5 Selection Criteria for Buying Lighting Online.
Unless you have lots of experience, shopping for lighting online can be time consuming if not downright confusing, and you could end up getting the wrong light for the setting you plan to use it in. As an experienced pro, I’ve certainly had my frustrations in finding the appropriate light fixtures to create the right lighting. I’ve worked on many projects where the client was aware the lighting in a home was inadequate, but wasn’t sure how to remedy it. So if you’ve put off updating the lighting in your home, I totally understand. But having the correct lighting is important for 3 main reasons: it reduces strain on your eyes, it contributes to how we visually perceive just about everything, and it makes up a large chunk of our energy bills.
We don’t always realize this, but lighting typically uses 12-15% of the electricity in the home so it is important to choose a fixture that uses light bulbs that are efficient as well as right for the job. Before ordering a lighting fixture, find out what type and how many bulbs it requires. This may sound silly, but it’s amazing how many on-line retailers don’t list this information front and center.
To help detangle the maze of choices I’ve come up with a list of criteria to make the selection process a bit more understandable. These are my go-to basics when it comes to lighting your home. And here’s the disclaimer: lighting can be complicated and may best be left to a professional designer who specializes in it. This is not an all-encompassing list, but rather some things I’ve learned over the years to consider next time you update your lighting.
1. Is the light dimable?
Put as many lighting fixtures as possible on dimmers. Electricians love dimmers too for the energy savings, and it helps take some of the guess work out of the light intensity equation. These controls can reduce energy costs and increase lamp life, and as an added bonus they provide a way to vary the atmosphere of a room to help you control the amount of light needed to suit a particular task or activity. Make sure you are purchasing a dimmer that does actually reduce the voltage though. Cheaper models don’t necessarily work that way. LED’s, being the newest bulb in the box, may not be compatible with your existing dimmer, so double check when purchasing one with the intention of putting it on a dimmer. For new dimmers spending a little more upfront will save you money in the long run.
2. Is there enough uplighting?
In main gathering rooms like kitchens, livings and great rooms, I am a huge fan of uplighting. This type of illumination will reflect off the ceiling and give good general light for most rooms. Add more types of lighting as needed to supplement the uplighting, which leads me to my next point.
3. Is the light being used for the right application?
Generally speaking, there are three types of lighting. Ambient: lights up the whole room, Task: targeted lighting for a specific (you guessed it) task, and Accent or Decorative lighting: for showing off artwork, wall textures, etc. There is often more than one type of activity in a room, so having more than one type of lighting is appropriate. I like to make a list of all the tasks before I select light fixtures.
Make sure each fixture fits the type of lighting needed and is in the correct location in the room. And don’t forget the task we all do in our homes – getting from one place to the next. Lighting for way-finding is essential especially for stairways, long hallways and night time trips to the bathroom.
4. Does it produce the right light color?
The “color” a light gives is very important. If you want to get into a lot of detail on color temperature that’s fine, but mostly the basics will do. Is it a cool blue at one end of the spectrum or a warm yellow light at the other end? This makes a difference on how the colors of paint and textiles in the room will look, as well as the mood you want to project.
The lighting retailer, the manufacturer, or a good designer can help you with this. For new construction and remodels where the lighting choices are critical and you have many options, ask your designer and architect for more in-depth information.
5. The power of reading lamps.
Have reading lamps next to each bedside and wherever you read. This will greatly reduce strain on your eyes. A small light next to the bed that won’t bother anyone else in the room is essential for that late night reach for the glass of water or the trip to the bathroom afterwards. Safety first!
Most importantly – Ask lot’s of questions. If the retailer can’t answer them, they should be able to direct you to someone who can, like the manufacturer or a lighting expert. If they can’t, move to a more reliable web retailer.