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Lighting Guide

Part 1


There has always been some confusion about how much light you get from the different types of light bulb and how much energy they consume.

The new breed of compact fluorescent (or ‘low energy’) lamps will only use around 11 watts of power to generate the same light as a normal 60 watt light bulb and they last up to eight times longer.

There is no doubt at all that they save you money over the life of the lamp. A halogen bulb uses about half the energy of a conventional light bulb to generate the same amount of light.

A recent breakthrough in technology has resulted in the appearance of very bright LED lights. These are very small but relatively bright for their size and have a life often in excess of 50,000 hours.

They are yet to appear in any number in domestic lighting but it is only a matter of time

General Tips on Lighting your Home:

Many people spend a great deal of money decorating and furnishing their homes to create an atmosphere only to find that something is missing. Good lighting will complement and complete the effect you are seeking but remember the bright lighting is not always good lighting.

A light source creates a pool of light but there is a second effect produced when this light is reflected by surfaces. It is the secondary effect which cannot be reproduced in the shop where you buy your lights. Consider where you are to put the light and the surfaces under and around it. What effect will the reflected light have?

Avoid hard contrasts which can be tiring to the eyes and, where possible, try to combine different types of lighting in the same room. Direct lighting for reading or working, pools of light to highlight features such as paintings or objects and washes of light on walls all help to add atmosphere to a room whilst remaining functional.

If a room has to perform several function, consider installing a dimmer. This will allow a higher light level for working or reading and a lower light level for relaxation. This can prove useful too for older eyes which need more light.

Color is most important, incandescent bulbs help create a cozy atmosphere in living areas while fluorescent lamps give a cooler, more efficient light for utility rooms. A room painted in a dark color will need more light as much of it will be absorbed, whilst lighter colors reflect light. You can add color to a room by illuminating a colored surface.

Avoid glare by placing the lights at a height which prevents the eye from seeing the bulb directly. Pendants should not be hung so high that the bulb is clearly visible underneath. Take care that lights place over reflective surfaces such as glass tables have a diffuser in them.

How Much Light?

Determining the correct light levels for a home environment is a very complicated subject and depends to a degree on the individuals perception and requirements. The formula below, however, can be used as a rule of thumb.

Measure the room size in square metres (yards) and multiply this by 25 (for incandescent lamps) 15 (for halogen lamps) or 19 (if using compact fluorescent lamps). This will give you the total watts required to light the room.

Please note that this formula is a guide only and some people prefer more light, others less.

A useful measure is to over estimate by 10-15% and install a dimmer to give you more control.

Room by Room

Different rooms have different functions; accordingly each room will have a different lighting requirement. The following guide will help you decide which light sources you need for each room in your house…

Living Room:

Avoid using one central light which will create hard shadows and possibly glare. Instead aim to use plenty of different light sources to create pools of light, this will give a more interesting effect.

Let’s start with where you sit. An adjustable reading light beside or behind your chair which can be switched whilst seated will prove invaluable. If it can be adjusted for height, even better. Two or three table lamps placed around the perimeter on tables, shelves or furniture will give the room a more spacious feeling as the light radiates inwards. These small pools of light also create interest.

Illuminate bookcases, pictures of objects of interest with picture lights or halogen spotlights. This indirect lighting of a different color will add contrast.

Wall lights and pendants on a dimmer switch can raise the level of illumination in the room without needing to adjust any of the other light sources but beware of glare if they are mounted too high. Indirect light from wall washers (light fittings designed to light the wall and ceiling often made in ceramic or plaster) will create dramatic effects.

Remember that the light given from wall washers will be colored by the surfaces on which they are mounted.

Floor lamps come in many guises and can be very effective at adding general illumination to a dark area where it is not easy to fit wall lights, ceiling lights or table lamps. A floor up-lighter gives a bright wash on ceiling. Some are fitted with dimmers and other have a second flexible arm for reading.


We spend most of our time in the kitchen and it has multiple functions, many of which require can to avoid accidents.

A higher level of illumination is required here. Fluorescent tubes under wall mounted units cast an efficient light over work surface and prevent shadows. They also ensure you are not blocking out the very light in which you need to work.

A central light is also important in a kitchen to provide a general level of illumination and, if you have the space, the use of halogen spot lights mounted on the wall will help to add accent.

If you have glass fronted display cabinets in your kitchen the use of small halogen lights specially designed for the purpose will add interest.

If your ceiling in low or you want to avoid a central light, consider the use of a number of down-lights which create a glare free and pleasing effect whilst remaining functional.

Dining Room:

The main light source here will be over the dining table. The use of a dimmer will allow the table to be used for jobs such as sewing and yet give a low mood light for dining.

Don’t hang a pendant so low that your diners have to peer round it, about 25 inches (60cm) above the table is about right. Better still fit a rise & fall pendant.

If you like to dine by candle light, make sure the heat and smoke are far enough away from the light fitting.

If you have a glass dining table, make sure the light is fitted with a diffuser so that your diners are not looking at a reflection of the light bulb.

Long tables can be very effectively lit with a longer light fitting suspended on two wires.