Saturday, 9 April 2011

About LED Kitchen Lighting

LED Home Lighting and Kitchen Lighting Design

All kitchens are to a great extent a triumph of illusion. Behind the nicely introduced cabinet fronts and counter tops are the utilitarian aspects (pots and pans, tin and jars, etc) and behind those are usually bare plaster and concrete with cables and pipes jogging around. It is whats visible, what is on show and the way it seems that counts for everything, and it ought to be obvious that how something looks has an awful lot to do with the way it is lit.

Modern LED home lighting is well suited to most kitchen lighting applications. Kitchen lighting design usually requires neat, crisp light with nice CRI (Color Rendering Index) characteristics it is always a nice suggestion when preparing food that you can clearly see what you are doing and what condition it is in.



Ideally, kitchen lighting design ought to aim to strike a balance: sufficiently bright and suitably positioned to provide nice illumination around work spaces such as the hob, sink and food preparation areas; yet without appearing unduly harsh. In plenty of, if not most, households, the kitchen is the heart of the home and ought to therefore be a warm and welcoming place, not stark and sterile. It is a kitchen after all, not an operating theater.

Key to getting kitchen lighting right is understanding the basic principles of lighting design and understanding how the space itself functions. Underpinning most contemporary interior light designs is the idea that there's different types of light, usually labelled decorative, accent, task and ambient. Using each of these appropriately and achieving an overall balance to the room leads to an effective and pleasing arrangement.

Clearly, most kitchens map well to the ideas of functional (task) and aesthetic (decorative and accent) areas and so assigning the right kinds of light to the right space should not be terribly complicated. Where plenty of kitchen lighting ideas tend to crumble though is through failing to either understand or implement first rate ambient lighting. much and everything else gets bleached out, but not and the effect is gloomy with much contrast where other lighting struggles to provide a level of background light it was never intended to do.

A number of the best kitchen lighting designs are achieved by using plenty of lighting of different types, which does not mean adding a few more ceiling roses. Kitchen lighting design requires plenty of different types of lighting fitted in different places. In fact, probably the worst way to light a kitchen is to hang a few bright fluorescent tubes from the ceiling. Positive, you will get bright light, but it will be flat and cold and  guaranteed to give you a headache in short order.

One of the obvious issues with using central kitchen ceiling lighting is that you invariably finish up with dark spots and find yourself perpetually standing in your own shadow. Until recently, a common solution to these issues with kitchen lighting was to put in numerous halogen spotlights as downlights spread uniformly across the ceiling and supplement these with targeted lighting for work surfaces and cooking, using under cabinet lighting and hob lights.

In the event you can not stand the heat, use LED Kitchen Lighting

This solution works moderately well, but it is not without drawbacks. The main issues associated with halogen lamps are that they run hot, they do not last terribly well and they are a fiendishly pricey way to light a kitchen. Most of the cost (i.e. over 90%) of incandescent lighting in general and halogen lamps in particular is to be present in the electricity they consume; as a rough guide, the more heat a light bulb throws out the more extravagant and thus pricey it is to run.

The same issue applies, albeit to a lesser extent, to low level kitchen cabinet lighting, where the nearness to the underside of a shelf means that items in the cupboard above are invariably exposed to some amount of heat.
However, these days there is an excellent solution that is well suited to most kitchen lighting designs: LED kitchen lighting. Basically replace existing halogen spotlights and under-cabinet lighting with equivalent LED light fittings. This is much a matter of replacing existing 12v transformers with (or more, depending on the number of lights involved) constant voltage 12v LED driver and then swapping out the halogen lamps for LED equivalents. If using mains voltage lighting this is even simpler as all that is necessary is to remove existing GU10 spotlights and replace them with GU10 LEDs.

How to Get the Best from LED Spotlights

You can find out more about choosing LEDs but as a rule, the wattage rating for an LED light bulb ought to not presently drop much below 10% that of the equivalent halogen lamp (or indeed, most any incandescent light bulb). So in order to replace a 35w halogen lamp look for an LED rated above 3w, to replace 50w then choose a 5w LED and so on. This ratio is positive to change over the approaching months and years, with ever lower LED wattages able to deliver ever increasing levels of brightness, but for now one:10 is about right.

When installing LED spotlights it is important to try and match the luminosity (brightness), color temperature (how cool/blue or warm/yellow) and beam angle of the type of halogen lamps you might otherwise have thought about using. These elements are key to defining how any particular LED lamp will perform and they also interact with each other significantly. The true brightness of an LED (as measured in lumens) can be at odds with human perception of brightness as the color temperature varies so cooler lights appear brighter. Also, the beam angle affects how bright they think a light source is, irrespective of how bright it objectively is. The simplest way through this maze is to try and discover a compromise that approximates to your existing lamp specifications for each of these characteristics. Alternatively, be aware that when you adjust variable (say go for a hotter color) then you might need to think about adjusting another (i.e. luminosity) to compensate for the way the human eye percieves things.

The color temperature affects how cold or warm a light source appears. It is a common myth that LEDs generate a bluish light that is cold in appearance. LED lights come in a whole variety of color temperatures (and indeed, colors) but since it's always been simpler to manufacture bluish LEDs, that is what plenty of cheap LEDs are. In the event you look for what is termed warm white or a colour temperature below 3500K you ought to get a close approximation to the kind of crisp white light normally associated with halogens.

Finally beam angle ought to be thought about. The narrower the angle (ls than 45 degrees say) the more focused and spot-like the light will appear, whereas 120 degrees for example will give an evenly spread distribution of light without hot-spots or glare. At present, arguably the best LED spotlight to opt for as a direct replacement for halogen spots is the Zenigata LED from Sharp.

The determining factors for which brightness levels, color or beam angle to adopt in the finish come down to how far from any surfaces the lights are to be placed, the nature of the surface(s) and personal taste. If you are after a sharp, modern look and have plenty of reflective materials (such as steel) then plenty of smaller, cold LEDs set close to reflective surfaces could look effective. Alternatively, wider angles using warm white LED lights would produce a slightly softer atmosphere and more flexibility as regards location.

An issue plenty of people have with LED lights is that they are high intensity and can be harsh if in direct line of sight, yet paradoxically they can also appear to struggle to fill a space with ambient light. An effective treatment to this is to deploy more lights than you might otherwise think about necessary based basically on luminosity, but to direct the light towards ceilings, floors, walls and key features within the room. This nicely kills birds with stone sharp accent lighting and the reflected light more basically fills the space with soft, diffuse ambient light.

Always keep in mind that of the largest elements in how any artificial light appears is the nature of surface(s) it shines on. In the event you need to warm things up then direct your lighting at warm colored areas (terracotta tiles or natural wood or basically a creamy yellow painted surface). Conversely, to add dramatic effects try directing blue LEDs at predominantly dark surfaces (blue, green, grey and black for example). There is nothing to cease you using lights with differing characteristics to match different textures and colors in order to accomplish specific effects in separate areas of the kitchen.

New Possibilities With LED Kitchen Lighting Ideas

LED kitchen lighting ideas extend way beyond basically replacing pricey halogen downlights, offering a whole new set of possibilities unimaginable with regular incandescent lighting. As mentioned above, LEDs can provide zero-heat under cabinet lights to throw light onto worktops below. These come in the kind of recessed and surface mount miniature spots and also as LED strip lights. As with all LED applications, these are low voltage 12v lights that have low energy consumption, exhibit zero UV/IR radiation or heat and are thus inherently safe even in a demanding surroundings such as a kitchen.

LED strip lights are ideal for kitchen lighting. These come in connect-together 300mm lengths (the standard unit of measure for kitchen units) and are a series of closely packed LEDs inside a waterproof transparent plastic cover which both protects and creates an even and consistent light source. A single LED strip light usually consumes less than 1w of electrical power and emits up to 50 lumens light in other words, accent lighting.

The versatile nature of LED strip lighting is such that it can be used to accent anything. They are available as fixed length or flexible strips and are lightweight, fast and simple to put in, usually using tiny over self adhesive backing. Use them as LED plinth lights, to choose coving or basically to illuminate worktops.

LED plinth lights using either LED strip lighting or individual LED mini-spots lends a contemporary feel to any kitchen and looks nice on polished floors. Fundamentally plinth lights floodwater the floor with light which both connects elements of the room together and makes the room appear larger. The same idea can of work be extended down to the kick board (or toe-kick) which being closer to the floor can appear even more dramatic.

Note: Flexible LED light strips are also often known as LED tape for the obvious reason that they share plenty of characteristics of narrow self adhesive tape. The picture some way above shows a band of colored LED strip lighting used to accent a kitchen island. This site has several nice examples of what is available and the costs of LED strip lights if you are interested in buying LED tape.

Being water resistant also makes them ideal for lighting kitchen areas where water might splash (as a side note, this type of LED lighting application is also ideal for use in bathroom to again introduce a contemporary feel, as well as for use around ponds or decking outside).

It is feasible these days to also buy plinths with lights pre-installed, but its easier to fit plinth lighting retrospectively to existing units. You might also need to think about similar options for kitchen island lighting.
A number of the more extravagant applications for LED kitchen lighting design include LED drawer lights these are usually battery operated and attached to a sensor that detects when a drawer or cupboard has been opened or closed and switch an internal LED light on or off accordingly. Or how about illuminated shelf lighting, as in lit from actually within the shelf itself? Or LED wall wash effects bounced off ceramic tiles behind the hob? Or picking out edges below or at the back of worktops? The list of LED kitchen lighting ideas seems to go on and on.

Of work, in the event you go overboard along with your kitchen lighting fixtures you run the risk of looking like Santas Grotto crashed in to your kitchen, but as with all the best home lighting designs pick or simple lighting ideas and you will be surprised how stunning even a tiny amount of LED Kitchen Lighting can look.

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