I love to cook. There's nothing more heart-warming than spending some time in the kitchen concocting amazing food to share with family and friends. But nothing is more frustrating than straining your eyes to discern between the onion you're slicing and your finger.
Yes, I'm talking about lighting. For over a year, a double fluorescent light tube offered its inadequate light from the centre of the ceiling in my small kitchen. Meaning that I always worked in my own shadow. So bad was the lighting that I'd need to hold a torch over a gently simmering pot of stew if I was to see how things were getting on. That is until my partner and I decided it was time to get stuck into the electrics.
With five carefully placed downlights and a strip of LED under the cupboards to light up the countertops, our kitchen has been transformed into the warm, friendly place it was always meant to be.
Until the day I saw our kitchen flooded with light, I hadn't given lighting a second thought. Light was a convenience - to light up a dark room that was all. But now I'm starting to look at our dining room, entrance area and lounge in a new light, pardon the pun.
I'm a new convert to this lighter way of life and for good reason. Those small changes in my kitchen literally transformed its feel and improved visibility where I needed it most. So, I've got to researching how best to improve the lighting in the rest of my home.
Here are a few top tips that I've gathered:
Have a plan
Identify how much lighting is needed to illuminate a room (known as the ambient lighting), this can be coupled with mood lighting - a way to create the ambience in the room which can be created through dimmer switch or even through natural light which you can achieve through solar tubes placed in the ceiling to allow daylight through.
Well placed lighting will achieve an even glow to the whole room and do away with any dark corners.
Now look at the specific areas that you'd like to have more light in - for example, next to a reading chair or on a desk(which is known as task lighting), or to light up a beautiful art piece or feature wall (known as accent lighting).
Strategically placed downlights at the top of the cupboards can create ambience as well as offer functional light for the countertops.
Think outside the box
You don't have to settle for a single light fixture placed in the centre of the ceiling. There are so many options when it comes to good lighting. Consider downlights, which are neatly concealed in the ceiling; LED strip lighting for underneath counter tops and above cupboards; and lamps placed on various surfaces.
A good way to go about making up your mind up is to look at the style of the room and match your lighting accordingly.
Remember that the placement of the lights, as well as the type of lamp shades you choose to place over them, will influence brightness and ambience.
The technical stuff
On average, a 15 square meter room will need around 200 watts to be properly illuminated. This needn't mean you buy lights that draw a lot of electricity.
While the global unit that refers to the amount of light emitted from a bulb is known as lumens, we tend to speak in terms of wattage in South Africa. For example, an energy saving bulb that says it is an 11 watt bulb will also have an indicator of how bright it burns by referring to the older incandescent bulbs which burn at 60 watts.
To work out how many lumens different types of bulbs emit, refer to this handy light efficiency table.
Go for energy-savers and save money long term
Energy-saving bulbs, such as compact fluorescent bulbs and LED lighting, save energy and therefore money in the long run. Better still, these technologies - especially LED - are advancing to better meet design requirements such as warmer lighting and dimming ability.
The best way to save money is to go with low voltage options. These aren't always cheaper to purchase, but they will save you money and energy in the long run by lasting eight to fifteen times longer, whilst drawing a lot less electricity than the more commonly used incandescent bulbs.