Lighting is an important part of any home’s design, banishing darkness while adding atmosphere. But it’s an area of design we sometimes tend to overlook, as picking the right lighting designs and bulb types can feel overwhelming. So to help you bring a little more light into your life, Canstar has put together this illuminating guide:
First things first: Lighting basics
- Know that more light doesn’t necessarily equal better light. It’s about quality over quantity.
- Good lighting choices are about matching the light levels to what you will be doing in specific locations, i.e, brightly lit kitchen islands compared to softer lighting in a bedroom.
- There are four major types of lighting: ambient (soft lighting that gives an overall ambient glow), accent (adds drama/decorative touches), task (lights for where a certain job is performed), and general (think a combo of them all but mainly overhead lighting).
- Factor in the natural light already available when considering what lighting to put in a room.
Tip One: Layer your lighting
A lot of us tend to rely on ceiling lights as our primary (if not our only) source of lighting. But experts say the best thing to do in any space in the home is to consider how you’re going to use the space, then think in layers. Add in task lighting first, it might be a bedside lamp in a bedroom to read, for example. Then accent lights, like a plug-in standing wall lamp to fill an empty wall. Finally, a general fixture, like a light fixed from the ceiling.
Tip Two: Keep the kitchen lighting bright
A well-lit kitchen is a safety essential, as well as making it a more enjoyable space to be in. You want to go bright in the kitchen. According to design experts, it’s the one place where bright light is more important than softer ambient light. Consider the size and shape of your kitchen. For example, taller ceilings and darker finishes call for more light.
Task lighting should be included over your cooking surface, the sink and any benches or work spaces. You want to flood the space by installing recessed lights or high-hats along the edge of the ceiling. Recessed lights should work to light the entire room, not just areas without task lights. If you have a kitchen island, pendant lights above it work well. Consider under-cabinet lights along a kitchen wall to supplement your general lighting and ensure good visibility for cooking and food prep.
Tip Three: Beware of bad vanity lighting in the bathroom
We all want to feel great when looking in the mirror in the morning, so do yourself a favour and don’t light your vanity from directly overhead! That’ll only give you the appearance of having bags under your eyes. Instead, use a light above the mirror or on either side of it. There’s a number of vanity lights on the market that are made to diffuse light from the top, bottom and sides, so the light reflects onto your face flatteringly from the ceiling and mirror.
Tip Four: Choose your bulbs carefully
LED bulbs can cost a bit more upfront than traditional incandescent or halogen lights, but over their life the energy savings make up for it many times over. You can also expect them to last much longer. There’s plenty of choices, so you can get the look and style you want.
Keep in mind:
- Make sure the base of the new bulb is the same as the one you’re replacing.
- If you want to replace an existing incandescent bulb with an LED, use the wattage of the old incandescent as a guide. The packaging of LEDs usually indicates the equivalent wattage of incandescent bulbs that produce a similar brightness.
- Colour-wise, choose a warm white LED for most rooms in your home for a more comfortable light. Cool white LEDs are good for task lighting where contrast is important, such as in workshops and offices.
- For recessed downlights, replacing the whole fitting with a dedicated LED downlight is recommended, according to Energywise NZ.
- If you want to use LEDs with dimmer switches, check the packaging to make sure you choose a model that suits dimmable light fixtures.
To save even more money when running your LED lighting, it pays to ensure you’re getting the best deal on the electricity you use in your home. To help you choose the best power company, Canstar compares utility providers and rates them on categories including Customer Satisfaction and Value for Money:
Canstar Blue’s 2019 review of NZ power companies compares Powershop, Electric Kiwi, Flick Electric Co., Energy Online, Nova Energy, Pulse Energy, Meridian Energy, Mercury Energy, Genesis Energy, Contact Energy, GLOBUG and Trustpower on customer satisfaction. The table below is an abridged version of our full results, available here.
^ By clicking on a brand or 'details' button, you will leave Canstar Blue and be taken to either a product provider website or a Canstar Blue NZ brand page. You agree that Canstar Blue NZ’s terms and conditions apply (without limitation) to your use of this service,to any referral to a product provider from our website, and any transaction that follows. Canstar Blue may receive a fee for referring you to a product provider. See How we are funded for further details.
Canstar Blue NZ Research finalised in May 2020, published in June 2020.
See Our Ratings Methodology
Tip Five: Don’t kill the mood in a living room with bad lighting
You want to achieve a fine balance in your living room. Under-lit is just as bad as being over-lit. Using downlights on the perimeter of your lounge is a good idea to wash light onto your furniture, curtains and walls. Basically, you want to use ambient light, rather than harsh overhead light, where you’ll probably be snuggling up to watch TV. Avoid lighting that shines directly onto a TV or sits just behind it. You’ll have a better time if the light source is behind you. Light up corners, too. If you have an empty and awkward corner, a great trick is to transform that space with an oversized floor lamp. There are plenty of funky lamps around to suit your style. If possible, dimmers are a great idea in a living room, too.
Tip Six: Lighting the home office
Good task lighting is essential in a home office to prevent eye strain and tiredness, particularly if you work long hours at a computer. One advantage of having your own space to work from is that you’re able to light it to your own personal level of sensitivity.
Rule No.1: Make use of natural light in the office! We don’t want to be in the dark if we don’t need to be. Generally, it’s best to have natural light in front or next to work surfaces and screens, to avoid glare and maximise any outdoor views.
Keep your lighting indirect. Avoid working under the direct glare of overhead lights. Instead, diffuse ambient light that will illuminate your office space. Lampshades will soften and scatter the light. The ideal task light has an articulated or adjustable base with a dimmer switch to change the level of light as needed.
As we mentioned above, if you’re thinking about lighting in your home, it’s also worth checking if you’re getting the best deal on your electricity. To compare providers for free with Canstar, just click on the button below:
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