Creating a lighting plan
If you're building a new home or doing major renovation work, plan and cater for the lighting at the same time as the plumbing. Most of us have to work with fixtures that are already there, but with a little strategic thinking it's perfectly possible to get lighting that works for you.
Begin by going round the house with a notepad and pen. In each room, ask yourself...
- What do I use this space for? Think about all its possible uses - your lounge might have to double up as a study, the children might need to do their homework or music practice in there, you might knit or sew or use part of the room as a studio. Do you tend to eat in the kitchen or on your lap in front of the television?
- What's on display in each room? Do you have a specific picture or plant you want to make a feature of? Note it all down, because this will determine your accent lighting.
- Who uses this room? A 60 year old uses 15 times more light for reading than a ten year old.
- At what times of day will people be in this room?
- Where does the natural light come in?
Now take a piece of graph paper and draw a plan of your room to help you work out the best places to put your lights. It's better if it's to scale but it doesn't have to be.
- Mark immoveable fixtures, such as fireplaces, alcoves, doors and windows
- Next, mark with arrows which way people are likely to be facing - towards the television, for example, at a desk for working or towards the window if they like reading in a particular chair.
- Mark the existing sockets. In many houses there aren't enough, which can result in dangerously overloaded plugs
- To determine your circuits, mark where the light switches should be. Work logically round the entry and exit points in your home - it's frustrating when you have to feel around in the dark for a switch that is either on the wrong side of the door or non-existent.
- Mark out where you'll place large pieces of furniture, such as sofas and beds.
- Think about practicalities such as how you're going to change the bulb. What if you live in a room with extra-high ceilings or in a loft-style apartment and the spotlights are 20ft high in the air?
Although you're treating each room as an individual space, you should also take the overall feel of your home into account. For example, it's dangerous to go straight from one brightly lit room into one that's completely. Use light to link rooms together.
Beware of making your plan too complicated. You can use a single light for several purposes by angling the beam in different directions.
Take this lighting plan with you when you go shopping for fixtures and fittings.
Do you want to turn all your lights on with a single switch or do you want to operate them individually? What about dimmers?
Ideally you should fit several circuits in each room, each with a dimmer switch and no more than two lights, which are controlled from a wall-mounted panel. Try not to place more than three switches on a panel or you'll never remember what they're all for.
Low Voltage Lighting
Although low voltage lighting, 12volt, which requires a transformer, can be dimmed, however, it is important to use the type of dimmer switch which is compatible with the transformer in the fitting. Please contact us for our advice on which type of dimmer to use with any low voltage lights you might be interested in purchasing.(* see Dimmers below)
All mains voltage halogen lamps, such as GU10, G9, or R7s tubes work with any regular dimmer switch ( appropriate wattage)
Handling Halogen lamps
Always handle halogen light bulbs with either the sleeve they come in, a tissue, or clean cloth, as any dirt or grease from finger contact can reduce the lamp life considerably.
Lamps (light bulbs)
All halogen and energysaving lighting is supplied complete with the correct lamps, for all other fittings, wall lights, contemporary table lamps, or floor standing lamps which use tungsten lamps (e.g. wattage / golf ball / candle etc.) will need to be ordered seperately.
All warranties given for outdoor lighting are not applicable to fittings used in exposed coastal areas.
It is important to understand the rating system by which bathroom lights are classified, IP rating stands for "Ingress Protection" and is always followed by two characters. These two numbers refer to the level of protection and it is important that you choose fittings with the correct rating according to where they are to sited within the bathroom.
Zone 0 - is inside the bath or shower itself. Any fitting used in this Zone must be low voltage , (max 12v) and be rated at least IP67 which is immersion proof.
Zone 1 - is the area above the bath to a height of 2.25m from the floor. in this Zone a minimum rating of IP44 is required.
Zone 2 - is an area stretching 0.6m outside the perimeter of the bath and to a height of 2.25m from the floor. In this zone an IP rating of at least IP44 is required.
Zone 3 - does not require an IP rating although we would recommend you choose an IP44 rated fitting.
In addition it is good practice to consider the area around a wash basin, within a 60cm radius of any tap as Zone 2.
Also, the location above Zone 1 (over the bath or shower) up to a ceiling height of 3m should be classified as Zone 2.
Note: The lighting circuit within a bathroom should be protected with a 30ma residual current device (RCD).
Most fittings using incandescent lamps can be dimmed, generally fluorescent lamps cannot be dimmed unless specialist control gear is fitted.
All dimmers will produce some buzzing or noise at either the dimmer or the light fitting. This is quite normal and does not indicate a fault.
* wire wound transformer (torroidial) - need an inductive dimmer
* electronic trailing edge transformer - need a trailing edge / phase lagging dimmer
* electronic leading edge transformer - need a leading edge dimmer
* Warning - Universal dimmers may not be suitable for all transformers
Dedicated low energy lamps are designed to operate with fittings which contain control gear that is designed to operate these 'pin based' flourescent lamps. These fittings have unique lampholder types which are only suitable for the type of lamp detailed in the specification. They come in several different shapes dependent on the lampholder. They consume around 20% of the energy used by a conventional incandescent lamp and have a life of between 10 & 15 times longer ( dependent on the specific lamp).
"Retro fit" low energy lamps are available to suit many of the common lampholder types (BC,SBC,ES,SES, GU10) and are suitable for use in many fittings. They are flourescent lamps, similar in operation and energysaving to the dedicated low energy lamps but with the control gear housed within the lamp itself. This allows them to be fitted in fittings designed for use with conventional filament lamps. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes of varying wattages. These types of lamps are not suitable for use with touch dimmers or conventional dimmer switches.
Energysaving halogen lamps are not quite as efficient as the fluorescent energysavers, however, the appearance of the lamp is very similar to those they are designed to replace. Typically the halogen energy efficient lamps will consume approximately 30% less power to produce the same amount of light as a conventional lamp. A 25w candle lamp of this type will give the same output as a 40w conventional candle lamp, but will last twice as long, they are particularly effective as an alternative to fluorescent energysavers where the lamp is exposed, for example in a beautiful crystal chandelier which needs a crisp white light. These lamps are also instant start and are suitable for dimming.
These give a very attractive light, closely resembling sunlight. They are more efficient than incandescent lamps using only half the energy to produce the same light output and last twice as long. They are suitable for areas where directional lights are required such as kitchens & bathrooms, but are also suitable for other rooms.
Generally they are small lamps which generate a lot of heat so they can only be used in light fittings designed to cope with the higher temperatures.
They are available in low voltage and mains voltage types.
Low Voltage: These lamps operate on 12v which means a transformer has to be fitted either in the light light fitting itself or remotely. The advantages of the lower power are that the safer voltage enables manufacturers to produce interesting and slim designs without the need to protec against danger from higher voltages. Transformers can be either electronic or 'wire wound'. The new electronic transformers are more energy efficient and smaller but more expensive than the wire wound type. Electronic transformers can be damaged by voltage 'spikes' in the mains supply (sometimes referred to as "dirty mains") . These spikes can be caused by flourescent lights, older motors, fridges, lift shaft motors etc. If persistent problems occur the use of mains voltage lighting is recommended.
Mains voltage: This type of lamp offers the light colour advantage of halogen without the need to house a transformer. The reflector type bulbs are known as GU10 and the small envelope non-reflector halogens are known as G9.
Lamp Life Expectancy
Life expectancy is defined as the number of hours of operation for a lamp until 50% of them fail. This means that it is possible for some lamps to fail after a short amount of time and for some to last significantly longer than the rated lamp life. This is an average (median) life expectancy. Production tolerances as low as 1% can create a variance of 25% in lamp life. For LEDs, lamp life is when 50% of lamps have lumen output drop to 70% or less.
Lamps are also sensitive to switching cycles. The rapid heating of a lamp filament or electrodes when a lamp is turned on is the most stressful event on the lamp. Most test cycles have the lamps on for 3 hours and then off for 20 minutes. (Some standard had to be used since it's unknown how the lamp will be used by consumers.) This switching cycle repeats until the lamps fail and the data is recorded. If switching is increased to only 1 hour on, the lamp life is usually reduced because the number of times the lamp has been turned on has increased. Rooms with frequent switching (bathroom, bedrooms, etc.) can expect much shorter lamp life than what is printed on the box.
Lighting Ideas - The Lounge
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 create interest.
Illuminate bookcases, pictures or objects of interest with picture lights or halogen spot lights. This indirect lighting of a different colour 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 coloured 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 uplighter gives a bright wash on the ceiling. Some are fitted with dimmers and others have a second flexible arm for reading.
Kitchen lighting - information about lighting for your kitchen
Kitchen’s require high level ambient light and focused task light that is free from shadow and glare. Task light is essential for chopping and preparing foods, while ambient light is used for moving around the kitchen safely.
Fixed lights are a good choice for kitchens as the layout of your kitchen is usually permanent. They are also a safe choice as cables from freestanding lights are a potential hazard. Recessed spotlights and downlighters are a good choice for highlighting specific work areas. Wall mounted spotlights directed upwards or wall mounted uplighters wash the ceiling with light.
To avoid working in your own shadow, task lights should be positioned so that light comes from the front or side of you. Placing recessed downlights in the base of cupboards, provides a focused task light that is glare free.
Interior lights on cupboards, operated by opening and closing the cupboard are also useful. Similarly, cooker hoods with built in lights are a good way of illuminating a stove.
In a kitchen-diner, accent lighting can provide a subtle background light when you are sitting down to eat and the task lights are switched off.
Dimmer controls are useful, particularly in a kitchen-diner as they allow you to adjust the levels of light from that needed for cooking to something lower for eating.
Home offices - information about what to look for in home office lighting
A home study or office requires a good level of ambient light combined with focused task light for a desk area to prevent eyestrain.
If you’re reading or working on paper, light should fall on the page. For a computer, light should be angled to fall on the keyboard, not the screen. Ideally, the task light should be positioned to one side with the bulb hidden from view. It should be possible to adjust the height and direction of light.
Task light should be supported with good levels of ambient light. Uplighters are a good choice as there’s no risk of causing reflections on a computer monitor and they will wash the ceiling and walls with light.
In an office with natural daylight, venetian or hanging blinds allow you to control levels of light as they change throughout the day.
The right light will help you wind down and get a good night's sleep. But you also need strong lighting so you can get dressed in the morning - you don't want to leave the house wearing one brown sock and one blue.
The most important bedroom light is the one beside your bed - useful for when one of you wants to read or watch TV and the other wants to sleep. You can mount bedside lights on the wall, hotel-style, or fix them behind or into the bedhead, use wall-mounted downlighters or simple table lamps beside the bed.
Lights that are built into the bedhead don't cater for extremes of height, and you might also find you have to lie at a certain angle to be comfortable. If you do use them and you have a double bed, put them on separate switches. An inexpensive table lamp on a bedside cabinet or chair is a great solution - make sure it's high enough to read by and shaded so it doesn't shine right in your face.
- Fit a dimmer switch on the main central light or wall light to create instant atmosphere.
- If you find yourself blinded by natural light streaming in through the window, put up voile or muslin curtains to diffuse the light.
- Place a switch by the door to use when you come in and out. Make it controllable from the bed, too, so you don't have to get up to turn it off.
- Dressing tables need to be horizontally lit from both sides otherwise you'll see shadows across your face.
- Don't use candles in the bedroom unless you're absolutely sure you won't fall asleep while they're burning.
- Choose shades that are white on the inside and a warm colour outside, and fit them with a clear bulb to give off warm tones of light.
- Fit tungsten or fluorescent strips in the wardrobe or units that come on when you open the door. If you put one above or below you'll end up with shadows.
- If you stand between your central pendant light and your blinds or curtains, your neighbours will be able to see you in silhouette - whatever you're doing.
- Make a suspended canopy from MDF, drill it with holes and fit it with fairy lights.
- Install a voice-activated light switch so you don't have to get out of bed to turn it on and off.
Kids have slightly different lighting needs from adults. Safety takes centre stage. Next, the most important thing to remember is that the scheme should change as they get older. There are all sorts of fun, decorative lights aimed at children, from aeroplanes to rotating carousels.
For babies, you need low-level lighting so you can see during those frequent trips in the night to feed, change and comfort. Try a plug-in nightlight or small lamp with a shade and low-wattage bulb - no more than 12V.
- Ensure prying fingers can't open the fitting or get at the hot bulb or electrical wiring.
- Use wall-mounted lights rather than freestanding lamps that can be knocked over easily.
- Dimmers work wonders - they help to prepare a child mentally for bedtime.
- If your child has a computer or television in their room, don't let them watch it in total darkness. It's better for their eyes to use low-level light, either from a dimmed light or from a table lamp with the beam directed at the ceiling.