Whether you are building a house or renovating a property for sale, it’s important to consider your lighting scheme from the outset, says Luke Czerpak.
The power of good lighting is often underestimated when planning a new build or renovation, but it is one of the simplest and most cost effective ways of showcasing a property. The right lighting can highlight the best features of a room, create atmosphere and brighten a dark property, creating a feel of light and space.
It is also an important feature in creating great photographs – which are an important selling tool. The first thing most people look at when searching for properties online are the photos – or even virtual tours which are becoming increasingly popular. Having the right lighting can create the wow factor and show a property in the best possible light, even during the darker winter months.
All too often, lighting is considered as an after-thought, or the finishing touch, when it should actually form part of the initial planning process
However, all too often, lighting is considered as an after-thought, or the finishing touch, when it should actually form part of the initial planning process.
Choosing the right light source
There are many different types of light sources that are available, so it helps to be aware of the options. You may want different types of lighting for different kinds of rooms – for example, lighting requirements in kitchens and bedrooms are often very different. You might also want to ensure that your property has good eco credentials, in which case, choosing the right lighting source is very important. These are the most common lighting technologies currently available:
- LEDs – This is a modern, low energy light source based on electronic light emitting diodes. A good choice for a green build, LEDs are long lasting (up to 50,000 hours) and versatile, available as lamps, modules and tapes. LEDs run on extra low voltage so a driver of some description will often be required, although this may already be inbuilt in some fittings. Care should be taken when planning to dim LEDs or control them with motion sensors or photocells as there may be compatibility issues.
- Fluorescent – another low energy technology, although not quite as efficient as LEDs. The average life of these lamps is around 10,000 hours. Fluorescent lighting does have a slight delay before reaching full brightness after switch on. If dimming is required, you will need to fit special ballasts incorporating dimming technology such as 0-10V or DALI. This kind of functional lighting is particularly suitable for places such as garages and attic spaces.
- Halogen incandescent – This is a high-energy technology available in either extra low or mains supply voltage, so a separate transformer may not be required. Halogen lamps last an average of 4,000 hours but it’s important to note that these lamps burn at exceptionally high temperatures exceeding 400°C, therefore, extra care should be taken when positioning them near flammable surfaces. Despite being costly to run, halogen lamps have a high colour rendition index and dim very well with a wide variety of equipment.
- Standard incandescent – This has been almost completely phased out as there are more efficient options.
Design and positioning
The next stage of planning is designing an efficient and effective lighting scheme for the property. My advice would be to focus first on people, then on architecture, then art. The purpose of lighting in a home is primarily is to enhance comfort as well as functionality for the people who live there. Using lighting techniques such as layering, grazing, silhouetting and wall washing can help create a range of different environments and moods.
Layering – Light layering uses four primary layers of light: ambient, task, accent and decorative:
- Ambient is a soft, diffuse light that occurs naturally, entering through windows, doors and skylights before any additional layers are added. Ambient light creates an airy, relaxed atmosphere.
- Task lighting provides the illumination required for activity – for example, the spotlights above a kitchen island.
- Accent lighting is used to highlight and add emphasis to items and structural features such as exposed brickwork, nooks and joinery. It can help to have an understanding of how the finished room will be decorated and furnished.
- Decorative lighting uses fixtures that are chosen for their aesthetics over their functional performance. Examples include lamps, wall sconces and pendants are examples of these. Again, it’s a good idea to tie this in with the interior scheme, matching themes, fabrics and finishes.
- Wall washing – this involves pushing light to the edges of the room, using the reflective properties of light bouncing off walls and surfaces to illuminate the room and achieve an ambient illumination rather than the harsh direct beam onto the floor created by grid lighting.
- Silhouetting and grazing – these techniques enhance the visual appeal of a room. Silhouetting involves shining a light behind an object in an alcove or niche to create added interest and drama. Grazing involves passing a narrow-beamed light source over a texture to create stunning visual effects.Taking control of lighting
Once you have decided on sources, fittings and techniques, the next step is to choose a method of control. The best way to do this is by visualising how the space will be used on a day to day basis and whether different areas are likely to be used at different times. This will help to determine the most appropriate location for the user interface or switches and to specify an appropriate lighting control system.
A good lighting control system will be adaptable, so the lighting can be altered to suit the occasion or mood. You can incorporate dimming to provide a softer, more subdued atmosphere, or movement sensors that switch the light automatically when they detect heat sources such as the human body.
Ultimately to get your lighting right, it’s important to seek the advice of a professional electrician, to ensure your lighting operates in the way that you want it to, with the facility to expand lighting options in the future. Ensure that anyone you use is accredited by an industry body such as the ECA, which is a good marker of competence and offers various guarantees and warranties to cover projects completed by member companies.
A house is more than bricks and mortar- planning a successful build or renovation involves thinking about how each space will be used so you can create the kind of living space that will appeal to prospective buyers. The right lighting can really help to achieve that.
Luke Czerpak is the Compliance Manager at Eaton Electrical (www.eatononline.co.uk) and has been involved in many heritage projects including museums and art galleries, as well as National Trust and Landmark Trust properties.