Tips for a Functional, Energy-Efficient Home Lighting Design

Roberts Electric is working on a lot of remodeling projects these days. After a long recession that forced homeowners to put their projects on hold, these remodeling projects are back on the front burner.

While some of these remodeling projects are small, for others the scope is fairly extensive. In many of the older Bay Area homes around Oakland, Berkeley and Albany, a kitchen remodel is not just about the kitchen; rather, homeowners are knocking down walls and opening up the entire living area to accommodate today’s casual lifestyles.

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For all of Roberts Electric’s new remodeling projects, LED has become the standard.

We work with our clients to help them understand that developing a lighting plan is as important as the color palette and architecture. The first things to identify are how a space is to be used and the amount of available natural light—these help determine the amount of light needed for optimal functionality.

We talk about layers of lights, defined by the height of the lights and their general function—divided into four categories:

  • Ambient lighting. Area lighting that illuminates the general area, allowing occupants to perform general tasks. The traditional overhead light, accessible from a wall-mounted light switch is a good example.
  • Task lighting. Light provided for specific jobs or acts, such as over kitchen counters or a reading lamp beside a chair.
  • Accent lighting. Light that highlights special items or features–a series of lights pointed down on a brick wall to accentuate its texture.
  • Decorative lighting. The light fixture is the focus; its purpose is more about aesthetics than illumination.

When planning your home’s lighting schematic, Roberts Electric always recommends selecting at least two light layers to ensure both a warm, inviting atmosphere and enough functionality to work or read.

Choosing bulbs or lamps

Residential lighting generally involves three types of lamps: incandescent (old-fashioned light bulbs), fluorescent, and light emitting diode (LED). In the interest of energy conservation, the standard incandescent light bulb is quickly being phased out. For all of Roberts Electric’s new remodeling projects, LED has become the standard.

Light switches and their placement

Thoughtful lighting plans also consider the way that lighting is controlled. Installing dimmer switches rather than wall switches extends their functionality. Other control options include occupancy sensors which make lights motion-activated, programmable light controllers and whole-house lighting system controls. These systems add convenience, function and energy savings.

While designing your lighting systems, here are a few things to keep in mind.
  • Use natural daylight when possible. Light should supplement natural light.
  • Look for ENERGY STAR-rated light bulbs and light fixtures, as they will use less energy.
  • Make lighting controls accessible. Locate switches where everyone—young, old, and handicapped–can access them.
  • Vary the light. Bright light without any contrast or shadows looks artificial.
  • Aesthetics. Lighting plans can be designed to minimize the negative and showcase the positive.
  • Plan for several circuits. It takes a little more work, but it allows you to control more lights independently. This makes your lighting more functional and increases value.
If you have questions about designing a lighting plan for your home improvement project or remodel, Call Roberts Electric @ 510.834.6161
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