The need for better kitchen lighting
The kitchen in the house where I grew up was lighted by a single fluorescent ring bulb smack dab in the middle of the ceiling. It was too bright when you clicked it on for a midnight snack and too dim when it came to reading the fine print on the Nestle chocolate chip package. But like most kitchen lighting back then, it “worked. ”
These days, “workable” simply doesn’t cut it. Most kitchens now serve as dining room, office and family room. Lights are on in the kitchen more than in any other room in the home. And since we cook, work, play and pay bills there, we need a wide range of lighting to create a pleasant environment for all our activities and to prevent eyestrain and accidents.
In the course of entirely remodeling a kitchen or building a new home, you might be able to afford the luxury of working with an designer or designer to get your lighting and wiring just right. But until then( which for some of us is never ), there are simple ways to improve kitchen lighting without a lot of hassle, dust and expenditure. Here are a few of the easiest, least painful improvements.
Figure A: Kitchen Track Lighting
Replacing an existing central illumination fixture with kitchen way lighting offers an opportunity to direct general, task and accent lighting where you need it. Note: You can download Figure A and enlarge it in the Addendum below.
Track lighting consequences
Technique 1: Install kitchen track illuminating
A single overhead fixture offer good illumination for general cleaning and navigation but does a lousy undertaking of casting light inside cabinets–especially in deep and corner units. One solution is to use the existing light fixture electrical box as a starting point for a new track lighting system( Fig. A below ).
Track lighting–available in incandescent, fluorescent, and high- and low-voltage halogen versions–has multiple fixtures that allow you to direct and focus sun where you need it. T-, L- and X-shaped connectors let you install tracks and illuminates in hundreds of configurations. A wide variety of specialized fixtures allow you to customize and rearrange your lighting as needed. There are highly focused divisions with reflector bulbs for task illuminating and others for general or mood lighting. Many systems have adapters for pendant lighting too.
Once you’ve selected your fixtures, position them so they don’t shine directly in your eyes. Don’t install fixtures directly in line with sinks and other run areas; your head will block the light. Install them to the sides instead, then angle them toward the target spot. Install them where they won’t interfere with the swinging of upper cabinet doorways. And since way lighting fixtures are so prominent, select a system that complements the seem and feel of your kitchen.
Technique 2: Add undercabinet lighting
Undercabinet lighting sets light where you need it most. Your body and the upper cabinets often block the light from centrally located ceiling fixtures, keeping it from reaching the countertops where you need it most. To avoid working in dim shadows, install lights beneath the upper cabinets( Fig. B) to illuminate those cutting boards and cookbooks.
Undercabinet lighting is available in three assortments: Fluorescent illuminations are reasonably priced and long-lived, and they cast an even, “cool” light. They’re available in varying durations to accommodate different cabinet widths( Fig. B1 ). Designers advise that fluorescent illuminates used in proximity to certain strong wall or countertop colorings can create an “unappetizing” glow. T-5 fluorescent bulbs–about half the diameter of standard fluorescent bulbs–provide good lighting without being obtrusive.
Halogen illuminates, most commonly in the form of small discs or pucks, cast a white, highly focused sun that’s easy to work by( Fig. B2 ). Halogen light closely resembles sunlight. Surface-mount and recessed fixtures are available.
Incandescent lightings come in a variety of wattages and configurations. Strips of incandescent minibulbs tend to be of lower wattage and do better for ambient sunlight than for true “working” light.
Whichever type of lighting you select, install it toward the front edge of the cabinets so it illuminates the entire countertop rather than the wall. Install a 1- to 2-in. valance along the lower edge of the cabinet to keep sun from glistening directly in your eyes. Where possible, install continuous lighting so countertops are evenly lit. If you have shiny countertops, use frosted bulbs or frosted lenses over the bulbs to minimize harsh reflections.
According to electrical code, the cord of a plug-in-type fixture can’t be permanently procured to the cabinet or wall with staples or other fastenings( although it can be draped over an open-ended hook, Fig. B1 ). A more permanent, but more closely involved, answer is to install lights that can be “hard wired” directly into the home’s electrical system and controlled with a wall switching, like the fixture shown in Fig. B2.
Figure B: Undercabinet lighting
Fixtures installed beneath cabinets cast bright, unobstructed lighting directly onto the work surface. Install them toward the front of the cabinets with a small valance, if necessary, so suns don’t shine in your eyes. Halogen illuminates( B2) burn hot to create a pure, bright illuminate. Fluorescents( B1) are long-lived, inexpensive to operate and easy to install.
B1 Plug-in fluorescent system
Technique 3: Add or upgrade recessed lighting
Special recessed light trims concentrates light where you need it most.
Standard recessed illuminations, especially those installed in soffits or around the perimeter of a room, tend to light up walls, floors, cabinet fronts and the top of your head–places where lighting isn’t really needed. Most recessed light producers make a basic “can” fixture( Fig. C) that can be fitted with a variety of trims ranging from the basic baffled cylinder to adjustable eyeballs and wall washers. These last two versions in particular allow you to direct light where it’s needed–to the inside of cabinets or certain areas of the countertop. The cost to swap out a trim is usually low and the job takes merely a few minutes.
Make sure your new trims are produced by the same company that fabricated the recessed can housing and that the trim is compatible with that specific “can.” Look inside the can for the manufacturer’s name and the model number.
Figure C: Recessed Lights
Most recessed light “cans” can accommodate a wide array of trims. Eyeball trims can be adjusted up to 30 degrees to cast light into deep cabinets. Light from wall washer trims can illuminate cabinets, highlight artwork and reflect to provide general lighting.
Technique 4: Add a dimmer switching
Improving kitchen lighting doesn’t simply mean adding more illuminating; it also means adding flexible lighting. Many designers divide kitchen lighting into three categories: general lighting( for overall illumination ), undertaking lighting( for detailed tasks) and accent illuminating( for decided a mood or illuminating glass-front cabinets ). A dimmer switching permits an existing light to serve all three functions. Install the highest wattage bulbs your fixtures are rated for, then use them full blast for chopping carrots, somewhat dimmed for set away groceries, and greatly dimmed for enjoy romantic dinners.
Replacing a standard switch with a dimmer takes less than an hour and costs little. Fluorescent and low-voltage sunlights need special, more expensive dimmer switches.
Technique 5: Change to better bulbs
Improving your kitchen lighting can be as simple as switching to different light bulbs( Fig. D ), and there is a wide range to choose from. A standard reflector-type floodlight castings a beam of light( beam spread) of about 70 degrees, which is good for general lighting. A spotlight restricts the beam spread to about 20 degrees–much better for chore illuminating. A constrict spotlight bulb( NSP) can constrict the beam spread to 12 degrees for bright, highly focused lighting. A standard -Atype light bulb casts its sun very broadly. So check your bulbs. A standard light bulb erroneously placed in a recessed or kitchen track illuminating fixture will provide only a fraction of the light that the recommended spot or reflector bulb would provide.
A bulb’s capacity to light a particular surface is dramatically affected by distance. If 100 percent of the light from a bulb reaches a surface 1 ft. below it, only one-fourth of that light hittings the surface if the bulb is raised to 2 ft. above the surface, one-ninth at 3 ft. and a mere one sixteenth at 4 ft. You math whizzes get the equation, right? So when you need bright task lighting, keep the light as close to the work surface as you can, use a bulb that focuses more light and/ or use a higher wattage bulb if the fixture is rated for it.
Figure D Bulb Type and Height Greatly Affect Brightness
Bulbs focus illuminate in several ways. Pick the best focus and wattage for each situation. And keep in mind that as distance increases between bulb and surface, light levels fall off dramatically. For optimum lighting, keep fixtures close to the surface you’re illuminating–and use the correct bulb.
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