Kitchen Lighting Guide

With today’s kitchen lighting options, it can be a daunting task to design your kitchen lighting system. Gone are the days of the seventies and eighties, when standard kitchen lighting was nothing but a recessed space in the ceiling with several fluorescent fixtures covered by cheap translucent plastic panels!

Unfortunately, kitchen lighting is still one of the most overlooked and easiest ways to change the look of your kitchen. Read on to learn how you can use modern lighting solutions to make your kitchen more stylish and functional.

The most important aspect of kitchen lighting design is combining the right mix of overall ambient, task lighting for work areas and accent light to highlight specific design features.

First, it is important to understand the different types of kitchen lighting; overall ambient lighting, task lighting and accent lighting. While most lighting fixtures are designed for use with specific bulb types and wattages, it is important to know the advantages and intended usage applications of each bulb before making your selection.

Overall Ambient Lighting

The most common kitchen lighting sources include incandescent, fluorescent and halogen type lamps. Incandescent lamps produce light by heating a very fine coil of tungsten wire filament using electrical current the filament is heated to more than degrees Fahrenheit, releasing visible light from the lamp.

Any of these three types can be used to provide overall ambient lighting in your kitchen, but choosing the right fixture is important. For ambient lighting, you want to use a diffused light source rather than a point source.

Standard pre-finish recessed lighting fixture brackets, installed prior to drywall. Finish hardware goes in after drywall and paint.Recessed can light fixtures with wide flood bulbs work well for ambient lighting needs. You can also use fluorescent lamps in can fixtures to keep electric bills down. Other alternatives include more traditional recessed fixtures with translucent diffuser panels.

Using a phosphor powder coating, fluorescent bulbs contain argon and small amounts of mercury. When an electric charge is applied, the mercury inside the tube changes from a liquid form to a gas form. This causes ultraviolet light photons to be released and react with atoms of phosphor, producing white light within the human visible spectrum.

Fluorescent bulbs waste very little energy producing of heat, and can produce from 50 to 100 lumens per watt, whereas typical incandescent lamps produce versus only about 15 lumens per watt. Fluorescents are thus up to 4 to 6 times more efficient. Color temperature can be an issue with fluorescents, so be sure to look for warm or daylight temperature bulbs.

Lighting design can make or break your kitchen decor. Investing adequately in your lighting will highlight design elements and give you plenty of light to work by in your new kitchen.

Task Lighting

Any area in your kitchen, where you work needs good task lighting. Whether it’s where you read your recipes, chop your vegetables or wash dishes, task lighting is essential to getting the job done properly.

Because task lighting is directed specifically at a certain area, you are not working in your own shadow, which is the problem with a single over head fixture in the room.

Use of recessed spotlights and floodlights has become very popular in recent years due to the style and range of options available. They are unobtrusive and provide great sources of all three types of light in a kitchen. Expense is higher since wiring and mounting labor is higher for installation in your ceiling.

If recessed lighting is not an option, another alternative for task lighting sources is to use track lighting. These have the added advantage that you can easily move and reconfigure lighting direction as desired.

Most recessed fixtures can provide lighting for specific functional work areas in your kitchen; islands, counter tops, sinks, ranges, eating areas, etc.

When combined correctly with ambient lighting sources including natural window light and diffused ceiling light sources, recessed or track lighting helps reduce unwanted shadows and gets light to areas you need the most light. Unless placed correctly, focus and spot lighting may cause unwanted dead and hot spots, so careful planning and placement is important.

Chances are, you will be installing multiple fixtures of many different types and styles throughout your new kitchen. Your ability to control each, both separately and in tandem, will prove critical if you are to create a flexible lighting environment.

Halogen bulbs are a very popular option for task lighting, due to their intensity and the variety of light focusing options available. Halogen bulbs are similar in nature to standard incandescent bulbs, except a lot more efficient and longer lasting. Standard incandescent lamps generate a lot of infrared heat which translates to energy inefficiency. Tungsten in the filament evaporates, leaving deposits inside the glass bulb, causing the filament to break and burn out the bulb.

In a halogen bulb, the tungsten filament is enveloped within a smaller gas-filled quartz tube. When heated, halogen and the evaporating tungsten atoms combine and the tungsten is re-deposited onto the filament. This enables longer lifespan and hotter temperatures, which produces more light output per energy unit.

Thus, Halogen lights can be much smaller than tungsten light sources yet still produce as much or even more light intensity! They are ideal for installation in very small places and will be less obtrusive to your kitchen design.

These beveled lights, installed in a soffit, provide nice accent lighting and contribute to the overall ambient light level.Accent Lighting

Accent lighting helps creates a focal point in your kitchen, highlighting specific design elements. Typical accent lighting will include under and above cabinets, track lights and spot lights, aimed strategically to highlight cabinetry, artwork and other design elements.

Accent lighting fixtures include glass pendant lamps, rope lights, wall sconces and others. Pendant lamps over a kitchen island or bar also make great accent lighting sources, combining task and accent lighting in a single source. And with so many design and color choices, you will find pendant lamps to complement any kitchen decor, whether modern, country, retro or other style.

Accent lighting is a must for accentuating architectural details, beautiful works of art or pottery collections, or anything else you want to draw attention to. One great way to utilize accent lighting is above your kitchen cabinets.

If your kitchen cabinets do not go all the way to the ceiling, an inexpensive method for ambient lighting is to place Christmas rope lights above the cabinets. The fact that they are holiday lights will be hidden by the height and upper ‘lip’ of the cabinet, and it provides an excellent source of ambient lighting.

Dimmer Switches and Lighting Controls

Kitchen lighting controls allow you to set light levels appropriate to your activities, time of day and desired mood for the room.Lighting controls need to be placed at kitchen entry and exit points, as well as at key work areas such as desk alcoves, islands, etc.

You may also want to consider incorporating one or more of the infrared remote control units that allow you to control your lighting much the same way as your entertainment components.

Timers and electronic sensors that turn lights on and off automatically are also seeing increased use in the kitchen. Before spending big bucks to go high tech, consider adding plain old dimmer switches, which have advanced greatly in recent years.

A dimmer switch works by turning electricity to the bulb on and off very rapidly, working off the alternating current, which cycles 60 time each second.

Less expensive than timers and remote control lighting solutions, dimmer switches control light intensity as you require for given tasks and desired mood lighting levels.

One tip to remember is that you don’t want to overload circuits so putting each type of lighting in your kitchen design on a separate circuit will help prevent problems with overloading.

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