Efficient Kitchen Lighting
Kitchen sizes, styles and configurations have changed dramatically through the years. As consumer lifestyles and tastes have changed, kitchen lighting has evolved to reflect these shifts. In the past, a simple florescent ring placed in the center of the ceiling operated by a single switch was the norm for a typical American kitchen. Now, the proliferation of TV networks and shows devoted to every aspect of home decorating, remodeling, building and sales reflect current consumers’ higher standards and expectations for a home’s appearance. Lighting, once considered an afterthought, is now an integral part of home décor and function – particularly in a focal area such as the kitchen.
The effect of a single overhead light source can be too much light in one area and not enough in others. Layering different types of light from different sources is not only a smart plan, but it makes good sense from an efficiency perspective.
Task lighting, such as under-counter lighting illuminates a particular work surface without a shadowing effect. Energy efficient options typically feature LED-powered puck lights that can be placed precisely where they are most needed under the cabinets. Another option is the thin-diameter fluorescent tube that use about 25 percent of the electricity of halogen or incandescent bulbs and have a much greater life span. Regardless of the type of light selected, when installing the lights, place them toward the front of the cabinet so they illuminate the whole countertop rather than the wall. Most types of under-counter lights can be plugged into a standard outlet. Overhead lights, whether from a central fixture, track lights or recessed, can offer indirect illumination and complement the task lights. Where possible, utilize ENERGY STAR and LED options.
Shining a light on flexibility
Efficient lighting in the kitchen does not necessarily mean more lights, but rather more versatile lighting.
Dimmer switches create more flexible lighting options for existing lights. There are times when maximum illumination is required for tasks such as food preparation or clean-up. At other times, it makes more sense to turn down the lights to create a cozier ambiance. By placing different sets of lights on dimmer switches, you increase your options, minimize the energy used for lighting and thereby allow for greater energy efficiency. However, when installing dimmer switches, make sure they are compatible with LED lights.
Lighting accounts for up to 15 percent of a home’s energy budget, and since the kitchen still remains the heart of the home and is a high traffic hub, it makes good sense to focus here. For basic energy efficiency in the kitchen and elsewhere, sometimes small adjustments can make a big impact.
The simplest area to focus is on the light itself. LED lights use a small fraction of the energy of CFL, halogen or traditional incandescent bulbs and they are known for their longevity and efficiency. ENERGY STAR-rated LED bulbs typically are the most energy efficient.
At its best, a good kitchen lighting plan is functional, attractive and energy efficient. Whether your kitchen is large or small, old or new, one reliable recipe for energy savings is utilizing more efficient lighting in the heart of the home.
By Anne Prince