Lighting Fixtures Planning Guide & Tips
Calculating the Light Needed for each room
There is a simple formula for calculating the proper amount of light in each room in the home:
Multiply the length by the width of the room in feet. Multiply that number by 1.5. This number is the amount of wattage needed to light the room for general illumination.
For task lighting where stronger light is desired, such as kitchen island lighting, multiply the square footage of the area (length times width) by 2.5 for the proper wattage for task lighting.
Lighting a Foyer
To determine the optimal width for the ceiling fixture or chandelier: Add together the room’s length and width dimensions in feet. The resulting number is the proper number of inches the fixtures should be in diameter, for round fixtures or chandeliers, or width, for square or rectangular fixtures.
To determine the proper height for the fixture: The bottom of the fixture should be no less than 7 feet from the ground. For a tall ceiling, use a 2 or 3-tier chandelier to fill the vertical space.
For foyers where the front door has a window above it, center the chandelier or ceiling light so it is seen from outside.
For a large entry or foyer, include wall sconces. Optimal installation is five feet from the floor and six to eight feet apart.
Lighting a Hallway
For optimal hallway lighting, fixtures should be placed every eight to ten feet. Depending on the ceiling height, a variety of fixtures can be used: flush mount ceiling lights, semi-flush mount fixtures or chandeliers can be used in a hall depending on the ceiling height. As with a foyer, the bottom of the light should be at least seven feet above the floor.
In a long hallway, or a hall with very high ceilings, install wall sconces for additional light. Hang wall sconces at five feet above the floor. If needed, place wall lights every six to eight feet along the wall.
Lighting a Living Room
The main light in the living room can be a ceiling light. Ceiling lights include chandeliers, pendant lights, flush mount and semi-flush ceiling fixtures. To be able to walk underneath the fixture, the bottom should be a minimum of seven feet off of the floor.
For additional lighting and more ambiance, use a combination of wall sconces, table lamps, and floor lamps, including torchiere lamps. Wall sconces can flank a fireplace.
Lighting a Dining Room
To measure for the right dining room chandelier, subtract 12 inches from the width or diameter of the dining room table. This is the maximum width the chandelier should be.
For an eight foot ceiling, the bottom of the chandelier should be not be less than 30 inches above the tabletop. For higher ceilings, each additional foot equals raising the chandelier by three inches.
To balance the overhead lighting and create more ambiance, table lamps or buffet lamps can be used on a sideboard. Wall lights, hung five feet above the floor can also be hung above a buffet, flanking a fireplace or between windows.
Lighting a Kitchen
Use an overhead light such as a semi-flush mount ceiling light, chandelier, or pendant light fixture as the central light in your kitchen. If not placed over an island, the bottom of the light needs to be a minimum of seven feet above the floor for easy passage.
To light work areas such as counters and islands, pendant lights and recessed lights can be used as task lighting. Multiple lights, with two and three shades or a row of individual pendant lights will provide sufficient task lighting and add to the overall design. For countertop and island lighting, the fixture bottom should be a minimum of thirty inches above the work surface.
To light an eat-in area in the kitchen, use a decorative pendant light or mini chandelier. A single pendant light should provide enough lighting for a small table or banquette eating area. As with a dining room fixture, keep the bottom of the light above thirty inches from the table.
Lighting a Bedroom
A bedroom should have an atmosphere of relaxation and calm. Task lighting may be needed for reading or activities. The combination of dimmable overhead lighting and task lighting is the best choice for bedroom lighting.
General lighting can be provided by a variety of ceiling light fixtures, including both flush mounted and semi-flushmount ceiling lights, ceiling fans, chandeliers as well as floor lamps and wall sconces.
Placed flanking either side of bed swing arm wall lights or table lamps on nightstands provide ideal light for reading. Pendant lights can also be hung as bedside lighting.
For bedroom closets, including walk in closets, recessed lighting or flushmount ceiling lighting is suggested to be minimally intrusive in the small space. A small chandelier could be hung in a walk-in closet.
To show highlight wall décor or artwork consider using track lighting.
Lighting a Bathroom
Shadow-free lighting is best for bathroom tasks like shaving, grooming and applying makeup. Ideally a vanity light should be 24 inches wide above the mirror. Adding wall sconces flanking the mirror will balance the overhead light. Wall sconces should be a minimum of 28 inches apart and hung at the standard height of five feet above the floor.
For a double sink vanity, use a vanity light that is equal to the width of the mirror. Or for two mirrors, one above each sink or pedestal sink, use two vanity lights or wall sconces.
Vanity lights, or bath bars, should be mounted 78 inches from the floor and hung above the mirror if the mirror is framed. Vanity lights can be mounted to a large frameless mirror for a custom look.
For a large bathroom, in addition to the vanity lighting, add a flush mount ceiling light or small chandelier for additional lighting.
If there is space, mount outdoor hanging lights or lanterns on both sides of the front door. These should be hung about 66 inches above the bottom of the door, slightly above average eye level. The height for the light should be one fifth to one sixth that of the entrance height.
Mount a single wall light on the keyhole side of the door, if possible, for side and kitchen entrances to the home.
If there is a porch, portico or overhang, hang a lantern by a chain mounted over the front door.
Place pathway lighting every eight to ten feet for safety.
Outdoor post lanterns can be placed near driveways and walkways for security and additional illumination.
- Updating and replacing lighting fixtures and lamps can instantly and dramatically change the appearance of a room or exterior of the home without costly remodeling.
- For a well coordinated look, chose several light fixtures from the same collection for use together in a room.
- Make a room seem larger by bathing the walls in even lighting. Avoid dark corners.
- For lighting a large room pools of light from floor or table lamps can make the room feel cozier.
Cleaning your Light Fixtures
- Turn off electrical current or unplug the light before cleaning.
- Metal components can be cleaned with a soft cloth, moistened with a mild liquid soap.
- Avoid using metal polish, as it can be abrasive and could damage the protective finish placed on the light fixture.
- Do not wash glass shades in a dishwasher. Instead, line the sink with a dishtowel, then fill with warm water and add mild liquid soap. Wash glass with a cloth, rinse and hand dry.
Energy Saving Indoor Lighting Tips
- Updating lighting is one of the easiest and fastest ways to cut energy bills. Installing new lighting technologies may reduce energy use in your home by as much as 50% to 75%. Use energy efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) in lighting your home to create high-efficiency lighting.
- Fluorescent lamps are more efficient than incandescent bulbs or Edison bulbs. CFLS can last about 4 to 10 times longer too. Today’s CFLs have brightness and color rendition comparable to that of incandescent lights. Although compact fluorescent bulbs cost a bit more than incandescent bulbs, they pay for themselves by saving energy costs over the lifetime.
- Buy Energy Star rated products.
- When not in a room, turn off the lights. Install timers, photo cells, or motion detectors to reduce the time your lights remain on.
- Use task lighting, instead of overhead lighting for an entire room.
- Three way lamps make it easier to lower lighting levels.
- Use CFLs in all the table and floor lamps in the home.
Energy Saving Outdoor Lighting Tips
- Outdoor lighting is used for both decoration and security. Lights powered by small PV (photovoltaic) modules convert sunlight directly into electricity. These soloar powered lights use no electrical wiring, and won’t add to the electric bill.
- Use outdoor lights that have photocell unit and or a motion sensor so they will illuminate only when it is dark or when someone is present.
- Exterior lighting is a great place to install CFLs because of their long lamp life. For colder climates, be sure to buy a cold weather ballast lamp since standard CFLs do not work well typically below 40°F.
- Other outdoor energy efficient lighting includes high-intensity discharge (also called HID) and low-pressure sodium lights.
How to Tell the Difference Between Steel vs. Solid Brass?
Place a magnet on the metal part of the light fixture. If it sticks, the metal is steel, which is less expensive. If it doesn’t stick, it is brass, which is generally more costly.
If a chandelier weighs more than 50 pounds, it will have to be mounted securely to the ceiling or wall. Ensure there is enough support by mounting it to a beam or using additional support in the joyces.
How are Casting or Stamping Different?
Casting involves shaping the object during manufacture. Stamping is a pattern or design applied to a finish piece. Stamping can be lighter and have less detail. Generally, cast fixtures can be more expensive than stamped products.
Use Consistent Bulb Color
Use the same color bulbs in all the lights in a room so the appearance of the tone of the floors, furniture, surfaces, walls, etc. will be of the same intensity.
How should I prepare when shopping for lighting?
Do your homework. First, set your budget. Second, look online and in magazines for lighting you life. Third, use paint chips and fabric swatches to match existing furniture and walls.
Is Natural Light a Factor in Lighting a Room?
Yes, plan for daytime and nighttime lighting when selecting lighting designs for room.
Hopefully we have eliminated some of the confusion and uncertainty involved in purchasing new lighting for the home.
Selecting lighting should be fun. Most people are not lighting experts but will be the decision makers when it comes to purchasing lighting and lamps for their home, condo or apartment.
When all lighting and lamps are installed, you should be proud of your purchases. Enjoy the wonderful experience of illuminating your home.