you’ll need a combination of all three types, something designers call “layering”.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting is the soft, evenly distributed glow that blankets your home in just enough light for your average night at home. It should be as natural and flat as possible, and allow you to get from room-to-room without any harsh glare.

When used correctly, ambient light creates a relaxing environment that’s perfect for unwinding after a hard day’s work.

Common ways to create ambient light include:

Recessed or track lights: As a low-profile ambient and direct lighting source, recessed lighting does its job so well that its praises often go unsung. The only issue is that it can sometimes cast harsh shadows on faces. Track lighting offers multiple light heads on a single bar or cable and is a classic choice of lighting. For ambient lighting, look for lights pointing in different directions.
Chandeliers and pendants: Working perfectly with high ceilings, chandeliers and pendants can create great ambient lighting and have the added bonus of making a statement. Great in foyers, the bedroom or over the tub in the bathroom, they hang from the ceiling and can be as subtle or as elaborate as you like.
Sconces and wall lights: Sconces and wall lights are so versatile that they’ll work almost anywhere. Great in hallways, patios and porches, sconces can direct light up or down depending on their design. If you’re still in the planning stages of your home, try to incorporate some sconces into your homes architecture.

Task lighting

Task lighting is smaller, more concentrated light, designed to help you perform certain tasks such as writing, reading, cooking, and sewing. Task lighting makes a working environment more pleasant, reducing eye strain and keeping areas well illuminated.

In kitchens, task lighting helps keep surfaces clean and safe, and may be used to help people read recipes while they cook. In living rooms and bedrooms, task lighting is generally used to make reading easier, while in offices, task lighting is needed to naturally stimulate the brain and keep you concentrated.

Common ways to create task lighting include:

Lamps: Portable lamps are great for distributing light wherever it is needed and can be placed on the floor, desk, bedside table, or anywhere else that may require a little extra light. Swing arm lamps allow you to adjust the light anyway you’d like.
Cabinet and vanity lights: Under cabinet lights work perfectly in the kitchen, illuminating surfaces used for chopping and preparing foods, while keeping harsh glare out of your eyes. Vanity lighting works well in the bathroom and on dressing mirrors.
Track lights: Track lights with adjustable light fittings are perfect for illuminating an office space where multiple tasks require increased light. They also work well above kitchen islands.
Pendant lights: Pendant lights work perfectly over a kitchen island or dining table, making eating at night a more enjoyable experience. They are also great for hanging either side of the bed to aid late-night reading.

Accent lighting

Accent lighting is designed to draw your attention to something, such as a piece of art, photograph, or sculpture. Used to create focal points, accent lighting creates a sophisticated atmosphere and adds drama to a room by creating visual interest.

Common ways to create accent lighting include:

Wall lights: Wall lights come in a variety of sizes, allowing you to highlight both big and small pieces. They work beautifully when pointed at art or photographs and can also be great for showcasing grand architecture.
Spot lighting: If you’re lucky enough to have a big, oversize piece of art, spot lighting can be used for illuminating the entire wall with light. Alternatively, you could try placing recessed lighting at the bottom of a feature wall to illuminate a beautiful brick texture or bay window.
Landscape lighting: Landscape lighting is used to highlight your outdoor spaces, as well as light up pathways for safe walking at night. Consider putting your landscape lighting on a dimmer, so you can lower the light when relaxing outdoors.

Choosing your bulbs

A “lamp” is the term used in the lighting industry to describe what is most commonly referred to as a light bulb. The key to energy savings and a reduced environmental footprint lies in the choice of your lamps.

Types of lighting include:

Incandescent: Incandescent lamps are often considered the least energy efficient, but they do possess a number of advantages. Incandescent bulbs are inexpensive, they turn on instantly, come in a huge array of sizes and shapes, and provide a pleasant, warm light with good colour rendition. They do, however, have very short life spans, making them more expensive in the long run compared with more modern types of lighting.
Fluorescent: Fluorescent lamps use 25-35% of the energy used by incandescent products yet provide a similar amount of light. They also last about ten times longer, lighting homes for up to 24,000 hours. The two general types of fluorescent lamps are:
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), commonly found with integral ballasts and screw bases.
Fluorescent tubes and circline lamps, typically used for task lighting or for lighting large spaces such as a garage or office building.
Outdoor solar: Outdoor solar lights are easy to install and virtually maintenance free. Plus, they won’t add a cent to your electricity bill. Outdoor solar lights are a popular choice for lighting up pathways, patios and driveways and come in the form of wall mounted lamps, freestanding lamp posts, and security spot lights.
Light-Emitting Diode (LED): The LED light is one of today’s most energy efficient and fast-developing forms of electric light. Quality LED bulbs last longer, are more durable, and offer better light than most other forms of lighting. Using highly energy efficient technology, LEDs use at least 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer than incandescent lamps.