Lighting plays a functional role in the home, allowing you to see what you are doing when natural light is insufficient, but it can also make a major contribution to the decorative schemes of your rooms and can have a dramatic effect on the mood they produce, and it is easy to personalise it for your own needs.
Many rooms in our homes have a single pendant light hanging from the centre of the ceiling; it's what builders invariably provide, and very easy just to take for granted. But that single pendant can leave much to be desired when it comes to getting the most from a room’s lighting. Overhead lights of this type can make a room and its furnishings look flat and uninviting. Moreover, the diffused light they produce may not be strong enough for reading or similar close-up tasks.
By introducing a variety of light fittings, either in combination with a pendantor instead of it, you can change a room completely, adding atmosphere and making it feel cosy and welcoming. Different rooms in your home need different treatments, but always consider the purpose of the room first. Once you are sure that the lighting is sufficient for the required task, you can add the finishing touches that make the room come alive.
You can add extra lights to an existing circuit (except in a kitchen or bathroom) without notifying your Local Authority Building Control Department. All electrical installation work must comply with current Building and Electrical Regulations.
Before you start any kind of electrical work, isolate the circuit by removing the circuit fuse or switching and locking the circuit breaker. Double check it is dead with a socket tester or voltage tester. Never take risks with electrical safety.
This room needs to cater for a range of family requirements: reading, watching television, entertaining, children’s play. So the general diffused lighting of overhead fittings is a start, but add directional lighting with spotlights and reading lamps; use recessed or surfacemounted spotlights to accent features or pictures, or ‘wash walls with light. Table and standard lamps can also be used to provide soft pools of light to create a relaxing atmosphere, while dimmer switches, which are wired in the same way as ordinary switches, allow you to control the overall light levels. Changing shades on your ceiling pendant or free-standing lamps is a quick and easy way to update the décor in your room - you can introduce a bit of accent colour or pattern with the minimum of fuss and without over-powering the room. Or make a statement by replacing the central single pendant with a multi-arm ceiling pendant.
Dining should be a pleasurable experience, something to linger over, so you don’t want a dining room to have a cold atmosphere. You need a light over the table, but control it with a dimmer switch so that you can adjust the light level; that way, you will be able to see what you are eating without being bathed in harsh glare. Picking out features in the room with accent lighting will provide added interest, and pastel-coloured bulbs will soften the atmosphere and enhance a colour scheme.
Make the most of lighting to create a cosy atmosphere in the bedroom. Use recessed spotlights, wall lights and table lamps to generate a soft light, but provide task lighting for reading in bed and using a dressing table. Freestanding uplighters can provide soft ambient lighting for adult’s bedrooms, but are not a good idea for children’s bedrooms, where the temptation to throw paper or objects into them makes them a fire hazard. For kids’ rooms there is a range of portable lights that are both fun and safe as they’re cool to touch. The range includes famous characters and has something for all age groups, boys and girls.
Hallway and stairs
In a hallway, choose lamps that will provide a warm welcoming glow for visitors - table and standard lamps or wall lights. Stairs, though, must be well lit to prevent anyone missing a step.
In England and Wales if you add extra lights in a kitchen or bathroom you must notify your Local Authority Building Control Department, which has responsibility for ensuring the work is inspected and tested. Where you have any work done by a person registered with an electrical self-certification scheme prescribed in regulations, you do not need to notify your local authority.
The kitchen is one room where you really need to see what you are doing, so good lighting is essential. Aim spotlights at the hob and sink; fit lights under wall cabinets to shine on work surfaces. Don’t use plug-in lamps, which may clutter work surfaces.
The steamy, damp environment of a bathroom greatly increases the potential dangers of any electrical fitting. The IEE Wiring Regulations divide a bathroom into four Hazard Zones (0, 1, 2 and 3). Light fittings must be suitable for the zone they are being fitted in; always read the manufacturer's instructions and measure the room carefully. A light fitting in Zone 2 must be approved as splashproof, with a minimum rating of IPX4.
In Zone 1 the fitting must be suitable for the conditions of the zone and the supply circuit must be protected by a 30mA RCD. A ceiling mounted switch must be in Zone 3 or beyond, although it is permissible for the pull-cord to dangle down into other zones.
Light bulbs and tubes are known as lamps, and there is a vast range to choose from. Light bulbs usually have either a bayonet end cap (BC) or Edison screw cap (ES). Tubes generally have two small pins projecting from each end that fit into spring-loaded holders. Not all dimmers are compatible with low-voltage halogen bulbs or most fluorescent tubes or lamps; check the manufacturer's instructions.
GLS (General Lighting Service)
These are the most commonly used lamps and are found inmost light fittings. They may be clear, translucent (pearl) or opaque (in a choice of colours). They are available in a range of sizes and shapes, from the pear and mushroom to candle types. Large-diameter versions are available and are intended to be on view, without shades. All provide a general diffused light.
Halogen lamps produce a crisp, clean white light - brighter than a standard bulb of the same wattage. They bring out the detail of an interior, and are also particularly good for reading and closework, helping avoid eye strain. They do get extremely hot, so must only be used in a suitable fitting. They are suitable for spotlights and recessed lighting.
Low-voltage lighting uses halogen bulbs that run at 12 volts rather than the usual 240. The current is supplied via a transformer which may be built into the light fitting, or in a separate location.
These lamps produce strong directional beams of light in spotlight and floodlight fittings. All have some form of silvering on the bulb that helps throw the light in a particular direction. Crown-silvered types direct light back on to a separate reflector that throws it forward; internally-silvered types do not need a reflector, since their design aims the beam forward. A third type, the PAR (parabolic aluminised reflector), has a conical shape and comes in a variety of beam widths.
These are long glass cylinders with metal end caps. Different hues of white are available in fluorescent bulbs. These range from warm white (2700K) through medium (3000K) to blue-ish white (3500K and above). The Kelvin figures are sometimes incorporated in the bulb part number (e.g. /827 for warm white, /835 for blue). Various lengths, and even circular versions, are available for a range of fittings. Their use has limitations in domestic situations, although they are ideal for garages and home workshops. Another type of tube is the tungsten-filament type, essentially a tubular version of the standard GLS lamp. This is quite small (up to 285mm long) and may be clear or pearl. In the main, this kind of tube is used for concealed lighting.
CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamps)
Otherwise known as low energy bulbs, these combine the construction of a fluorescent tube with the compact dimensions of normal GLS lamps, and they will fit standard light fittings. They use about 20% of the electricity of a comparable GLS lamp. The life of the bulb varies depending on the type you buy but it is typically between 6 and 10 years. There is now a wide choice of shapes available in CFL bulbs, so there should be a low energy option available for most fittings.
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