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Remember the old center-of-the-ceiling light fixture? You entered a room, hit the wall switch, and a couple of light bulbs behind a semi-transparent plate shed general, flat light over the whole room. All features of the room, good and bad, got the same emphasis. There was enough light to avoid tripping over the dog, but not enough to read by.
Things have changed. Lighting is now a sophisticated design element of the modern home, whether that home is traditional or contemporary in style. Every aspect of lighting — placement, function, control, style, energy-efficiency — has evolved to offer exactly what is needed in each room. Because high-tech lighting design can transform both the interior and exterior appearance of a home, it is commonly included in remodeling projects.
The thoughtful placement of lighting fixtures with specific — rather than general — function can make a dramatic change in a room. For example, a big overhead fluorescent panel in the kitchen could be replaced by task-specific fixtures such as recessed spot lights over the sink and other work stations, strip lights under wall cabinets, or dropped fixtures over work islands or eating areas. Other examples of task lighting include automatic bulbs in cabinets and pantries, up and down-lights that showcase landscaping or artwork, and fixtures positioned to throw light on stair treads.
Lighting controls have also come a long way from the simple wall-mounted switch. Homeowners can program or manipulate lighting schemes to create custom ambiance for a casual dinner party or an intimate evening at home. Timers, remote controls, dimmer switches, and motion sensors enhance the flexibility and convenience of a lighting design. In many cases, this increase in function and beauty is possible using the home’s existing wiring or wireless technologies.
Besides increasing the technical sophistication of their products, lighting manufacturers have had to keep up with current styles and fashions. Pendants, wall sconces, chandeliers, and domed fixtures are available in an almost endless array of styles and finishes. In addition, lighting suppliers have developed a greater range of compatible fixtures to achieve a coordinated look for all lighting products in the house.
Security lighting has also grown in popularity and available options in recent years. Inside the home, high-tech wired and wireless timers can be programmed to create the illusion of activity while the owners are away. Outside, motion-activated lighting is a basic replacement upgrade, especially at entries. Outdoor fixtures can highlight house numbers to assist emergency services. Lights in the garage and house can flash on and off as part of a security system that alerts neighbors or police of an unauthorized intrusion. The addition of outdoor lighting provides both increased security and aesthetic appeal.
Greater energy efficiency is a primary benefit of upgraded lighting design. One of the easiest and fastest ways to save energy is to replace standard incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. These bulbs last longer, deliver more lumens (the amount of light), emit far less heat, and consume 67% less electricity. Energy-efficient light fixtures and bulbs are prominent among the list of products to qualify under the federal Energy Star program, helping homeowners earn tax breaks for investing in energy smart technology.
Outdoor light fixtures are increasingly powered by solar energy and light sensors to save even more electricity. Small photovoltaic cells are built right into path and landscape products to power them only at night. These systems require no wiring or current from another source, making them safe and easy to replace as needed. Homeowners enjoy the added convenience and beauty of outdoor lighting, whether or not they remember to turn them on or off.
Upgrades in lighting design, function, and efficiency are an easy, smart, and affordable component of a home remodeling project, enhancing the comfort and value of the home.
Todd Allen Miller, AIA
QMA Design+Build, LLC
5000 Boardwalk, Suite 2
Ventnor, NJ 08406
NJ New Home Builder License #037561
NJ Home Improvement Contractor #13VH01107300
(609) 822-4949 – phone
(609) 822-4429 – fax
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