How To: Light Your Home Properly

September 12, 2014

Something like lighting isn’t always viewed as a huge priority, but good lighting in your home has many advantages:

  1. You’ll save money on your electric bills
  2. Improve safety
  3. Create the mood you want in every room
  4. Minimize headaches and eyestrain while reading and doing other activities
  5. Prevent a distracting glare on TV and computer screens

It’s estimated by experts that lighting accounts for about 20% of all residential electricity use. With thoughtful design and selection, you can cut that amount in half.  Your home’s lighting may need improvement if:

  1. Your electricity bill is high
  2. You turn on electric lights during the day
  3. You have to squint to read a book
  4. You see your shadow on kitchen counters
  5. You avoid rooms that feel “gloomy”
  6. Glare, shadows, or lack of contrast cause people to trip

Generally, lighting has three different functions. There’s general lighting, (AKA ambient lighting) that illuminates space so you can see people and objects clearly and move around comfortably. There’s also task lighting, which shines directly on visually demanding activities like reading or sewing. Lastly, there’s accent lighting, which is used for decorative purposes (usually used to highlight art).

One of the best things you can do is use natural sunlight. It’s free(!), it decreases your dependence on the powergrid, and it’s environmentally friendly. Sunlight is also dynamic in that it’s always changing direction, intensity, color, and warmth. To best use sunlight, think about how each room will be used (who will be in there and what activities will take place). Finally, windows are the key element in sunlit rooms. Tip: a glass window should equal about 5% of a room’s total floor area to provide adequate light.

If the conditions for using natural sunlight in your home aren’t ideal, there are a few low cost tricks you can use:

  1. Light-colored walls and floors will bounce light around the room, and make the space feel bigger and brighter
  2. Use of semisheer curtains to diffuse sunlight
  3. Blinds/plantation shutters let you control how much light gets in.
  4. Keep in mind that light surfaces outside your windows (like a light-colored patio) will reflect sunlight into a room, while dark surfaces and vegetation will absorb light.

So, once you’ve taken all of these things into consideration, the next question is: what kind of lighting is best? And there’s really no right answer, as each type has its own strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Incandescent – appears natural to the eye, inexpensive, easily dimmed; but, these bulbs are inefficient, and they don’t last very long
  2. Halogen (incandescent) – slightly more efficient/longer lived than the previous; but, sometimes they require special fixtures
  3. Fluorescent – last a long time, many high-quality products available, available in different colors; but, they aren’t very flattering, and can be expensive
  4. Light-emitting diode (LED) – much longer lived than the previous, intensity/direction easy to control, excellent color choices; but, the technology is new and may not be well tested, and the quality varies

Overall, keep in mind that you’re in control of the lighting in your home. Regardless of what space and technology you have, you can optimize your use of light in a space through making use of lighting controls like individual switches and dimmers. And ultimately, a strategic approach to your space and fixtures will ensure the most comfort and energy efficiency.

If you are interested in a free estimate or would like to know how Lensis Builders, Inc. can make your home even better, give us a call at 703-367-8999 or fill out a short contact form by clicking here. If you’re looking for inspiration for your next project, visit our Pinterest page!

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