Lighting is hugely important in a home. Natural lighting through large, clear windows is best as it provides intense, wide spectrum lighting that renders colours as they should seen and is easy on the eyes. When the sun has gone down, stylish lighting can be used to create an atmosphere or provide lighting for a specific task. Getting the right quality and amount of light is important as poor lighting can lead to eye strain.
Garden lighting is covered on a separate page.
Natural Light Sources
The main natural light source we have is the sun but, the routes it takes to get into our home can vary enormously and the surrounding environment can alter the amount of light and its spectrum. At night, the moon is also a source of natural light. Typically, natural light enters through doors, windows, rooflights and skylights.
Companies like Vision Rooflights supply pyramid rooflights which also provide added height and volume to a room.
Companies like Solatube supply devices to duct natural daylight into dark spaces such as bathrooms and hallways.
Reflectors & Heliostats
This 'Sunflower' is an innovative way of collecting and reflecting sunlight into a home. It also tracks the sun and cleverly maintains the reflected sunlight in a fixed spot.
some companies are now looking at home lighting produced by bacterial bioluminescence.
Barriers To Light
Before you install expensive lighting solutions it is worth considering what barriers exist to enabling natural light to enter you home and what steps can be taken to improve the natural lighting. Moving things like surrounding buildings is usually not an option but, trees are often a significant barrier to natural light and pruning can often be an option.
Coloured & Colour Changing Lighting
Coloured lighting is worthy of a discussion in its own right.
LEDs in particular are often available in a variety of colours to suit particular applications. They can also used for colour cycling applications, where the LED bulbs cycle through a selection of colours to provide an changing lighting mood.
By intelligent colour selection it is also possible to set a feel or mood in a given space. Blue lighting for example can often imply a cold space and reds or oranges a warm space.
Note that a lot of these lamps are available in ES format only and you will need an ES to BC adapter to use them in most UK light fittings.
Types Of Lighting
Activity Based Lighting
There are many home automation systems that let you can press a single button to operate many lights at once. The challenge is in knowing how to group the lights behind these buttons. One approach is to configure them based on activities, e.g. party, watch movie, bedtime, etc. and these are called 'scenes'.
Ambient / Background Lighting
Ambient or background lighting basically replaces daylight when the sun has gone down. In most homes it is usually provided by a central pendant light (a hangover from the days of gas lamps) to provide an evenly distributed light source. It is not subtle.
This gives texture, focus and shape to general lighting, adding depth and shade, with shadows in some corners and pools of light in others. It is formed by a mixture of spotlights, down-lighters, uplighters, tracks and table lamps.
This is lighting needed to do a specific job, e.g. reading, working at a computer, cooking, etc. It needs to be focused on the area you're using. We have individual areas of task lighting in our kitchen to cover the worktops, sink, breakfast bar, etc.
Convenience lights are lights that automatically come on when you walk into a room. Typically this behaviour occurs when it is dark outside but, in some rooms (with no windows), this is desirable at any time. These lights are usually driven by PIR sensors or door contact sensors and stay on for a defined time period, following last detected occupancy. Typically this would be used in halls, stairs and in rooms that are used infrequently, such as toilets and bathrooms.
Lighting that comes on automatically, to make the home look occupied. This could also include external lighting which is PIR activated but, this is best considered convenience lighting.
Provides a low-level light at night time in halls and corridors but, only when the home is occupied. Some of this is implemented outside using isolated solar lighting. This is a project. Safety lighting is currently a subset of emergency lighting in our home.
Lighting that comes on in an emergency, to aid exit from the home. This is the subject of a project.