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How to Design a Lighting Plan

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You are doing a remodel and know that you want to add some lighting to the room, but your stumped. Where do I start is the most common question I get asked. There are some basic guidelines and factors that can help you determine where to start and how to proceed.

First let's take the room and it's needs. Different rooms require different lighting solutions. Rooms like bedrooms, living rooms, dens and basements can be properly illuminated with a simple general lighting plan. In rooms up to about 12' x 12', one ceiling light that can hold bulbs that combined equal about 120 watts is sufficient. For a better and more evenly disbursed light, 4 recessed lights about 40" off each corner works wonderfully.

A living room or den may be a rectangle as opposed to a square. A room that is 15' x 12' would be more evenly lit with 6 recessed cans. In these rooms lighting can be supplemented with wall sconces and or table or floor lamps.

Kitchens and bathrooms require much more thought. In these rooms, where tasks are performed, it is important that the lighting level be high enough to perform these tasks safely and comfortably. In a good kitchen lighting plan all the work areas will be well lit. Placing the cans so that the centers line up directly above the outside edge of the cabinets is the best solution. This provides ample light and avoids shadows while working at the counters. Spacing in a kitchen is also very important. Keeping the recessed lights about 4 feet apart and no more than 5 feet, will assure you have even spread of light.

If you run into a wall and need to ask questions about lighting try a Lighting Forum. There are some basic lighting principles that can help you along in this process. One is understanding that light in most fixtures has some type of pattern. For example a recessed light using a reflector type bulb distributes a pattern in the shape of a cone. When this pattern reaches the floor it is in the form of a circle. By slightly overlapping this circle of light it is possible to have a very even distribution of light throughout the room.

Since most of the members of a household walk upright and the ones who don't, probably won't lodge any complaints about lighting, a general rule in lighting a room is to design the plan on a work plane. This is an imaginary plane at about 30" off the floor. This helps to provide a nice even lighting for most tasks in any room. This is where understanding the pattern of light your fixture has is important. Most manufacturers have specs to show what these patterns are. For reflective bulbs you can get this info from the bulb manufacturer.

(c) Copyright 2005 Paul Forte. All rights reserved.

Paul forte has been in the lighting industry for over 25 years. For more info and tips on lighting and other electrical needs please visit Lighting Tips For help with Laying out recessed lighting

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