LEDs at Home: Use Them in the Right Direction
With all the hype about the long life and energy efficiency of LEDs, some homeowners may think that LED lighting is the perfect solution for every application. While that may be true one day, it’s safe to assume it’s not the case today.
LED is a highly directional light source, similar to a flashlight: light is emitted in only one direction. The most efficient use of LED today is found in directional lighting fixtures, like recessed cans (a.k.a. downlights), undercabinet lighting, table lamps and outdoor landscape accent lights. These directional light fixtures use LED most effectively, and are in turn, more economical.
Because LED can be several times more expensive than incandescent, and even compact fluorescent (CFL) options, look for lighting applications that suit the technology and therefore maximize the investment in energy-saving LED.
Kitchen & Bathroom Lighting
In most homes, kitchen lighting is used more than any other lighting. So selecting the most efficient lighting for the kitchen will result in the best return on dollars spent. A strip of LEDs under cabinets (over the counter), downlight cans recessed into the ceiling, and carefully aimed decorative accent lighting should all be LED. Add a strip of LED undercabinet lighting down at the toekick for a distinctive look. If energy efficiency is a chief goal, use pendants, mini-pendants and semi-flush fixtures with CFL lamping in the remainder of the lighting plan.
LED tape lighting is perfect for the toekick lighting in the bathroom, too. Its minimal profile and low lumen output is perfect for nighttime navigation. To supplement sconces positioned on each side of the mirror, an LED recessed can is ideal, especially if extra light is needed for elderly family members.
If most of a homeowner’s lighting costs come from the kitchen, then outdoors ranks second, making it the next most logical place to consider LED lighting. Perhaps the single best place for LED outdoors is in the garden. Landscape lighting is primarily directional, and due to its long operating hours, a homeowner will benefit from the reduced energy consumption.
Surface-mounted outdoor lighting fixtures, like lanterns, are best equipped with compact fluorescent, unless they are specifically engineered to meet the demands of Dark-Sky regulations. These fixtures restrict light to a downward direction, not up into the sky: a task where LED excels.
Dens & Study Lighting
The first products to take advantage of LED may have been desk lamps with sleek, cutting-edge designs. These LED desk lamps can now be found at many price points to suit any decor. Desk lamps aim light at the reading or writing surface and are not intended for general illumination. CFLs should be considered for lighting throughout the rest of the room, such as a central ceiling fixture, table lamps or sconces.
Step & Hall Lighting
Step lighting is growing in popularity and finding itself in new construction and major remodeling projects. Step lighting is also popular flanking hallways as an alternative to ceiling-mounted recessed cans or flush-mounted ceiling units. Because the light is aimed downward onto the step or floor, there is very little glare. This is perfect for universal designs (accessible to both people without disabilities and people with disabilities) and age-in-place construction. Glare can be especially problematic for people with low vision.
LED is ideal for these pathway types of locations. Because these areas are small, fluorescents usually do not fit; and typically long burning hours require frequent replacement of incandescent-type light sources.
Other Rooms, Other Lights
Beyond the most popular lighting in the home, consumers should survey their own personal use of light. If they have a particular light source or area that is used frequently – an office, reading nook or play area – consider LED. Homeowners may also be drawn to an LED product because of its unique design, regardless of energy-saving characteristics. For remaining areas, stick with CFLs, linear fluorescent or one of the remaining incandescent products still on the market.
To ensure maximum enjoyment of LED and CFL light sources, remember to use these three simple buying tips:
- Select 2700 Kelvin to 3000 Kelvin color temperature for a warm, cozy ambiance.
- For quality, look for the Energy Star label on products.
- If marked on the label, seek out a Color Rendering Index (CRI) of 80 or higher.
Be careful when purchasing these products. Buy from a reputable dealer, and look at the Lighting Facts Label to make sure you will have enough light.
There will come a time when virtually all of our lighting will be LED. Until then, select wisely for the biggest overall advantage. Take the lighting fixture and the application into consideration, balanced with properly selected characteristics.
Written by Jeffrey R. Dross, Corporate Director, Education and Industry Trends at Kichler Lighting. With nearly 40 years of lighting experience, Dross has extensive knowledge of the lighting industry and has conducted hundreds of workshops across America to help trade professionals understand the ever-changing residential lighting market. He currently serves as Kichler Lighting’s corporate trends analyst, media spokesperson and industry liaison as he continues to engage with key lighting, energy and design associations and professional groups.
Photos courtesy Kichler Lighting