Tag Archives | lighting

LED lighting – what to look for, how to choose

LED lighting has improved immeasurably in the last few years.  Gone are the days of blue light at a high price – LED lighting is now warmer, softer and much more affordable.

Part L, the Building Regulation that covers energy efficiency, states that 75% of fixed lighting within a new build or refurbishment must provide at least 48 lumens per Watt, and 400 lumens per fitting.  Lumens measure brightness.  So it is effectively saying that, for the lighting that’s fixed in your home, you must get a decent amount of brightness for the amount of electricity you are using.  Using LED lighting is a very effective way to achieve this.  But what to consider when choosing a brand for your spotlights?

Colour consistency

I’m sure you’ve all been in a shop, restaurant or someone’s home and noticed one pink spotlight amongst the others.  Or perhaps one that’s slightly green?  Maybe you have one yourself at home.  Good quality brands of LED lighting do not vary in colour in this way.

You probably know that lights in general tend to be available in warm white and cool white.  The colour temperature of light is measured in Kelvins.  Warm white is 2700 Kelvins; cool white is 3000 Kelvins.  While these measurements sound quite precise, in fact a 2700K light could have a pronounced pink or green tinge to it, and still be correctly categorised as 2700K warm white.

So, what we are looking for is manufacturers that have a more limited definition of what measures as 2700K (or 2400K, or 3000K, etc). In other words, manufacturers that categorise(‘bin’) their LEDs based on a more limited criteria.  This variation can be measured as MacAdams ellipses.  If the light is classified (‘binned’) as 2700K, to an accuracy of 3 MacAdams ellipses or less, you can be confident that all the lights from that manufacturer classified (‘binned’) as 2700K will look the same colour to the naked eye.

Colour rendering

Colour rendering measures how accurately colours appear under a certain light compared to daylight. Many cheaper LED light fittings have terrible colour rendering, particularly for reds.  Your reds may look brown, your blues may look grey.  So what we are looking for here is brands that have good colour rendering.

This is measured on the Colour Rendering Index, which compares the performance of the light against daylight.  It is marked out of 100. Above 90 is excellent.  80+ is good.  Anything below 80 is not going to reproduce colours accurately and is best avoided in your home.

You also have to be careful that the manufacturer has included all 14 colours when they state their CRI score for a particular light. It is possible to score only on the first 8 colours and state that the light is a certain CRI score, when if the last 6 colours, which are more challenging, were included, it would be much lower.

Which LED lighting brands?

You can use the above criteria to consider any make of LED bulbs or spotlights. Brands I have personally come across that meet these criteria include EcoLED, Orluna and John Cullen. Of course, good quality costs more, but you get what you pay for – better technology, a better result, a better home. Along with all LEDs, the extremely long life of the bulb (up to a decade!) means you can buy once, and save many times over with the energy savings and replacement savings compared to halogen spotlights.

With the above information, you can make an informed choice, rather than kitting yourself out with cheap LED fittings and then being disappointed with the result and paying more in the long run.

Plug-in lighting

Note that plug-in lamps are not covered by Part L.  Most plug-in lamps, and some ceiling and wall fittings, take traditional bulb sizes.  While standard incandescents are no longer available, the next best solution – aesthetically – for fittings that take E27, E14 (screw-in) or B22 (bayonet) bulbs at the moment is reduced wattage Halogen, such as these from Phillips.

Whether it’s LED lighting or not, always put your lights on dimmers if you can, make your spotlights directional (usually aimed at the walls) rather than pointing directly down, and please don’t put them in a grid on the ceiling!  More about this in a future post.

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Some practical tips for lighting your home

Last week I attended a panel discussion on Designing with Light, which featured luminaries (sorry!) of the design world Sally Storey (lighting designer), Juliette Byrne (interior designer), Shazeen Emambux (Porto Romana – lighting) and Nick Fichte (Crestron – lighting control and tech).

Some of my books on lighting

Here’s what I learnt.  I hope these tips help you get your home the way you want it.

Keep the controls simple

It’s possible these days to add endless circuits of light to your room, but how often will you use them? Crestron say that they’ve found clients may have several different circuits for various situations, but they tend to just use the default, and perhaps a dimmed down version for entertaining. So just work out what you want in these situations, and don’t complicate it further.

Consider the colours / finishes in the room

With 75% of fixed lighting in new builds and refurbishments having to be energy efficient, and the phasing out of halogens in 2018, the LED business is booming. And it should be, it is the way forward and I am a huge fan, for a number of reasons that I will go into in a separate post. However, be sure to look at what your chosen bulbs/fittings do to your carefully selected fabrics. Except at the high end, the colour rendering of LEDs (ie how the light makes the colours look, compared to daylight), is poor. In particular, warm colours such as reds and oranges do not show up well. So unless you can afford to shop at the high end for the best bulbs / fittings, consider choosing cool colours where they will be lit by LED light. They will look better.

With the advent of wireless controls, sophisticated lighting doesn’t have to break the bank

A simple wireless room control module from Crestron is less than £500. More expensive than a budget dimmer switch, that’s for sure, but certainly not running into the thousands that these kind of systems used to start at. Don’t write it off as something only for the ultra wealthy.

The progress in lighting control and home automation is rapid and attainable for many

Putting most or all of your house on a lighting system such as Crestron’s allows endless possibilities. Going on holiday? Tell the system and it will repeat the last two weeks’ worth of lighting patterns while you are away, so your home looks occupied. Motorised curtains? Add these to the system and it can draw them too. Turn the heating on and off remotely. Home automation is no longer for the privileged few and the tech-savvy.



London Design Festival 2013: my highlights

LDFOver the past week or so, I was able to get to a few design shows as part of London Design Festival 2013, so today on the blog I thought I’d share my highlights with you.

Had a great time at Design Junction, probably my favourite show.  I really liked John Green‘s furniture, particularly the Embrace side table / bookshelf / coffee table.  It’s not new, but it’s a clever piece of furniture that’s stylish, versatile and sustainably produced.

noble and woodNoble and Wood‘s modernist style pieces caught my eye, particularly the Cloud console with its interchangeable leather tops, and the Saddle magazine racks.

I popped into the V&A to see ao textiles‘ demonstration of natural dye techniques on their sustainable textiles.  Beautiful colours and patterns.

100% Design was a bit of a disappointment for me, to be honest.  Not much of interest for me personally and the Eco part of the show didn’t seem particularly eco, with many of the brands not demonstrating any eco credentials at all.  However, I did like Tom Vousden‘s furniture and Ilias Ernst‘s Timber lighting.

And onto Decorex.  Held this year for the first time at Kensington Palace, it was spacious, easy to get to, and full of stunning decoration and design ideas.

CuriousaAbsolutely loved these pendants from Curiosa and Curiosa.  Retailing from around £3,000 each, they’re unlikely to be a feature in many homes any time soon, but the handblown glass from Devon and the combination of colours had a mesmerising quality that was beautiful.  And more simple lights are available at a much more affordable price.

Hibou Home have a very cute collection of wallpaper and fabrics for children’s rooms – something a lot more on my radar these days than it used to be!

bluebellgrayBluebell Gray were exhibiting for the first time – some stunning Scottish fabrics.  They were showcasing their colourful painterly shapes.

I had a great chat with Mylands paint, learning about how they make their paint, and why they are different from Farrow & Ball and Little Greene.  Convinced me to try them out next time.

Finally, I heard an interesting panel discussion in the Seminar Theatre: Sustainable Luxury – a contradictory concept.  Can luxury ever be sustainable, or does luxury exclude sustainability by definition?  The debate grew quite heated at times, with Oliver Heath (eco-architect and designer) and Rebecca Whittington (co-founder of The Scarlet Hotel, an eco hotel in Cornwall) arguing that we need to start to think about luxury differently – space, light and beauty are all luxuries in this world and these can be sustainable.

This was fiercely contradicted by Cheryl Gurner of luxury bathrooms manufacturer Bathrooms International, who stated that her clients, at the top end of the market, couldn’t care less about sustainability, and that if it wasn’t rare, endangered or precious, it wasn’t a luxury.  She argued that it’s up to the designer to bring sustainability into top end projects by convincing the client to use, for example, a grey water system, or to make sure that when items were replaced, they were reused or recycled appropriately.  That part of the market will not compromise on finish, look and experience so eco is only going to be selected if it sweeps the board with the end result, irrespective of its eco credentials.  She concluded that designers can – and should – influence, but they can’t impose.

Joe Burns of Oliver Burns (property development) was somewhere in the middle, arguing that, whilst his business was built on the concept of ‘thoughtful luxury’, it was difficult to be the eco warrier when up against all the legislation attached to premium properties, which are often listed, in conservation areas and generally restricted.  No solar panels and air source heat pumps allowed.  However, they give consideration to all the options, all the way down the chain, to come up with a solution that is thoughtful and eco-aware – along the lines of how I work.

Oliver Heath went on to comment that contractors are the weak link in the chain, and I must say that this has been my experience too.  The contractors are the ones that rip out the old and put in the new, so what they do with what they take out, and the products they’re happy to use to create the new, are key parts of the whole puzzle.

The panel agreed that sustainable design needs to be marketed as an improvement, not a sacrifice, and that the industry needs to share knowledge and experiences, rather than scolding each other and consumers for not making the perfect product or the perfect choice.  As I wrote recently, there is no right answer,  you have to just make an informed choice, balancing what’s important to you with the big picture.

What do you think about sustainable luxury?  Did you visit any events in London Design Festival?  Let me know in the comments.

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