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Foyer and Entryway Lighting Tips

Apr 21, 14 Foyer and Entryway Lighting Tips

Sometimes there’s nothing better than walking into your home after a long, trying day, flipping a switch, and seeing your abode illuminated by cozy, inviting light. The entryway or foyer of your home can be a significant space, especially because it’s the first thing guests see when entering your home. Besides the obvious safety reason, lighting in these areas is crucial to visitors’ first impressions of your home. Whether your goal is to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, or to show off the beauty and grandeur of a winding staircase, crown-molded ceilings, or other architectural features, lighting is one way that it can be done.

Fixture Size

Before deciding on a main overhead fixture to hang in your entryway, such as a pendant or chandelier, it’s critical that you to know what size fixture you should be looking for. If you purchase a fixture that’s too small, it may not provide nearly enough overhead light to fill the room. Buy a fixture that’s too large, and it could overpower an otherwise average-sized entryway.

One of the best ways to determine what the width of your overhead fixture should be is to take the length and width (in feet) of your entryway or foyer and add them together. The sum of the length and width of your entryway is how wide your overhead fixture should be in inches. Here’s an example:

15 (entryway length in feet) + 10 (entryway width in feet) = 25 (fixture width in inches)

Uttermost Cristal De Lisbon Flush Mount Fixture

Uttermost Cristal De Lisbon Flush Mount Fixture

Fixture Height

While the size of your fixtures may vary due to the size of your entryway, the height at which it hangs above the ground doesn’t have as much wiggle room. When hanging an overhead fixture, there should always be a clearance of at least seven feet between the bottom of the fixture and the ground. If you find that your ceilings are a little bit low and can’t accommodate a fixture that , flush mount and close-to-ceiling fixtures are your best options for an overhead light.

Accent Lighting

Foyer and entryway lighting isn’t just about choosing overhead fixtures; it’s also about using accent lighting to create a balanced environment and highlighting any architectural or décor features you want to stand out. We’ve talked about the layered lighting approach before, and it’s no different when it comes to lighting up this particular part of your home.

foyerlighting3Each foyer and entryway is unique, so there really is no one way to use accent lighting. Do you have a staircase that could use some extra light? Wall sconces placed along the staircase wall or flanking an entryway mirror above a console table would provide soft, low illumination that could be used with or without the overhead light. Wall sconces should always be placed above shoulder height and spaced evenly between steps if used along a staircase. This may vary depending on how many steps you have on your particular staircase, but sconces should be placed no less than three steps apart. Table and floor lamps are also a simple and convenient method of accent lighting that eliminate the hassle of installation and are ideal on or near the console table you might throw your keys and junk mail on after you walk through the door.

Your options for accent lighting are endless, but always keep one thing in mind: all of your light sources, in both accent and overhead fixtures, should have the same color temperature to keep the color of light consistent. Color temperature, measured in Kelvins, also allows you to create a mood lighting. For a warm, inviting mood, look for bulbs on the lower end of the color spectrum, such as between 2700K and 3500K. Anything above those color temperatures will give off a whiter and brighter light.

Do you have any questions or cool foyer lighting ideas you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you! Leave us a comment or reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pinterest.

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Is Artificial Light Ruining Your Sleep?

Apr 18, 14 Is Artificial Light Ruining Your Sleep?

If you’ve been waking up tired or groggy, the reason could be beyond not being “a morning person.” After eliminating medical reasons, you may want to examine your pre-sleep exposure to certain types of light. Consider a few questions: Do you have bright, cool lighting in your bedroom?  Do you sleep with your TV on? Are you on your computer or tablet within a few hours before going to bed? If you answered “yes” to any of these inquiries, you already know where this is going. But how can these factors cause poor sleep? Let me explain.

The Circadian Rhythm and Blue Light

Most people have at least heard of the concept of a circadian rhythm. For those who haven’t, it’s our internal clock: a 24-hour cycle of biological, mental, and physiological processes. These processes include cognitive performance, mood, and most importantly here, sleep and wakefulness. Although circadian rhythms are hardwired into our nature, external cues called “zeitgebers” can alter these rhythms. Temperature, medicines or drugs, exercise, eating and drinking patterns, as well as light are all zietgebers.

daylightWithout question, light is the zietgeber with the biggest impact on our sleep cycle. This is because for millions of years, before anyone could even fathom the idea of a light bulb, the light/dark cycle of the earth was the way by which we lived our lives. We had to hunt and be active during the day (when we could see everything) and sleep by night when we could not. Throughout our evolutionary development, being alert and awake during the daytime was how we survived, and this notion gradually became part of our natural instincts.

Fast forward to today – a world with the advent of the light bulb. As it turns out, not only natural daylight has the ability to affect our sleeping patterns. Studies have shown that artificial sources can have a significant impact on our sleep as well – more specifically, sources that emit light in the same hue as middle-of-the-day sunlight.

Yellow-orange light (left) Neutral light (center) Blue light (right)

Yellow-orange light (left) Neutral light (center) Blue light (right)

So, what is the hue of midday sunlight? It is blue light in the color temperature spectrum of 5000K and above. Some overhead light sources, along with your televisions, laptops, and phone screens, emit light in this spectrum. Remember, for millions of years blue light meant daylight – not an episode of The Tonight Show or a game of Angry Birds. Although our conscious minds know the difference, our bodies and biological clocks don’t – so when we turn on bright, cool lights or use our electrical devices late into the night, the blue light from these sources triggers our mental alertness, making it harder for our bodies to fall asleep.

On a chemical level, blue light has come to regulate our secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone. When we are exposed to blue light, we limit the production of melatonin and stay alert and awake. When we are not, our melatonin production rises, and it becomes easier to sleep. 

How To Mitigate Blue Light

You may be thinking “Yes – I have been exposing myself to blue light at night. Other than going to bed earlier, what can I do to achieve better sleep?” No worries – we’ve compiled a few pointers.

  • Use Lights with a Warm Color Temperature (2700K-3000K)
    Evocative of the dim glow of fire, orange-yellow light tends to have a calming effect and does not interfere with melatonin production. These characteristics make warm light the best kind of lighting for your bedroom, especially when you’re laying down to catch some Zzzs.
  • Dim Your Lights
    Lowering your light level can also help. Using a light switch dimmer would be ideal, but if you don’t have a dimmer, you could simply turn off your main light source and use a lamp instead. If you’re watching TV or using some another electronic device before bed, dim the screen down to lessen the effects of the light.
  • Limit Electronics Usage before Bed
    Turning off your television or laptop (and consequently removing the barrage of blue light from your eyes) about an hour or two before bed will give your body some time to get back into sleep mode.
  • Expose Yourself to Plenty of Natural Blue Light during the Day
    This will help normalize your sleep cycle – it works both ways!

Of course, we’re not suggesting that blue light is all bad: it has its perks, too. In a previous article, we discussed how cool blue light can be ideal in classrooms or workplaces due to its energizing nature. We’re merely suggesting it stay out of the bedroom at night – where it doesn’t belong.

Have any questions about how light could be affecting your sleep? Let us know in the comments or drop us a line on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, or Google Plus!

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The Differences Between CFLs and CCFLs

Apr 14, 14 The Differences Between CFLs and CCFLs

By now, almost everyone knows what a compact fluorescent, or CFL, lamp is. If they don’t know what it is by name, they certainly know it by its twisty shape resembling the top of a soft-serve ice cream cone. But if I were to ask you what a cold cathode, or CCFL, fluorescent lamp is, would you be as confident in your answer? Although CFL and CCFL bulbs may have a similar look, they do have their differences, with advantages and drawbacks to each one. This post will give you a rundown of the differences between CFL and CCFL bulbs while helping you decide which type is best for your specific lighting needs.

Hot vs. Cold Cathodes

First things first: although CFL and CCFL bulbs both use a ballast and cathodes to produce light, the temperature, type, and durability of the cathodes vary. The most common type of fluorescent bulb is the “hot cathode,” or what most people know as a standard CFL. In standard CFLs, the cathodes are constructed of a thin wire tungsten filament that is heated to temperatures reaching at or above 900 degrees Fahrenheit when the lamp is turned on. Heating the cathodes in standard CFLs causes them to release electrons that react to the mercury in the glass tube to create ultraviolet (UV) radiation, eventually producing visible light. This reactive process that standard CFLs go through to produce light is why they usually take at least 30 seconds to reach full brightness.

On the other hand, the cathodes in CCFLs are not heated by a filament. Instead, CCFLs use cathodes that do not require filaments to heat up. These cathodes resemble small metal thimbles that reach temperatures of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. While nothing about these cathodes is actually “cold,” 200 degrees Fahrenheit is considerably cooler than the 900-degree temp of the hot cathode.

Start Times and On/Off Cycling

Whereas standard CFLs have delayed start times of 30 seconds or more, CCFLs are instant-on, taking little to no time to reach full brightness. This is because the process of heating up a CCFL bulb is much quicker and requires less heat to create visible light. The thimble-like, metal construction of the cathodes in CCFLs, like the one to the right, are also sturdier than the thin filament used in standard CFLs and are able to handle around five times the amount of voltage.  This is why CFLs and CCFLs react differently to frequent on and off cycling. If you’ve ever had a CFL bulb burn out on you quicker than it was supposed to, it may have been because it was switched on and off a lot in a short amount of time.  The weaker cathodes in standard CFLs cannot handle frequent surges of electricity. This makes cold cathode bulbs ideal for use in flashing signs and residential applications where lights are often switched on and off.

Dimming

Litetronics MicroBrite MB-500DL Dimmable CCFL

Litetronics MicroBrite MB-500DL Dimmable CCFL

It’s no question that dimmable CFL technology has advanced over the years and will continue to do so, but there are still differences between dimmable CFLs and CCFLs. As I mentioned above, the cathodes of standard CFLs must reach extremely high temperatures to produce light. Dimming a CFL bulb requires the amount of voltage being received by the ballast be reduced, also reducing the temperature of the cathodes and causing CFLs to have limited dimming capabilities. This is where the lower operating temperatures of cold cathode fluorescent lamps present an advantage. Dimmable CCFLs require much less heat to produce visible light and can be dimmed to as low as 5 percent of their original light output. Traditional CFLs, although improving, typically can only be dimmed to about 20 percent.

Rated Life Hours

Now that you know that the cathodes in CCFLs are able to withstand more than the filament cathodes in standard CFLs, it’s probably no surprise that CCFL bulbs have longer rated lives. With proper use, CFLs can last anywhere from 8,000 to 15,000 hours, depending on the rating. While that is still impressive, CCFLs are able to last as long as some LED bulbs on the market with life hour ratings up to 25,000 hours.

All of the information above considered, choosing between CFLs and CCFLs is very dependent on what is best for a particular application. If you’re looking for a bulb that can withstand cold weather, frequent on and off cycling, or has flexible dimming capabilities, CCFLs will be your best bet. However, CCFLs tend to be offered in lower wattages and don’t have lumen outputs equivalent to standard CFLs, which are able to reach incandescent equivalents of up to 150 watts in household applications. Either way, compact fluorescent lamps are a cost-effective lighting solution that will help you save energy.

Do you have any more questions about hot and cold cathode fluorescent light bulbs? Leave us a comment or reach out to us on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest!

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Standing Out at Trade Shows

Apr 11, 14 Standing Out at Trade Shows

Trade shows are a great opportunity to showcase your business’s latest products or services. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste by getting lost in the crowd! Creatively illuminating your company’s exhibit can draw more attention to your products and even enhance your sales. Although your options will vary depending on your set-up, below are a few key pointers for creating a unique lighting design that will attract more visitors to your booth.

Layer Your Lighting

Before heading out to your next trade show, expand your lighting inventory. Layered lighting is the essential principle of lighting design. Using different types of lights throughout your exhibit will make it look more interesting and professional, and thus more enticing, especially if the light is coming from two or three different directions.

There are certain areas you’ll want to spotlight, or draw attention to, as well as areas you’ll want to accent, or illuminate for a subtle artistic effect.  Areas you’ll definitely want to spotlight include shelves or display cases, logos, wall graphics, and company literature. Areas that would look great with accent lighting include underneath or around countertops as well as behind posters. Each kind of lighting will often require different types of bulbs and fixtures. So what kind of lights would you need (and where would you need them) to achieve these effects?

Spotlighting

CREE-LE6US Adjustable Eyeball Trimmed Downlight

CREE-LE6US Adjustable Eyeball Trimmed Downlight

Spotlight-style lights, such as recessed downlights and track lights, are the most common type of display lights. Recessed downlights are great for highlighting singular items, and are often used inside shelves or embedded within ceilings. Track lights are ideal for highlighting graphics splayed across a large wall, or depending on how you angle the lights, they can illuminate key items on countertops. Usually the same kinds of bulbs are used in both downlight and track light fixtures, so the specific bulb you’ll need depends on the fixture you choose.

Popular bulbs for these fixtures include MR16s, PAR lamps, R lamps, MR8s, and MR11s. The “R” in these bulbs’ names stands for reflector, meaning that the bulb emits brighter, more concentrated light because it reflects light off the inside of its surrounding metal casing. When choosing a reflector bulb for use in a display light, pick one with a warm, inviting color temperature (2700 or 3000K), an excellent color-rendering index (above 80), and a beam angle that is narrow or wide enough to adequately show off your items. To add a little more pizazz to your display, you could even go with colored reflector bulbs.

Accenting

FT2-L120WW1230 30 ft. LED Rope Light

FT2-L120WW1230 30 ft. LED Rope Light

Due to their versatility, both rope light and tape light are excellent choices for accent lighting. No matter the size or shape of your exhibit, each option could be easily incorporated in discreet, out-of-the-way places such as along the corners of your walls, underneath counters, around cabinets, behind posters, or anywhere that a hint of light could create a dramatic impact. Rope light is durable, rounded, and requires screw-in rope light channels or clips to keep it in place, whereas tape light is flat, thin, and simply sticks to surfaces with its adhesive backing. Both can be cut and capped to different lengths. So which option would be best in your booth?

FLX-5050WW1230 10 ft. LED Tape Light

FLX-5050WW1230 10 ft. LED Tape Light

Although tape light gives off brighter light and is easier to install due its sticky backing, it’s not as easy to configure into unique shapes as rope light is, nor is it as durable. So if you’re going for a quick, easy set-up and don’t want to accentuate a uniquely shaped place, tape light is probably your best option. However, if you want to accent something a little more interesting (for instance, rope light could be easily wrapped around rails or columns) or if you want 360 degree, multi-directional light, you may want to go with rope light after all.

To conclude, these are just a few of our ideas, and there are certainly other fixtures you can use to create layered lighting designs. What are some interesting ways you’ve seen people use layered lighting at trade shows? Share your thoughts in the comments or send us a line on  Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, or LinkedIn!

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