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Major Lighting Types
Print 2008-04-28 11:24  

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Lighting, of course, has a definite, practical purpose. It allows use to see each other, move about, and perform everyday tasks, safely, when natural light is unavailable, or insufficient. Above and beyond that basic practicality, however, lighting can be used to create atmosphere, or mood, in a space, which directly influences the attitude and behaviour of inhabitants of that space. Functionality, too, can be enhanced, by the choice of correct lighting. Indeed, research has shown that the quality, and controllability, of lighting – in a home office environment, for example – is directly related to the quality of work produced, and overall satisfaction with the working environment. The nature of the lighting in a home study, or office, however, is likely to very different from that in, say, a living room, which is often used in many different ways. The guiding principle in creating a well lit room is that the eye should focus on the objects illuminated by the lighting, not the lighting, itself. The type of lighting that will meet the requirements of any room should be central to your thinking from the planning stage. It may be, for example, that electrical wiring and other fittings need to be installed in order to accomplish your desired effect, and, if so, this work needs to be completed before a room is finally decorated.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting – also known as “background” or “general” lighting – provides overall illumination, and is responsible for setting the overall tone, or mood, of a room. The amount of ambient light that a room requires depends on the amount of natural light admitted by windows, or skylights, and when – that is, at what time of day – and for what purpose, it is commonly used.

Traditionally, ambient light is provided by a central ceiling fixture, and this is still practical in busy areas, such as hallways, kitchens and bathrooms. Ceiling fixtures are usually available in a choice of incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, including energy-efficient, compact fluorescent bulbs. One of the problems with, for example, a central pendant fixture, however, is that it does tend to create a rather “flat” effect. It may be necessary, therefore, to complement a ceiling fixture with more accentuated forms of lighting. A chandelier is another form of ceiling fixture, which can provide ambient lighting – along, of course, with a touch of style – for living, and especially dining, areas. Some chandeliers are equipped with downlighters, which can be used to accentuate table settings, or to provide task lighting for paperwork, or games. Chandeliers, too, are usually available in a choice of incandescent, or tungsten-halogen, bulbs.

A technique known as “wall washing” can be employed to provide ambient light that is even, and free from glare. Wall washing involves the positioning of individual lights – often with reflector bulbs, providing soft, directional light – at regular intervals around the ceiling, or floor, of a room. In combination with white, or lightly coloured, walls, wall washing can make a room appear significantly larger, and brighter. Indirect lighting – which uses the ceiling, walls and floor of a room to reflect ambient light – may be more appropriate in rooms containing reflective appliances, such as televisions, or computers. Indirect lighting involves lighting fixtures – wall sconces, for example – that direct light upwards, or downwards, so that it is reflected throughout a room in a pleasant, non-directional fashion. Once again, white, or lightly coloured, walls, in a matte finish, are likely to produce the best results.

Whichever form of ambient lighting you choose, remember that multiple sources provide a degree of versatility, and that the addition of a dimmer control allows you to adjust the intensity of light in a room to suit your mood, or activity.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is a more directional form of lighting, which complements ambient lighting, by adding focus, shape and depth to the overall effect. Accent lighting can take many forms – spotlights, downlighters, uplighters, track, or recessed, lighting, and table lamps, to name but a few – all of which are typically easy to control, and focus, and, possibly, lower voltage than ambient lighting. The placement of a lamp – that is, a luminaire, as opposed to a table “lamp”, for example – or lamps is critical to the effectiveness of accent lighting. Lamps should be placed as close as possible to the area, or object, that they are intended to accentuate, with due regard to safety precautions, for maximum effect. The effect can also be enhanced by a reduction in the level of ambient lighting.

Track lighting, for example, is a popular solution for lighting different areas of a room, not least because it can provide not only accent lighting, but ambient and task lighting, in a single system. Individual lighting fixtures – which may include pendant fixtures or chandeliers – can be adjusted, and rotated, to direct light to areas, or objects, where it is needed. Lighting fixtures positioned beneath a shelf, or cabinet – in the form of miniature track lighting, energy-efficient fluorescent lighting, or strips of low voltage halogen spotlights – can be used to highlight your objets d’art, or anything else to which you wish to attract attention. Recessed lighting, on the other hand, installed in the ceiling with only the trim showing, can provide a less conspicuous method of accent lighting.

Task Lighting

Task lighting is illumination provided for the purpose of completing a specific job, or task – usually one that involves a high degree of visual acuity – such as reading, sewing or working at a computer screen, or in a kitchen. As such, task lighting should provide uniform light, which is focussed on the area where it is required. If light escapes from the light source onto other surfaces, unwelcome shadows, and glare – particularly on computer screens – may result.

Perhaps the best known form of task lighting is the desktop, flexible arm, lighting unit, in the style of the Angelpoise lamp, originally designed by British designer, George Cawardine, in the 1930s, and extensively copied thereafter. Task lighting luminaires of this type are available with incandescent bulbs, but electronic ballast fluorescent bulbs are becoming increasingly popular. An electronic ballast is a device which starts a fluorescent lamp, and controls its flow of electricity, allowing the lamp to operate more efficiently. An Anglepoise-style lamp should be capable of accepting a bulb that is brighter than any other in a room, and, if possible, choose a cantilevered model – which can be angled, and lowered – with a long stem; if the stem is too short, it may be difficult to avoid shadows being cast over your working area.

Another application of task lighting is in the kitchen, where a single, overhead fixture often does not provide sufficient light for work surfaces, when chopping, or preparing, foodstuffs. Fixed, recessed spotlights, or downlighters, are often a good choice for highlighting specific work areas in a kitchen, and avoid the potential safety hazard of freestanding lights. These can, of course, be situated on the underside of overhead cabinets, or in the base of cupboards.


Categories: Home Lighting, Lighting design, Lighting manufacturers, Lighting


 


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