Contrary to what many might think it’s not window treatments or furniture or wallpaper or expensive art objects that make or break your decor. It’s lighting. Think about it. Unless you work from home you’re out of the house most of the daylight hours which means when you are home you’re relying on artificial lighting most of the time. So that lighting better be up to the task. Also, most people entertain friends, neighbours and colleagues in the evening, so if the lighting isn’t up to snuff their expensive and otherwise well thought out interior decor is going to fall flat and go largely unnoticed and/or unappreciated. Both residential and commercial electricians know that lighting is the icing on the cake, the pimento in the olive and the perfect dessert to top off the meal. Without the right lighting all your home renovation efforts are largely for naught.
Table Of Contents
- A THREE-STAGE APPROACH FOR LIGHTING DESIGN
- BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
- GETTING WITH THE ENERGY SAVING PROGRAM
- ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS WHEN DESIGNING YOUR LIGHTING SCHEME
A Three-Stage Approach for Lighting Design
The importance of lighting should never be overlooked or dismissed. Virtually every aspect of your decor will depend on lighting to bring it to life. Lighting is the mortar that holds various components of the decor together. Without it what you have is a collection of elements that may well provide visual interest by themselves but don’t really coalesce. When approaching the design of a lighting scheme it’s important that you think of light in the way a painter does.
When a painter paints a picture they begin by roughing in the general parameters, establishing the boundaries and the basic areas of light and dark. They then proceed to add colour which creates visual interest and movement and they top off their work by adding highlights which create focal points and draw the eye toward important details. Good lighting is a three stage process that works the same way.
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- Stage 1: Ambient Light – Ambient light is used to “rough in” the lighting scheme of a space. Ambient light is “overall” light that establishes the basic parameters and provides you a lighting foundation to build upon. Ambient light lets you see where you’re going but doesn’t by itself establish mood or much by way of atmosphere. It’s the background of your painting and without it the rest of your lighting scheme will seem like little more than random fixtures in space.
- Stage 2: Task Lighting – Whereas you create a light foundation with ambient light task lighting is where you start to fill in the colours and textures. Task lighting, as its name implies, provides illumination for various tasks such as reading, food prep, grooming and more. Table lamps are task lighting because they provide light to read your magazine while sitting on the couch or to have a conversation. Task lighting fills in the spaces left by ambient light and goes a long way toward creating atmosphere, movement and mood.
- Stage 3: Accent Lighting – Accent lighting is how you add highlights to the room. They allow you to create focal points and other forms of visual interest. Without accent lights a lighting scheme is going to seem incomplete; just as a painting would without highlights. Accent lights are typically used to draw attention to paintings or prints on the wall, art objects on pedestals, houseplants or family keepsakes. Sometimes accent lights are used to highlight a textured surface or as way to augment window treatments. Track lighting is perhaps the most popular form of accent lighting. Commercial electricians use accent lighting all the time, often to dramatic effect.
Bringing it All Together
As residential electricians know every home is different, and even homes that are similar in design are occupied by people with different ideas and tastes. Therefore every lighting scheme is going to be slightly (and sometime radically) different in order to satisfy the needs of the space and the particular tastes of the occupant. That said let’s look at some of the most important aspects of lighting design when it comes to renovating your home. Keeping in mind the three ingredients of successful lighting we laid out above.
- Colour – Every colour in the room is going to be affected by the light either for better or for worse. Your job when designing a lighting scheme during your renovation project is to ensure the light works with the colours in the space and allows them to fulfil the aesthetic role they were designed to fill. Neither colours nor lighting should be handled in a vacuum. When determining which colours to use where always keep in mind how you intend to light them so that they will look their best when the sun goes down. If your new lighting scheme ignores the colour scheme your space will wind up looking bleached out and uninspired.
- Temperature – Closely related to colour concerns are concerns regarding temperature. Chances are you’ve heard the terms “cool white” and “warm white” when it comes to light bulbs. Whether a light has the effect of adding warmth or coolness depends on where it falls on the Kelvin scale. As commercial electricians know most commercial lights typically occupy 2000 to 6000 on the Kelvin scale.
- 2700 or thereabouts is generally considered “warm” (sometimes referred to as “soft”) white. These types of bulbs are used to create a feeling of warmth and comfort. If your goal is to create a cosy area in the space your light, fabrics, colours, and textures should all be in agreement. In other words there shouldn’t be any harsh or cool colours wrestling with the warm light for supremacy.
- At about 3500 on the Kelvin scale we enter the realm of “cool” light. This type of light may have a slight blue tint to it. We tend to perceive cool light as receding so if you want a space to feel a bit larger than it is you can wash a distant wall with cool light. It’s okay, even desirable, to have both warm and cool light in the same space. The important thing is that you employ them in a way that makes sense.
- Functionality – If it isn’t already clear from what we’ve covered up to this point we’ll state for the record that every light you introduce into your home needs to serve a function. Installing recessed lights simply based on some mathematical equation or because “everyone has them” isn’t good enough. Plopping table lamps down anywhere you can find a place for them isn’t going to work either. Each and every light must serve a function, whether that function is to delineate the boundaries of a space, illuminate a task, create a focal point or just provide safe passage.
- Space – As we mentioned a cool light washed across a distant wall can give the illusion that a space is bigger than it actually is. Conversely a warm light will give the impression something is closer than it is. You can use these two contrasting effects to create a sense of push and pull within a space that generates a sense of movement without anything or anyone actually moving. This type of spatial activation is one of the hallmarks of a superior lighting scheme and residential electricians can advise you on how to integrate it into your newly renovated home.
- Mood – It should go without saying that you want to set a different mood in the kitchen than you do in the living room, bathroom or bedroom. And that the mood you set in the bedroom isn’t necessarily one that’s going to work in the living room etc. So how do you use light to set the right mood? Higher light levels typically produce a more cheerful mood or one that is conducive to activity such as cooking or playing games in the basement rec room. While lower light levels lend a space an air of intimacy and relaxation. Skilful application of light can produce every type of mood from solemn to soulful to purposeful and playful. Always keep in mind the mood you want to create when you’re planning the lighting scheme for your renovated home.
Getting With the Energy Saving Program
There’s no time like during a renovation or remodel to make the switch from incandescent bulbs to LEDs. LEDs are the future of lighting and while there was some, perhaps understandable, reluctance to embrace this new technology when it first became widely available those days are gone. So when designing the new lighting scheme for your newly renovated home remember to make LEDs an integral part. Still not convinced? Okay. Here are 8 good reasons to let go of your reluctance and get on the LED energy saving bandwagon:
- LED bulbs last outrageously long – Commercial electricians have been engaged in retrofitting companies large and small with LED lights for several years now. They know that one of the key selling points for this new lighting technology is the incredibly longevity of the bulbs themselves; which aren’t really bulbs but Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). It’s not at all unusual for an LED light to last 20 years or even more. So while you may pay a bit more up front for an LED light you won’t have to replace it every year for the next 20 years like you will with an incandescent.
- They use almost no electricity – LEDs use only a fraction of the electricity of standard incandescents. That’s because they’re far more efficient when it comes to converting electricity into light energy than any other type of lighting technology currently available. In fact as much as 80% of the power they consume is used to create light energy. While with incandescents only 20% of the electricity they consume winds up producing light. The vast majority is converted into heat energy and essentially wasted. The difference you’ll see in your electric bill the first full month after installing LEDs will leave you wondering why you didn’t make the change sooner.
- Enhanced safety – Anyone who has ever tried to change an incandescent bulb after it blows knows the searing pain that accompanies burnt fingers. Even if the bulb doesn’t need changing anyone who comes in contact with an incandescent while it’s in use is going to wind up with a nasty burn. Because they generate so much heat energy incandescents also present a fire risk and countless house fires have traced their origin to incandescent bulbs being accidentally tipped over by people or pets. With LEDs there is no such hazard. You’ll never burn yourself on an LED light and the risk of an LED actually starting a fire is so remote as to be a non-issue. And one more thing; when you drop an incandescent bulb you have to deal with shards of broken glass and wonder if you missed any. There is no glass bulb to break with LEDs.
- They make creating focal points a breeze – LED light is by its very nature a much more focused light than that emitted by incandescents or fluorescents. LED light is clean and clear and directional and is the perfect type of light for creating focal points around the house. There’s no need to install cumbersome panels or reflectors to shepherd the light in a particular direction. LEDs do so naturally.
- They encourage innovation – Because they’re so compact, so efficient, so long lasting and the light they produce is so free of glare and effective LEDs encourage homeowners, designers and residential electricians to think about lighting in innovative ways. They’re perfect for illuminating individual stairs, for backlighting the flatscreen against the wall, for creating accent lights under the furniture or for embedding directly into the floor, walls and ceiling. If you can imagine it you can pretty much do it with LEDs.
- There’s no wear and tear – Typically turning a light on and off produces wear and tear on the bulb and can drastically shorten its life. Even energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs can have their lifespan cut by as much as 2/3 or more if they are turned on and off frequently. With LEDs there is no such issue. You can turn your LED fixture on and off every few minutes for years and it won’t have any effect on the lifespan of the light.
- They bring their own colour – Whereas with other forms of light you need to install filters in order to achieve various colour effects LEDs can be purchased that will assume whatever colour you want or need. A single LED light can be had that will produce virtually the entire spectrum of colours effortlessly and without the use of filter or other gimmicks. As a result there are virtually no limits on what you can do colour wise with LEDs to enhance or create specific moods or atmosphere.
- An energy efficient light for every purpose – What would you like to do with light in your newly renovated home? Would you like to create crystal clear focal points? Create task lighting that’s easy on the eyes? Create one of a kind cabinet lighting or stairway lighting? Would you like to wash a wall with a particular colour without having to use filters? How about lighting the inside of your inground swimming pool? All these things and many more are possible with LED lights. And because they’re so energy efficient, none of these will make a significant impact on your electric bill. So what are you waiting for? The highly trained residential electricians at Hotwire Electric are here to help you take advantage of this breakthrough technology.
Additional Considerations When Designing Your Lighting Scheme
- If your home is more than 40 years old you should seriously consider upgrading the wiring during the process of your renovation. While the more energy efficient lights you’ll be installing during the renovation will ease the stress on your electrical system to a degree many of today’s high tech devices are vulnerable to voltage dips. From a purely practical standpoint having more outlets providing adequate, steady power will make the lives of everyone in the home far more convenient.
- If you already have recessed lighting that puts the light where you want it you’ll only need to retrofit those fixtures with LED bulbs in order to bring them into the fold of the lighting scheme. This will save you having to pay residential electricians to tear up the ceiling.
- Regardless of what type of light you use to fulfil a particular function make sure everything is on dimmers. Dimmers help you extend the life of your lights, aid in the effective creation of atmosphere and mood and reduce energy consumption even beyond that which you’ll achieve from having LEDs or CFLs installed as part of your new lighting scheme.
When it comes to renovating your home there is no other single component of the redesign that will have as much influence on its success or failure as lighting. Talk to one of the experienced, knowledgeable residential electricians at Hotwire Electric about ways you can optimize your lighting to make your renovated home as comfortable, compelling and energy efficient as possible.
Want to convert your Home to Dream Home? Contact Hotwire Electric @ 416-553-5533