Lighting your house astutely

Lighting your house astutely

Lighting your house astutely

In modern living, lighting of house we live in plays an important role. Contemporary Lighting Technology can create right ambience for a happy and healthy living. An intelligent exploitation of lighting can enhance the look of interior spaces resulting in economy in consumption of energy, better feeling for the occupants and less effort in carrying out day to day activities. It is worth the effort because it forms a significant percentage in the cost of construction.

Harnessing of fire and with that acquiring ability to create artificial light at will was an important step in the progress of civilization. Sun the giver of light and warmth has been worshipped as God from the dawn of civilization. The value of light as an instrument to increase the day light hours and extend the work hours encouraged efforts at finding out ways and means of producing better and better and reliable producer of light. Starting with torches made of pieces of wood/straw etc., the source of light moved on to candles, oil and gas lamps, incandescent lamps, Halogen and xenon bulbs. Still the light produced was unlike sunlight. Pursuit to approximate sun light brought the invention of Fluorescent lamps. It was a quantum leap. But the cost of production of electricity, the source of light, was steadily going up. This encouraged finding ways of producing more light at less consumption of energy. Compact Fluorescent Lamps appeared towards the last quarter of 20th century. Light Emitting Diode lamps are the latest still in the process of perfection and cost cutting to affordable prices.

But light is much more than an illumination. It can accentuate space in many ways viz., decorate, emphasize, subdue etc. Light can shape your mood. It can soothe the mind, lift your spirit and help you to focus on your thought. It has therapeutic properties. It can invigorate your body. Lighting in your house could be bland, pattern less and uninspiring if looked at purely from the point of utility. With a little thought and understanding it could be much more than that and you can exploit as many of its dimensions as possible. You will certainly benefit by having expert advice on it. But you can profit by understanding basics of lighting. Experts identify six ways of use viz, Task, Accent, Ambient, Decorative, Informative and General.

Task lighting

Task lighting is that which makes a task easier to perform, strain free and pleasant – example, a light that makes reading or preparation ingredient in a kitchen platform. Properly designed task lighting makes task performance easier by focusing, elimination of shadow, giving right type of cool temperature and rendering.

Accent lighting

Accent lighting enhances various details of a space or an object to reveal its texture, color, form or/and pattern; example, a fireplace or an art piece in Museum gallery.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting is the type that illuminates a space. For example, a room from several sources and sets a minimum level of lighting which is comforting to the beholder. Ambient lighting is done mostly by reflecting off the surfaces and rarely by direct incidence. Ambient lighting does not focus on anything in particular. It helps a person who is working in task light focused area to look into surrounding darker space immediately. If surrounding is not lighted at all eye finds it difficult to adjust suddenly. This causes strain.

Decorative lighting

Decorative lighting is a type which does not have any obligation to anything else but itself. The object emits light that showoff like a lighted chandelier. All the effort is to make it self center of attraction.

Informative lighting

Informative lighting lights area which supplies some information to the viewer which helps him to become aware of certain things he should know. Most common example is an Exit sign in a cinema hall. One can quote many examples such as lighted sign indicating the position of an escalator and highlights how to use it properly or stop it in the face of a danger.

General lighting

General lighting is the type which is provided with no particular purpose in mind but just to dispel darkness viz., a bulb hanging centrally from a pendant in a room as was the routine in our houses fifty years ago.

Colour, texture and patterns of walls

Next thing one shall have to know is about the colour, texture and patterns on the wall, ceiling and floor space of the room which is to be lighted. These too influence the nature of the light provided. For example, if the purpose of space is to indicate warmth and if the walls are already painted in some shade of red then the lighting required will have to match with the colour of the wall.

Color Temperature Index

There are other factors also which are peculiar to some situations like in a shop which sells saris the requirement is how the cloth will look in natural day light. So if you know Color Temperature Index (CTI) of bulb that would be an added advantage. CTI is given in some other countries on the packing. But in India we only give wattage and supply voltage. Direct midday sunlight is 5500 K (Kelvin) where as a candle is 2000K and incandescent light of 40 watts may be 2500 K.

Armed with the above knowledge it would be better if an expert in lighting is called now and lighting of the house is worked out and cost estimated. An intelligent use of the combination of lights, painting of walls, ceilings and floors and choice of matching furniture upholstery and furnishing lends a gratifying atmosphere.


Accessories, i.e. switches, plugs and boards which contain them also have a role to play. These days they are available in many designs and materials. Important consideration should be on their location, durability and safety. Modular switches lend flexibility. Self locking switches give safety. If one selects these accessories made by a well known brand replacement will be easier.

Ornamental luminaries used must be attractive, strong and functional. Do not go in for cheap ones. The polish should last long. They should resist accumulation of dust and grit. They should not become receptacles for dead insects. They should be open at bottom. In tropics this is an important consideration. The out door fittings should be water proof, so also junction boxes and switches. Domes with many screws are difficult to dismantle. High hanging lights are difficult to maintain.

Easy maintenance and replacement is an important consideration. Once I asked a friend of mine who runs a retail shop what made him replace all the bulbs in the shop with CFL. “Was energy consumption the consideration?” I asked. He told me that was not the main consideration but difficulty in getting an electrician in time for repair, replacement of choke and refixing of tube mounting made him choose CFL. He opined that he had to have more light points as CFL light was not as bright as that florescent tube gave out. He found CFL easy to fix in the holder; an ordinary bulb could also act as a stop gap.

Home lighting

Let us start with Living room. Assuming that it is the largest space in the house, it must have Ambient lighting in addition to any other type. Scones which reflect off the walls should go hand in hand with decorative and other types of lighting. TV should not be watched switching off lights and making the surrounding dark. Eyes have to adjust each time the eye moves from TV to dark area and back. Also lights should not placed in positions which cast reflections on the TV screen. Same applies to study room where study table may have a task lamp. The light should come at an angle over the shoulder and it should not induce glare.

In the dining room or dining area a light which is an approximation to day light should be preferred so that natural colors of the dishes are seen. It could be as pendent light with adjustable height if you prefer.

Pendent lights are not suitable for Bed rooms. Lighting and fan switches should all be accessible from bed. If it is double bed then from both sides. The task light i.e. reading light should not disturb other person. One Light over the dressing table will generate shadows on the person. There should be soft light from both sides of the mirror.

In the children’s room switches and plugs should be self locking. It is better if plugs are at heights which are not accessible to small children. Also switch of a general lighting point should be outside near the door so that a child can switch on and enter the room rather than enter in dark. Night lamps should not hit the eye straight.

Stairs should have two way switches and light should not throw shadow. Landing and winders shall be well lighted.

Special lighting arrangement is required for bath rooms as they accommodate many tasks now a days. Many a times they are long and narrow and some times their floor levels are at different levels. At least one switch for area lighting should be outside the room near the entrance. The bath tub or Jacuzzi should be well lighted and switch should be available from sitting position.

Kitchen lighting also requires careful consideration. There are many work spots and storage areas. The cooking and the preparation areas require task lighting. The main cabinets which store essential cutlery, food articles should have light near inner edge which lights up when door is opened. It is also a good practice to have at least one light point in each room on emergency light

Out door lighting has to balance light and darkness and may have one or several of the purposes given below, viz.

– Safety and security
– Emergency
– Informative – Lighting pathways, steps, and such other features
– General and spot lighting

Out door lighting is best when it is subdued and merges with the nature and landscaping. The fittings and cables should be weather proof. It is wise to have switches of out side security lights inside the house preferably at the entrance so that a few lights can be switched on from inside. Control switches to security lights in multipurpose hall and master bed room will help assess danger from intrusion. The lights in the lawns should not attract insects. Otherwise they will create nuisance for any outdoor gathering.

With the progress in electronics many intelligent solutions/ variations have come up like dimming or brightening a space at will, automatic switching off when not in use.

Shades also make their contribution to the lighting statement. They are now available made of variety of material, shape and colour. Paper, bamboo, ceramic, plastic, brass, stainless steel etc.

Lighting component in the cost of construction of an ordinary middle class house in the early twentieth century was less than 3 percent of cost of construction. Now it is anything between 8 to 10 %. Number of light points, plug points, fan points etc. have gone up phenomenally.

Are you one of those lackadaisical people who spend money for the sake of spending? If you are one of those who cares how he spends money and wants to exploit full potential of today’s technology, you would do some home work and then take expert advice and provide lighting accordingly. The aim is to harmonise home environment with family personality, healthy living and enhance looks and may be worth of the property.

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