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About Lighting

  What Lighting Can Do for a Room

Lighting is what people see first in a room. Without it they don’t see the rest of the room. Well-planned and well-installed lighting can change the way a room looks, as well as how it feels. It can complete a room just as the right furniture and color scheme does. It is the single most visible part of the wiring system.

When designing lighting, keep in mind that the fixtures do a specific job as well as having a certain look. Tailor the fixture to the job, then find the look. Understanding a few basic ideas can help you achieve an overall "finished" room.

  What Does Good Lighting Mean?

Good overall lighting can be accomplished by “layering” the light. Start with general light that can be used as a path through the room, or when looking for something in the room. This should be moderately bright, and controlled by the easiest switch to find. This switch should be a dimmer.

Follow this with more task-specific lighting, such as table or floor lamps for reading. These can have table-mounted dimmers. All of these combined, with the dimmers at their brightest, will make cleaning easy.

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  Types of Lighting

For general lighting you can use a central ceiling-mounted fixture, several small recessed fixtures, or track lighting. Halo, Juno or Lightolier and several others make good recessed and track lighting.

Task lighting can take many forms:

  • Track lights
  • These are named for the rail in which the individual fixtures or “Heads” are mounted. Track lighting is probably the most versatile kind of lighting because the heads can be aimed in almost any direction.

    There are a few styles of track. Single circuit track has all the heads turn on at the same time. Two circuit track has two sets of heads. A big variety of fittings allow lighting track to be installed around corners and at different heights. Another type of track is cut into the ceiling so the track itself is much less visible. Again, there are various fittings, for both one and two circuits. They use the same heads as surface mounted track.

    The heads are the actual light source. They are quite adjustable in direction. Heads come in low and full-voltage, both using the same type of track. All are modern in style.

  • Cans
  • These are used mainly for downward lighting and give about a six foot diameter circle of light when in an eight foot tall ceiling. They are composed of three pieces, the Can, the Trim, and the Lamp.

    There are two basic types of Can, Low or full-voltage. Each come in models designed for installation in open framing such as a new house, or finished ceilings such as a remodel project. They will be either IC or non-IC, which stands for Insulation Contact. IC cans must be used when they will be touching any other material such as plastic, wood, wiring, etc. The Can is the part which is not seen.

    The Trim is the part of the fixture that you see. There are many styles available for both low and full-voltage fixtures. Some can be aimed, most cannot. They are designed for use with specific types of Lamps.

  • Special purpose lights
  • Motion sensor fixtures usually have two flood light lamps, and are used for security and convenience. They need both heat and motion to be activated. Good ones have adjustment for the distance they see, how light it needs to be to let them work, and how long they stay on. Some come with an override that allows you to turn them on manually. RAB makes good ones in a variety of styles.

    Under cabinet fixtures are task lights that attach to the bottom of kitchen cabinets for a concealed light source. They are available with either Halogen, Xenon or fluorescent lamps. They come in various lengths designed to fit under the the different size cabinets. Good Halogen or Xenon fixtures have insulated spacers or ventilation slots to keep heat from normal operation away from the cabinet. Good fluorescents are small in height and have electronic ballasts. Most have built-in switches.

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  Some Basic Lighting Ideas

  • Bulbs, or Lamps, can enhance the lighting as well as change how an existing fixture looks and works. Major manufacturers are usually reliable. Stay away from store brands.
  • Devices such as dimmers and switches are the second most visible part of the wiring system. The right Control as well as the right color of device enhances the look and feel of the room. Lutron makes the dimmers that we use, Pass and Seymour makes the standard switches and outlets as well as the wall plates for them.
  • Outlets and their placement are very important. Most rooms do not have enough outlets. Again, we use Pass and Seymour.
  • Switches (including dimmers) and their placement take some planning. They should be at most entrances to rooms. More than one switch can control one light. A switch can be used to control outlets, too. There are automated switches as well as the manual switches.
  • Ceiling fans are very popular. There are many brands and styles. Generally with fans, as well as with light fixtures, more expensive (within reason) often means better quality. A handheld remote control is a nice option. Avoid discount-store brands. They will be noisy and will not last.
  • Motion sensors are widely used. This is another place where price matters very much. The ones sold at discount-stores will not work well and will not last. Avoid them. You will pay us to replace them after a few months. We use RAB. They have a huge product line, with many different types of sensors. They have been making the best quality sensors for many years.
  • Bath fans have changed drastically in the last five years. More emphasis has been put on style and noise reduction. Broan is our preferred brand for the more conventional in-ceiling fan. For less visible ventilation, Fantech is used.

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