Finding the right lighting for any room can pose a challenge. Do you want to find a decorative fixture that becomes a focal point of the room or just make sure everyone feels comfortable when they walk into the room or both? Do you have tasks that you need to focus on (particularly in an office, kitchen or bath)? Are you about to choose new paint colors or new furnishings and you want to make sure that they will work with your existing or new lighting?
Interior designers work to coordinate all the components of our designs and we make decisions based on both form and function; lighting designers specialize in making determinations about the correct amount and type of light for general, task and accent lighting, as well as choosing the best fixtures for the application, and often collaborate with interior designers to provide the best decorative and functional lighting solutions. Lighting showrooms are very helpful with the latest technology and have trained lighting professionals as a resource.
What”s the latest in lighting technology that we need to know? Here are some details for your next lighting conversation with a lighting or interiors professional…
If you walk into any lighting store or showroom, you will probably see references to the new energy requirements and it may help you to understand a little about what”s going on with the recent lamp changes, if you haven”t had already noted them. “Bulbs” are typically called “lamps” by lighting professionals.
Standard screw-based incandescent lamp options are no longer being manufactured (40 and 60 watt lamps can no longer be manufactured as of this January, and 100 and 75 watt lamp manufacturing was discontinued over the past two years).
For further specific details of the new Department of Energy Guidelines, as well as a quick overview of where we are currently on lamp availability, go to this blog entry from National Geographic. It”s really all about manufacturing lamps that meet the new energy requirements, so we use lamps that require less energy.
More energy efficient options are available; these include the halogen lamp (which is an incandescent lamp with a tungsten filament contained within an inert gas and a small amount of halogen), which typically provides a constant light level of good quality and has a longer life than an incandescent lamp. For further energy efficiency, CFL’s (compact fluorescent lights) and LED”s (Light Emitting Diodes) are our latest options, and as you can see from the chart below (which doesn”t include halogens), they are much more efficient than the average incandescent.
And a note about how we”ve measured the “power” of lighting. In the past, we grew accustomed to measuring the strength of lighting (lamps) in watts. If you look at any lighting display in your local hardware store, you now see lumens being the measurement – note the reference in the chart above to each lighting source being equivalent to 800 lumens.
A watt is a measure of how much electrical power a device consumes. A lumen is the measurement of the amount of light emitted by a light source. What does this mean? A lumen is a better measurement of light, in that it references how bright something is. Looking at the above chart again, LED’s are capable of producing much more light, for the energy that they consume.
CFL’s and LED’s have typically fallen into the cooler color temperature range, and as we have been used to warmer interior lighting for a century or so, the whiter light of the new kinds of lamps has been difficult to adjust to. Also, with a change in the color of light, our interior furnishings and paint look different, so if we switch all of our lamps in one area from one color temperature range to another, we will see the effect! The ability for the newer lamps to have different color temperature ranges is improving and there are areas in our homes that benefit from cooler light, like kitchens and other spaces that use more task lighting for working.
One example of the technology moving ahead with LED”s is the ability to dim LED”s to a warmer color temperature; LEDs have not been easy to dim and require different dimmer switches than incandescents. Philips has come up with a new “Dim Tone” LED lamp that has a warmer color temperature as it dims. More details are in this Wolfers Lighting blog entry.
And finally, what about the Color Rendering Index?
From the Lighting Research Center”s website, at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute:
In general terms, CRI is a measure of a light source”s ability to show object colors “realistically” or “naturally” compared to a familiar reference source, either incandescent light or daylight…. A CRI of 100 represents the maximum value. Lower CRI values indicate that some colors may appear unnatural when illuminated by the lamp. Incandescent lamps have a CRI above 95. Cool white fluorescent lamps have a CRI of 62, however fluorescent lamps containing rare-earth phosphors are available with CRI values of 80 and above.
So, what does all this have to do with finding the best lighting choices? It helps to be aware of the variety of things that affect light and in turn how light affects our surroundings. And that interiors professionals can help you navigate the latest technology and reach the best solutions.
Nancy Goldstein: Light Positive
Peter Romaniello: Conceptual Lighting