Published In August 2001
Knowing and enforcing electrical codes isn’t the only way to assist your customers when beginning a residential project. Selecting and installing the right lighting system is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to enhance lighting designs, add value to homes, and increase your value to your customers. With the help of lighting manufacturers, electrical contractors can give their customers knowledge of what a well- thought-out, well-designed lighting plan can do for their homes and their electric bills. Homeowners want a decorative look that enhances comfort. This can be accomplished by combining lighting fundamentals, such as fixtures that provide general, accent, and task lighting that can be used to light and brighten a room while creating very different effects. With so many stylish options available, homeowners can supplement their personal design motif with various light fixtures. With the proper tools and education, you can show your customers how a good lighting plan can dramatically affect their homes’ look and feel. Understanding the consumer, determining how much light is needed in the room, installing the light fixture at the correct height over a dining table, choosing the correct size of fixture for each room, and incorporating accent and task lighting helps you stay involved in the project and know the trends in residential interior decorative lighting. Style preferences vary from region to region and from generation to generation. Younger generations tend to prefer clean lines with less ornate details. The most popular style for all ages is a transitional style, which is more casual than refined. Also, as homes begin to increase in size, so do lighting fixtures. It is important to size a fixture in proportion to the room. Most manufacturers offer tools that will help you keep up-to-date about fixture design, selection, and installation. Lighting catalogs offer helpful hints on how to size a fixture to a room and how to choose the proper mounting height and position for fixtures. These catalogs often give information for outlet box location for wall sconces and outdoor lanterns and required ceiling openings for recessed cans. Lighting layout software is also available for determining proper light levels for residential and commercial applications, and for aiding in fixture placement for even light distribution. Manufacturers also supply specification sheets that explain product features and benefits, mounting, and electrical requirements. As trends develop, builders, homeowners, and lighting designers find that, while general lighting is essential to a good lighting plan, it’s not the only option available. There are alternatives to having a single overhead fixture. Providing general light in a room General lighting provides a room with the overall illumination needed to use a room properly. This is most often accomplished through a single lighting fixture mounted overhead or recessed lighting. For example, a kitchen may use a single fluorescent fixture, a dining area may use a chandelier, and a living area may use track lighting or a close-to-ceiling fixture to provide this type of lighting, which can be used to replace natural sunlight during the darker hours of the day. Accenting different features Accent lighting is used to highlight a focal point in a room such as a work of art, a tapestry, or architectural detail. It is used to focus the eye and add visual interest to parts of a room that other fixtures may not emphasize. It is often the most overlooked lighting in the home. This type of lighting adds dramatic decorative effect by emphasizing certain objects, such as furnishings, artwork, plants, and wall hangings. Accent lighting can be accomplished with various fixture types, from track lighting to recessed fixtures to wall sconces. Task lighting Tasks such as reading, playing games, and using the workspaces in a kitchen are made easier by using small pendants, lamps, wall sconces and undercabinet lighting. Becoming familiar with the homeowner’s needs ensures that the correct lighting plan will be designed and installed. What electrical contractors can do As an electrical contractor, your feedback is vital in making residential lighting design and installation processes easier, whether it’s a remodeling project or one that you’re starting from scratch. Your message and feedback from the field helps manufacturers understand the need to make the lighting industry more accessible and understandable as they innovate new fixtures and incorporate new programs to meet the electrical contractors’ needs and the consumers’ design tastes. DeFOUW is a senior product manager and NEWBOLD is a commercial product manager with Progress Lighting. They can be reached at (864) 599-6000.