Let there be light

PUBLISHED: 16:03 03 August 2010 | UPDATED: 15:22 20 February 2013

Drew floor lamp in black (£100), Ghost candelabra (£30) and Isabella ceiling light (£150), all from John Lewis

Drew floor lamp in black (£100), Ghost candelabra (£30) and Isabella ceiling light (£150), all from John Lewis

Energy-saving lighting options for readers who want to create a beautiful glow in their home, without burning a hole in their pocket

With energy costs on the rise and as we become more and more aware of our carbon footprint, we need to assess the lighting in our homes to decipher whether it is both effective and efficient.

When planning a lighting scheme for you home, consider the four different types
of lighting. Michael Kerton, technical consultant to DC Homewood, in Broadstairs, explains. Ambient lighting 'belongs' to the space and provides overall 'general' illumination. Examples include centre lights and tracks.

Task lighting 'belongs' to a user and in a well-designed scheme, this will be local lighting designed for specific purposes such as shaving, dressing, writing and reading. Examples are standard or table lamps, and shaving or mirror lights.

Accent lighting creates drama and may be used to highlight architectural feature or objects. Spotlights and other directional light sources and groundlights that illuminate building facades are examples.

Decorative lighting is not designed to illuminate per se, but to enhance ambience. Candles or colour changing LEDs over picture rails or behind bathroom mirrors are good examples here.

To save energy, Michael suggests reducing ambient lighting in favour of directly controllable task lighting; to use automatic controls to manage the lit environment, with detectors and timers for monitoring occupancy and making the most of any natural light to reduce lighting levels dynamically.

Installation advice
When designing a lighting scheme, you need to consider what effect you want to create. Indoors you will need functionality and ambience; the quality of light required for cooking is very different to what you might want for a party or romantic dinner.
Michael says "When preparing lighting schemes, I try to avoid the ubiquitous tungsten light bulb and those spotlights; they get very hot, cost a lot to run and don't last long (around 1,000 hours).

"I also try to avoid sunken downlights - if you move the furniture, they are not easy to move or remove, they damage the ceiling, which will need re-plastering and they ruin the fire-rating of the ceiling."

Outdoor lighting needs to be capable of working under extreme conditions of wet, cold and heat. Cheap lighting is false economy and fittings are likely to seize up before lamps need replacement. Lights often need to be protected by a Residual Current Device (RCD) to protect the user from shock under fault conditions.

Latest trends
The lighting industry is going through some very exciting changes right now. Improved coatings on fluorescent lamps brings more choice of subtle 'colours', from warmer whites for living spaces to colder 'blue' lights that mimic daylight. These 'tri-phosphor' lamps give excellent efficiency and a whole raft of subtle colours of white to choose from. The new slim T5 lamps, at just under 16mm diameter, not only improve efficiency still further (by up to 25 per cent over the older lamps), but now the manufacturer is less constrained by lamp size and can now can make slimmer fittings.

New technology
LED technology has vastly improved, even over the past few months. Sean Maxwell, from lighting specialist Moderneon in Beckenham adds "We strive to produce long-life lamps with energy-saving value.

Our HFL (high frequency lighting) lighting comes in a variety of colours and has a life expectancy of 40,000 hours, maintenance free." Another emerging technology is metal-halide lamps which produce a bright white light; these are so efficient they are replacing some of the orange sodium street lights. A new development is in their miniaturisation to a lamp that looks similar to those little halogen spotlights we so often see in kitchens and shop displays, but at over 150 per cent improvement in efficiency, they are cheaper to run and last up to six times longer than halogen spots.

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