7 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE BUYING LIGHTS FOR YOUR HOME
The modern lighting industry is overwhelmed with as many tricked up sales techniques and miss information as a fortune teller festival. Each “vendor” promising you, your future dreams from their tent. Good lighting is not only about using the right product but using the right product the right way to create an illuminated visual comfort that enhances your homes architectural features, creates atmosphere, and supports ease of use and good sleeping patterns. Yes you read that right. Your home lighting can help, not hinder your sleep.
Light not only enables us to see, but connect with the world around us and as such, has the ability to influence psychological and emotional states. The experience we have in a space can be enriched consciously through effective lighting methodologies, therefore it is important to have a clear understanding of what you are wanting to light and why.
Good lighting is as much of an investment as the products and surfaces being illuminated. The quality of everything you see in your home is determined by the quality of the light illuminating it. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a $12 dollar fitting produces the same quality light as an $80 fitting.
Here are seven questions you should ask yourself, before purchasing lights for your home.
WHAT ARE YOUR LIGHTING AND WHY?
Before you even look at lights, you should be asking yourself, what am I lighting and why?
Take your kitchen for example. Too often, we see people putting lights over the standing space between the island benchtop and the built-in kitchen cupboards…WRONG! This often creates shadows over the island benchtop, workstation, and basically anywhere you actually need the light. Instead, you should be looking at lighting the benchtop itself, so you can actually see what you are doing with that sharp knife!
Is it for function such as cooking or cleaning, for ambience and atmosphere or for accent eg highlighting the artwork you recently hung? Each will require a different approach to identifying the right product.
It is important to identify the various space and “tasks”, that will be performed in the areas of your home, these can vary gravely and will require as varied lighting solutions. For example,
Functional lighting is important over the benchtop, where fine knife work will be carried out. And over the stovetop, to ensure that meat is cooked properly.
If these work stations are lit properly, there will be enough spill light to illuminate foot traffic areas.
Your main bathroom might require quality lighting around the vanity to enable application of makeup, but may also benefit from a lighting arrangement that can be dimmed or atmospheric for a relaxing soak in the tub.
Loungerooms in general, are multipurpose areas, you will require adequate lighting for activities such as playing board games or reading, but might also require something more atmospheric for when enjoying a wine and a good catch up.
And lets not forget that loungerooms are a great place to display artwork, they too will require their own illumination.
Low level lighting is great for functional night-time movement without having to turn on bright, high level lighting. Removing the argument between the brain and big toe!
Just installing 4 downlights in every room might be just what your electrician and builder are telling you to do.
Sure, they have been doing it for years and have plenty of happy customers, but I promise you, electricians are not the best place to be seeking lighting advice. The only lighting training they receive is how to install them and their product knowledge is gained from wholesalers pedalling the latest and greatest cheap, one size fits all, crap that they can sell to every customer that walks through the doors.
I know this! While not only earning a Masters in Lighting Design, I used to be an electrician, and still manage my own team of excellent installers. But trust me. Electricians don’t know lights, and neither do the so called “experts” at “Hammer Barn!”
LEDS: WHAT IS MY MONEY ACTUALLY BUYING ME?
LEDS are cheap, sure. But just like a stereo, you get what you pay for.
Many manufactures are on a race to the bottom to give you, the customer, the cheapest downlight on the market. This just means that they cut every corner possible during the manufacturing process, to out sell the competitor on price, resulting in poor quality lights.
Think of lights like speakers for your eyes. Sure, a cheap stereo makes some noise, but it is not what you call quality sound. Now, will you want to listen to it all day long, knowing, with those cheap components, it is not going to sound as good in 6 to 12 months’ time? Cheap lights are the same. They may appear to be working, but they sure as heck are not producing
quality light at the start let alone after 6 months of use.
So what should you be looking for in lights?
Where possible choose COB over SMD, look for high CRI, quality electronics and good heavy heat sinks. Like all electronics, heavy is good! It means more copper and aluminium and heavier internal components.
LEDS: WHAT IS MY MONEY ACTUALLY BUYING ME?
Brighter means better right?
No, no, no it is does not! Quality over quantity is key.
We no longer talk about lights in terms of Watts. Instead, we talk about lumens – being the light output of a luminaire (light fitting). Think of it as the volume control on your speakers and how loud they will go. But unlike speakers, we generally run our lights at full output all the time.
In addition to trying to produce the cheapest lights, many manufactures are also trying to outdo each other with their lumen output. Meaning they are using the cheapest components and running them as hard as they can. Not a great recipe for longevity!
Instead, a much more important unit of measurement on the box, is the CRI. This is a measurement or score out of 100 as to how well the luminaire produces all colours (wavelengths) of visible light. See, not all lights are the same! But that is another topic. For now, just remember that the higher the CRI the better your vision will be. Lower CRI produces a greyer and washed-out view.
High CRI will provide better vision, rather than blasting high lumens. As the quality of light is improved, you do not need as many lumens.