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Residential lighting considerations (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: ralleia on 11.17.2006 at 10:28 pm in Lighting Forum

My home was originally an old farmhouse, and was remodeled by a DIYer. My husband and I are the current occupants of the house, and it is obvious that little thought was put into any of the house systems, including lighting.

In general, all the lighting in the house is overhead direct unshielded lighting. Direct, unshielded light is much more likely to be glare source--that uncomfortable bright spot in your field of vision, or reflected off your television or computer monitor that makes life a little more unpleasant. My professor gave us a simple test for overhead glare discomfort last week--the baseball cap test. In the area to be tested, put on a baseball cap (brim forward). If your eyes feel more comfortable with the cap on, then the lights are a likely source of discomfort glare. The reflected glare in your television or computer monitor will be obvious to you without any test!

I don't use many of the pre-installed lights in the house for this reason, most of which are bare incandescent bulbs mounted in some kind of suspended chandelier, right where they can glow within the field of view. The only exception is the recessed lighting in the kitchen; the recessed "tunnel" shields the light source from direct view, unless you insist on looking straight up at it, and then you're just a glutton for punishment.

The unshielded lights would be less of an issue in a house with taller ceilings--our ceilings are only 8 1/4' tall. That places the light sources well within the field of view of average-sized adults, making the direct ceiling lights an issue. With a vaulted or cathedral ceiling, mounted far above the field of view, the lights would do fine. As a result, the kitchen recessed lights are the only pre-existing lighting we regularly use. All the other pre-existing lights are only used for utility purposes (laundry room, basement, halls). It's ok to have utilitarian lighting in these areas, but that leaves the living room, dining room, office, bedrooms, and potentially the bathrooms as areas with lighting deficiencies.

For the living room, instead of the existing overhead lights, we use a fluorescent floor torchiere with a solid metal lower hemisphere, which is indirect light (all upwards) and works very nicely with low, white ceilings, which reflect and bounce the light around the room without causing glare

We rarely use the dining room for eating--the ceiling-mounted light is only 6' from the floor here, making the bare bulbs that much more painful. We instead normally eat in the living room. The light will be ceremoniously demolished during the kitchen/dining room remodel.

In the office and bedrooms, indirect desk lamps and indirect floor torchieres are used in lieu of the pre-installed overhead lamps.

Bathrooms are an area of particular concerns. There are three types of lighting to consider in the bathroom: general lighting, task lighting, and night lighting.

General lighting is for general tasks in the bathroom: toileting, brushing teeth, showering, etc. A utilitarian recessed fluorescent fixture should be sufficient. One feature of our remodeled master bathroom that I would not trade for $2000 is the "sun tunnel". It's essentially a skylight, but does not require direct roof access above the room. A reflective tunnel bounces natural sunlight from a bubble on the roof down to the room below. As a result, we never have to turn on the light during the day, and the room always feels airy, even though it is an interior room with no windows. Some form of natural lighting should be a priority in your lighting design.

Task lighting for detailed tasks such as shaving and the application of makeup. For these tasks, shadows on the face must be avoided. Downward, direct, lighting is a no-no, since this will cause shadows under the brows and nose. In this case, side-lighting is preferable. In the master bathroom, I installed a row of "Hollywood-style" lamps on the left and the right of the mirrored vanity and their own switch. In the main bathroom, fluorescent lights on the right and left of the vanity.

Night lighting. If toileting in the middle of the night, especially if arising from a sound sleep, the last thing you should do is switch on a bright light to use the bathroom. Besides potentially interfering with your ability to return to sleep, bright light will disable effective night vision for up to 1 hour. This can make your return trip to bed in the dark extremely hazardous. This is even more so for the elderly, since the ability to re-adjust from light to dark conditions slows as we age. Night falls after using the bathroom at night are a hazard which can be easily and cost-effectively reduced with proper night lighting in the bathroom. I use those 1/3 watt night lights (indiglo is an example) and leave them plugged in 24 hours a day. In the master bathroom instead I have a wall-mounted hair dryer with a built in night-light, also consuming far less than 1 watt of electricity.

Other rooms may have similar demands, particularly the kitchen. I just happen to know a bit more about the bathroom because we've already fixed it and because I wrote a technical report about remodeling bathrooms for low future maintenance and cleaning (all-around, not focussed just on lighting).

For cleaning purposes, anything extremely ornate, textured, and with lots of upward-facing reflectors will be a cleaning nightmare. Unless you can hire a cleaning service, consider how you will clean the fixture and/or the number of bugs you'll have to remove from it before you buy it.

In general, I would try to steer away from standard incandescent lamps. They are the least efficient in producing light of the currently available options and have the shortest lamp life. If you're remodeling or building new, you might as well invest in a better standard with fluorescent lighting. According to Department of Energy (DOE) literature, once installation costs, operating costs, electricity costs, and lamp replacement costs are figured in, incandescents cost $27 per million lumen hours v. fluorescents at $7 per million lumen hours. LEDs are a consideration for specialty lighting--their small size makes them easy to conceal; but they're still developing, so I'm only planning on using them on a limited basis. DOE puts out a figure of about $20 per million lumen hours for LEDs, but I'm not yet confident of that. Their lumen output is doubling about every 18-24 months, while the price is dropping 20% a year, so keep them in mind!

I'm sure I've forgotten something, but that's all I can think of at the moment.


clipped on: 08.29.2008 at 08:11 am    last updated on: 08.29.2008 at 08:11 am

RE: Chillers - Do They work? (Follow-Up #7)

posted by: girlsmom4 on 11.04.2006 at 08:32 pm in Appliances Forum

I love my chiller. I spent lot of time researching it and found that many of the "chillers" on the market don't really chill the water enough to consider it cold water (like you'd get from a water cooler, which is what we wanted.)Most come out lukewarm to tap-water cold -- which wasn't cold enough for us. I would suggest before getting one that you ask what temp it chills to. I even took my cold water from my deer park dispenser and used a thermometer to determine what temp I would want. (I know... totally obssesed).
In the end we got the Evercold chiller with filter and special faucet (we only have the chiller, not instant hot) and it's everything we hoped it would be. The water comes out really cold and we never have a need for ice in the water glass!
I can't remember where I bought it -- in was online -- but I just googled it and found a distributor.
I remember spending lots of time on this forum asking about chillers, and when I was here very few people had them. So now I'm hoping to help you out!


clipped on: 12.02.2007 at 03:21 am    last updated on: 12.02.2007 at 03:21 am

Granite fabricator said my requirements are unreasonable!

posted by: dandan74 on 11.30.2007 at 01:24 pm in Kitchens Forum

I had the fabricator did a small vanity first and there are some issues I want them to fix. Based on this job, I gave them a list of requirements for my kitchen countertop. She came back and said those requirements are impossible to meet and she does not want my business anymore. Am I being too picky?
Here is her reply:
As I stated in our previous conversation, the requirements that you are requesting cannot be accepted as part of our contract. We cannot be responsible for any color variations, fillers, pits, fissures or any other characteristics that are to be expected from a natural product. Your expectations of perfection in a imperfect product is impossible.

Here is my list:
1) Seams need to be flat and butted tight.
2) 1.5 overhang
3) Use clear caulk, not colored or white caulk between backsplash and counter, between backsplash and wall. Some of the places in bathroom need to be re-caulked.
4) Owner to present when the templates are placed on the slabs. Owner to decide seam placement, fabricator to find ways to match the movement, ways to color-match the counters that will be joined at the seams. Owner prefers to find a big slab with no seams.
5) Fabricator to make sure the seams between granite and stove/range are minimum
6) Owner to approve the granite slabs.
7) Fabricator to make sure there are no scratches, pits or cracks. Chips need to be filled.
8) Fabricator to make sure that the sink reveal is consistent all the away around
9) Fabricator to make sure the overhang is consistent.
10) No seams on garden window and behind or near stove on the wall.


clipped on: 11.30.2007 at 11:42 pm    last updated on: 11.30.2007 at 11:43 pm