Lighting is a great way to bring new life to a living space. You can brighten up your kitchen or workspace or add variable lighting to your living or bedroom spaces. But before you throw all your old lights away and storm the lighting aisle of your local hardware store, there are just a few things you might want to consider first.
As an electrical service company, we’ve seen a lot over the years. So, we want to help homeowners avoid frustration and headache by considering a few things upfront and coming into their home lighting decisions with as much information as possible. Read this article before getting yourself into any home lighting project and it may save you time, energy, and grief down the road.
Before you begin, create a vision of what you want your space to look like and what you want your space to do. Maybe you need to peruse Pinterest to get some inspiration for lighting fixtures, but also so you can get an idea of the look and feel of the space.
Before you purchase ANYTHING, make sure your home can handle your dreams. If you are in a newer home and thinking about adding lighting to an area, chances are good that your circuits can handle the additional load. However, if you’re in an older home or if you’re worried that your circuits might not be up to handling the added lighting, you might want to call in a professional electrician to help you update your circuits and plan your lighting projects. Generally, you need to plan on about 3 watts per square foot. Do some basic calculations and make sure your house can handle your lighting before getting into your project!
FANS AND CHANDELIERS
If you’re thinking about adding a ceiling fan or a large chandelier to a room, you might want to check out a couple of things first. If you’re looking to add a fan or heavy fixture where there isn’t already a fixture, you’re going to want to call a licensed electrician to run the wires, cut out a hole in your ceiling, and install a specific box that can handle the weight of your new lighting installation. If you’re looking to update or replace an existing light, you will still want to check a couple of things first. If you feel comfortable removing your old fixture, go ahead and take that down. Next, check the box that holds the wiring. Boxes that are rated for small light fixtures might not be strong enough to hold your fan or chandelier. It generally takes a special box to hold these heavier fixtures. These boxes will occasionally come standard in master bedrooms or living rooms, but generally, these need to be upgraded. When you inspect your box, push on the sides. A box rated for lighter fixtures will give when you push against the sides, where a box rated for fixtures 15 pounds or heavier are much sturdier. The sides are stronger and it’s often reinforced inside the ceiling.
Additionally, if you’re looking to install a ceiling fan, you might want to think about your switches as well. Do you want to be able to control different functions of the fan by separate switches? For example, would you like to be able to turn the fan blades and the lights off and on separately? If so, you might need to run new wiring and add a switch to your existing wall switches.
Recessed or can lighting is a sleek, modern, unobtrusive way to add light to a room without adding bulk, or without losing overhead space. This is especially important in basements and kitchens, where light is needed and space is a premium. However, installing can lights are not for the faint of heart—especially if you’re installing them in a room that doesn’t have attic access. It could mean quite a bit of drywall work otherwise.
If you’re looking to upgrade the functionality of your lights along with the look, there are a couple of options to evaluate to see if they make sense for you. If you’re updating a living room, media room, man cave, or bedroom, one great option is to add dimmer switches. They are an easy way to create softer lighting as well as provide lighting options for spaces. Bonus: they can also save you money on your energy bills!
Another option to explore when thinking about your home lighting upgrades is to install smart switches. Smart switches can be programmed to come on gradually (in the bathroom on early mornings, for example) or can be controlled from your smartphone. If you’re away from home and want to turn lights off and on to make it look like someone is home, smart switches can do that for you. If you’d like a hands-free way to turn lights off and on, these smart switches are Alexa compatible. Using voice commands, you can ask Alexa to turn lights off or on, when your hands are full after coming home, or once you’ve already crawled into bed for the evening, as a few examples. Beyond offering some really cool functionality to your home lighting, switches are relatively simple to install, once you’ve determined that your circuits can handle the new loads. If you’re comfortable with home electrical DIY projects, here is a short video explaining how to replace a light switch: click here to watch.
Often, one of the fastest and easiest ways to change the look and feel of a room can all come down to your light bulbs. You can completely change the mood of a space with the tone and hue of LED bulbs. If you have standard light bulbs in your home, an investment in LEDs could brighten your kitchen, for example, while also saving you money over time on power bills, since the operating costs of LED lights are a fraction of standard incandescent bulb costs. And while historically many of these high-efficiency lights gave off a harsh light, they now come in many different hues to match your room from a softer, yellower light, to a brighter, bluish light. Here are some pictures to illustrate the different hues on the Phillips blog post: https://www.usa.philips.com/c-m-li/led-lights/warm-led-light
Make sure you’re getting the right tone for your room and for its purposes! For more information on the different types of high-efficiency lights and and some suggestions for their use, check out these tables and illustrations from EarthEnergy.com: https://www.energyearth.com/general/categories/lighting/learn-more
WORK SPACE LIGHTING
Often, our lighting dreams are about not only creating an aesthetic for our spaces, but making them more functional as well. Perhaps when assessing your work spaces—laundry rooms, kitchen counters, craft rooms, and home offices, for example—you are trying to bring in as much light as possible without sacrificing counter and work space. This is often achieved with under-cabinet lighting. There are lighting kits you can install to the bottoms of cabinets to illuminate work areas beneath them; however, make sure your switches and circuits are compatible. If you want to hide the wires, or if you need a new switch in the kitchen, you may need to get into the wall, which might be covered in tile or cabinetry and therefore trickier to access.
If you have any questions at all about whether your home circuits can handle the load of your new lighting, don’t hesitate to call a professional electrician. He can assess your needs and make recommendations if you’d like to perform the work yourself, or help create new circuits, run wiring, order in your lighting, and perform all the work for you. However, bear in mind that if you have a licensed electrician come out to your home to help you create the lighting of your dreams, if you don’t already have all of the fixtures purchased and on hand, he will need to order them in. This might result in wait times for you. So, this is just another thing to evaluate when embarking on your home lighting voyage.
We hope this list has helped you begin your project; good luck and happy lighting!
Author: Amber Smith-Johnson
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Posted: April 2nd, 2018 @ 12:00am by tammy