Illumination and wellbeing

Nowadays you can choose different color temperatures for both your CFL’s and LED’s, depending on the environment you want to create: warm light (low color temperatures with a lower number in the Kelvin scale) for cozy spaces, or a cooler light (high color temperatures, a higher K number) for working spaces. An optimum lighting design allows to enjoy the benefits of natural light, and to mimic the changing quality of sunlight, which fluctuates from pink-tinged in the morning to bright midday light to the warm orange of sunset.

Sustainable building design and adequate interior lighting have a positive impact on our health, productivity, and emotional wellbeing. Since the 1990’s lighting technology has shifted towards an efficient streaming of the intensity of light sources that not only takes into account the carbon footprint but also incorporates an environmental approach to lighting, attending at visual acuity, mood, and health. New mini-fluorescent light bulbs give a diffuse light, come in a range of color temperatures, and dimmers, allowing to better maximize the effects of full spectrum energy efficient-artificial lighting.

Energy Star fluorescent lightbulbs are designed to provide natural looking light. In the lower K scale between 2,700-3000, these light sources match the softer color tones of traditional incandescent bulbs. With a Color Rendering Index (CRI) of at least 80 in a scale to 100, they show colors realistically or naturally, as compared to daylight or incandescent light.

While the watts in a lightbulb tell us the the energy consumption, the amount of energy required to light the product, illuminance is a measurement of the brightness and intensity. From a softer white color appearance of warmer 2,500-3,000 K bulbs to a brighter white of medium K 5,000 for kitchens, and good for reading and closer to natural daylight 6,000 K. The Kelvin scale measures the shade of light in a bulb. The gradients of light color given off by bulbs range from yellow to blue, low K for yellow and high K for blue.

Full Spectrum lighting has some energy in all visible wavelengths, a correlated color temperature of 5000 Kelvin, and some UV emission. These lamps provide a more even distribution of lighting throughout the visible spectrum, similar to the way light energy is distributed in daylight. The higher color Kelvin +5000 helps improve visual acuity and accuracy, providing a very good color-rendering, an increase in brightness for the same luminance, and ensuring good color discrimination.

In order to judge the proper level of lumens when selecting a light bulb or lighting an area of your home, the Lighting Research Center offers a general guide that considers the different tasks and light levels needed for the job. It ranges from a minimum 98 lumens in your living room or reading area, to a level of 360-381 lumens over kitchen counters and closets, up to 1,680 lumens in vanities and dressing rooms. Lumens measure the amount of light produced: the more lumens in a lightbulb, the brighter the light.

Newly develop synthetic materials and technologies continue to transform the possibilities for lighting design. With the flexibility that lighting fixtures provide for a broad selection of low-energy fluorescent lamps, exploring the possibilities of feel-good lighting and the variable degrees of brightness and hues of light will allow you to create the atmosphere that suits your mood and that is best for the task.


Modern Lighting Design

Lighting is, perhaps, the single most important design issue in the home. It sets a mood. It will highlight features, make a room relaxing or vibrant. It is the lighting that makes a room function -be it natural or artificial. As buildings are opened to the outside, natural light is used as a design feature.

Only 3% of your household consumption goes to lighting, while 60% of the energy goes to heating the space. The choice of lighting, however, is not just a matter of what will cost least over a short term. Energy efficient lighting allows for the reduction of CO2 emissions.

With the choice of light bulbs and luminaires, that allow the right direction of light, giving due attention to lighting design is even more important. Combining CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamps) with LED (Light Emitting Diode) overcomes the problems with both and can provide a lighting system that is effective and able to meet varying demands.

The technology in CFL’s has improved massively in recent years. In the past the color of CFL’s was limited to cold blue light, but they are now available in the full range from cold blue to warm white. There are CFL’s for every application, they can be used anywhere an incandescent light would have been used, and they don’t have to be ugly.

LED lights have been around since 1979 but getting a good quality white light was always a problem. LED’s naturally emit blue, red or green light and that needs to be altered in some highly technical way to produce white light. In commercially viable terms, LED‘s giving a good white light have only been available since the late 1990’s.

With the advances in LED technology and the range of LED lamps, it is difficult to see the point of halogen. They are a bit cheaper but you will need to buy five during the life of one LED lamp. And the LED will cost about 9$ less per year to run.

Is it worth changing? A new four bedroom house has maybe 20-25 lamps, usually being a mix of incandescent CFL’s and halogens. They will consume about 1800 kWh of electricity per year at a cost of 220 $. Switching to all CFL’s and LED’s will reduce the consumption to about 450 kWh and the cost to 60$ per year. That is, a saving of 0.6 tonnes of CO2 emissions (Tim Pullen’s book, The sustainable building bible. Building homes for a greener world, presents the facts and analysis of renewable energy technologies available to  design a sustainable home).

Integrating a smart design –based on a green approach to lighting– with your personality and decor, may require having a conversation with a lighting consultant. Additionally, with the wide array of options from pendants to recessed and retrofitted lighting, it is still worth exploring the innumerable possibilities as well as taking joy in finding the lighting fixtures that best fit your blueprint, in order to balance the space’s functionality and to reflect your style.