How much artificial light do I need inside my new home?
The amount of artificial light needed in a home is largely based on customer preference, usage and lifestyle.
There’s not exactly any wrongs or rights when it comes to lighting. However, achieving that ideal balance between natural and artificial light is no mere stroke of luck: it requires the planning, skill and experience of a builder that understands the science behind home design.
Why is lighting so important?
Lighting increases the functionality of your home, creates mood, enhances the perception of space and highlights design features. Thoughtful choice of light size, style and placement will go a long way towards creating that perfect harmony of functionality and style in any space. So, how is that perfect balance achieved? The following 11 steps will help you plan and make lighting choices to optimize the aesthetic appeal and practicality of your new home:
Step 1: Design
Thoughtful design of your new home is key to achieving excellent lighting, and each of the Hensley Park Homes plans have been crafted to optimize nature’s gift of daylight. In reality, every home requires both natural and artificial light, even during the day: the sun doesn’t shine into every window all day long, and internal rooms such as pantries and store-rooms need artificial light to optimize functionality. However, most of the need for artificial lighting is at night.
Step 2: Function
To choose an excellent lighting plan, you must think about and understand the function of each room. Ask yourself these simple questions:
- who’s going to use the space?
- what tasks/activities are going to be performed in this space?
- is the use of the space likely to change over time or as the needs of the family change?
For example, a bedroom may require several types of lighting depending on its use, so consider the following: will the room need extra lighting for reading in bed? Will extra lighting over a desk or study corner be necessary? Do you require dimmer switches or accent lighting for night-time usage or to draw attention to a design feature or picture? It is important to consider the long-term impact of your lighting choices: for example, wall mounted reading lights above the bed will essentially determine the position of the bedhead thereafter, and could seriously restrict your options should you want to move the furniture around or use the room for another purpose.
Again, lighting requirements for a study nook will vary according to its function. How many people will be using this space at one time? Is there extra lighting needed over study or reading zones? Are computers going to be used in the room? There is a lot involved in planning the use and layout of each room and the adage ‘form follows function’ is very applicable in creating a seamless harmony between lighting and practicality.
Step 3: Layers of Lighting
There are three essential layers of lighting in each home, and each of the three layers addresses a specific need:
- Ambient: general lighting for each area of the home e.g.: lounge-room, passages, bedrooms, kitchen etc.
- Task: direct lighting that illuminates a specific area e.g.: reading lights in the library or study zone, direct lighting over food prep areas in the kitchen etc.
- Accent: lighting to illuminate a specific design feature, picture or surface texture.
The use of each of the three layers of lighting is largely determined by the function of the room and the mood you wish to create in that room. It is important that each type of light you install is correctly positioned to fulfil its purpose, otherwise it will simply waste electricity.
Step 4: Colour
The colour of the lights in your home is determined by the ‘K’ or kelvin of the actual light you choose. The kelvin scale starts with a very ‘warm’ or yellow light of about 2500k and extends to a very clinical ‘white’ or ‘blue’ light of about 6000k. Generally, our customers prefer the ‘warmer’ end of the scale, however some opt for lights of around 4000k in wet areas such as bathrooms and laundries. To create that warm and welcoming atmosphere in your home, we recommend you steer away from harsh, blue lighting.
Step 5: Volume of Light
When choosing a lighting plan, you need to consider the sheer volume of light required for each room. Again, this is largely determined by the function of the room and the type of activities that will be carried out in it. Consider each room or zone separately: do you need this area to be a very bright one or is it a ‘medium’ light room – would you prefer one bright central pendant light or four smaller wattage lights?
Take a step back to your high-school science lessons when you learnt that light reflects better off light-coloured surfaces. This is a key factor when deciding on the volume of lighting for each room of your home. The colour of your walls and ceilings will greatly impact on the perception of light in each zone: dark colours absorb or ‘waste’ light, whereas a room painted in a light palette will need less light to achieve a bright and airy feel.
Remember, human eyes adjust at night time and we simply don’t need as much light at night as we do during the day. This is because during the day our eyes are continually adjusting daylight and we need extra light inside the home to compensate.
Step 6: Type of Light Fittings
When it comes to choosing the type of lights you wish to install, the options are endless! There’s a light fitting to suit every taste, decor style and design palette imaginable: down-lights, pendants, open globes, shaded globes, fluorescent tubes, down-facing wall lights, up-facing wall lights, wide spread beams, direct beams… there are literally thousands of light fittings available! Of course, there are some types of fittings that are better suited to the classic or traditional style home while others are tailored to suit modern design. Our team can help you choose light fittings that will complement your new home beautifully.
Step 7: Circuitry
Circuitry simply means the switching of your lights: when you flick the switch, do two lights come on or 4 lights come on? The switching of your lights will be determined by your personal preference; however we do recommend splitting the circuitry of your lights for larger areas. This will help to save power on lights in areas that aren’t being used. Two-way light switches also improve the practicality of your home, e.g.: being able to switch the hallway lights on or off from either end of the passage will be a major time-saver!
Step 8: Dimmers and Sensors
Dimmer switches help to create a gentle ambience and enhance the mood in specific areas of the home. They are also a power-saving device.
Sensors help to improve the functionality of internal spaces such as walk-in pantries, robes and linen storage areas: the light automatically comes on as you enter the room, then turns off a few seconds after you leave. Sensors are convenient and help to reduce power consumption.
Step 9: Cost
Electricity is a major item on every homeowner’s budget, so it’s important to consider the long-term consequences of your lighting choices. Think about both the initial outlay and the ongoing expense of running your lights: LED lights are the cheapest to run, however, they are often more expensive to buy.
Step 10: Government Regulations
There are government regulations surrounding lighting in Australian homes, as stated in the BCA (Building Code of Australia) and the Australian Standard AS1680. These regulations particularly relate to the limit of wattage/square metre in a house and are designed to minimize the environmental impact of your new home and limit power draw. The team at Hensley Park Homes understand the regulations that apply to lighting and we can assist you with choices that comply with all necessary standards.
Step 11: Lighting Packages
We understand that the whole aspect of artificial light can be a bit complicated and daunting, and we don’t expect our customers to understand all the technicalities that surround this area. To make it easier for you, we’ve developed our range of Best Practice Lighting Packages, which are based on the principals discussed above. For example, we have determined that 4 down-lights is a good amount for a master bedroom, while 2 down-lights or a single globe with a shade is adequate for a smaller bedroom. Of course, these basic lighting packages can be tailored to suit your preference or specific needs.
Disclaimer: unfortunately, there is no such thing as a perfect lighting plan: the ultimate would be a home which never required any artificial light during daylight hours, but in the ‘real world’ this isn’t possible. There are so many subjective factors that can influence the individual home plan, however, with the help of a team that understands the industry and has extensive experience in crafting beautiful, energy efficient homes, you can achieve a lighting plan that is practical, affordable and elegant.