Most homes use too much energy for lighting. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average American household uses 1,667 kWh per year for lighting, which amounts to 15.3% of residential electricity use. Ironically, this energy devoted to lighting is used inefficiently, so the usual result is a dim house with dark, depressing corners.
Although many electric utilities have subsidized the cost of bulb swap programs for years, the typical house still has far too many incandescent bulbs. Even people who have swapped their incandencents for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) often install their bulbs in terrible fixtures with opaque shades or dark lenses. Fixtures are often installed in awkward spots. The dark corners that are common in a poorly lit house become more noticeable as we all get older; to see well, older people need more light than younger people.
Finally, many houses have too few switches, so that homeowners have to make an all-or-nothing decision about whether to turn on all six bulbs in a track-light fixture.
Once you become aware of some basic lighting principles, you’ll be able to solve the lighting problems in your own home and the homes you build. There’s only one downside to obtaining a lighting education: every time you stay in a hotel room, the bad lighting will drive you crazy.
Lighting designers have their own jargon. They call light bulbs “lamps,” for example, and they call light fixtures “luminaires.”
Lighting designers often tell us that there are four different kinds of light: ambient, task, accent, and decorative.
Ambient light is the soft, general illumination that fills a room and softens shadows.
Task lighting is a focused source of light near a work surface, a countertop, or a book.
Accent lighting is a type of directed illumination used to spotlight an…