Back By Popular Demand

GBBack by popular demand – a rerun of one of your favorite Blog topics!

Often overlooked, outdoor lighting can add value to your property, increase safety and create an atmosphere that will give your guests that welcome feeling.

Creating an outdoor room is a perfect place to start. Already have the BBQ and a patio table? By simply adding a BBQ light or a portable lamp, you have already begun creating your outdoor living space.

Layering outdoor lighting, just like you would do in the interior, will create even more ambience to your space. Maybe add an outdoor fan, a pendant or a chandelier over your table and you will be able to enjoy your outdoor space well beyond sunset.

Gardens are the perfect place to use accent lights; add some fun or make a statement and create some drama. Consider up lighting your favorite old tree or try moonlighting from that same tree. (Be sure to take care when selecting products that will be mounted in trees; you will want to use mounting apparatuses that will not do any damage.)

Play with the fixture positions before you do the final install. Try both front lighting and back lighting shrubs to see how the brightness and contrast change. Notice how different the plants look when you move the lights to different locations? Create shadows, highlight architectural details, direct the viewer’s eye through your space…have some fun with it!

Lighting stairs and pathways is important for the security and safety of your guests. Especially important if the path is hard to navigate or has obstacles in the way. People feel safe and comfortable when they can see the area around them. Use lights that will evenly illuminate the space; patterns of light and dark can make it more difficult for some to navigate the path.

Landscape lighting is available in both low voltage and 120 volts. Low voltage can be easily installed by the homeowner, while 120 volt will require a qualified electrician to install.

If you find your living space lacking appropriate light, don’t panic; this does not mean a complete lighting upgrade. Instead, break down the layers of light in your space into three categories: General Lighting, Task Lighting and Accent Lighting.

General Lighting, otherwise known as ambient lighting, provides a comfortable level of brightness for one to see and walk about safely. General lighting replaces sunlight and is fundamental to a lighting plan. Ceiling or wall mounted light fixtures, pendants and recessed downlights are typically what provides general lighting in the space.
Task Lighting helps one perform a specific task such as reading, cooking, homework, games and hobbies. Task lighting should be free of distracting glare and shadows and should be bright enough to prevent eyestrain. Portable lights, pendants or directional lighting fixtures can provide task lighting.

Accent Lighting adds drama to a room by creating visual interest. Highlighting artwork, prized possessions or wall textures draws the eye to these areas. Accent lighting requires at least three times as much light on the focal point as the general lighting around it. Adjustable track heads, recessed wall-washers or wall mounted light fixtures typically provide this type of lighting.

So when you feel your living space does not have enough light, remember that doesn’t mean an expensive lighting upgrade. Simply evaluate the layers of light in your space and improve the weakest layer. You will be happy with the end results.

Here we are, that time of year again when we roll the clocks back and suddenly it’s dark early in the evening. Also a good time to think about our lighting and how it affects us.

Many of us living in the Pacific Northwest already understand the effect that our lack of sun and short winter days has on our health. The Circadian Rhythm (sometimes here in the PNW referred to as SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder) impacts everything from sleep and mood to the health of our immune systems. Humans have only been living under artificial lights for less than 150 years, before that we rose with the sun and we spent our evenings by the light of the fire. While researchers continue a deeper understanding of the link between light and health, there are many things we can do to help lessen the affects.

First let’s review a bit about the human eye ~ the human eye possesses a set of non-vision photoreceptors that help regulate the circadian rhythm and production of important neurochemicals needed for good health. These photoreceptors are located in the lower back section of the eye to more efficiently collect blue-rich light from above; the sky.

For the average person exposure to a rich-blue light in the morning to early afternoon is recommended. Reducing the rich-blue light to a more red-rich light in the late afternoon and into the evening is advised. After 10:00pm total darkness is recommended or very low levels of red-rich light. Even an incandescent light if it is too bright can disrupt the circadian cycle. This cycle of light and dark can be challenging for those that work the night shift, research is also being done in this area.

Now for the kicker ~ turn off your electronic devices at night. Using your smart phone or reading with an electronic tablet can trigger health issues such as sleep disturbances or depression. If you suffer from some of these health issues, do your research on the light wavelengths of different light sources. Just because a lamp is 4100K does not mean it has the optimal amount of energy in the circadian-optimized spectra (the recommendation is near 460 nanometers). In fact, most “full spectrum” lights do not have circadian-optimized spectra.

Much research is being done into how lighting impacts health. From how lighting can make you find people more or less desirable, shrink your waistline or trigger depression to how it can potentially unlock the link between sleep disturbances and dementia, and fine-tuning drug therapies. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this research.

In the meantime ~ get outside and get some natural light! It is good for your health.

Information taken from an article in the LD&A, written by Scott Roos.
Photo courtesy of Juno Lighting Group

energy savingsAre you a business owner considering remodel? Be sure to talk with your local utility representative before you get started. There may be some rebate or tax incentives available to help you in your decision making about what kind of products to use. To give you an idea, here is a case study of a retail store that we helped with their lighting needs.

Retail Store, Portland Oregon
2550 square feet
Open 43.5 hours per week

Existing Lighting:
Track fixtures for merchandising mounted at 17 foot
70 x 50W GU10 Halogen
12 x 50W PAR20 Halogen
Total 4100 Watts

New Lighting:
Track fixtures for merchandising mounted at 17 foot
45 x 15W PAR30 LED
12 X 7W PAR20 LED
Total 759 Watts

Pay Back:
3341 watts energy saved
7,133 kilowatt hours saved
$614 per year off the electric bill
3 tons of CO2 generated by fossil fuels saved
0,4 acres of reforested tress saved
$855 rebate incentive paid to the owner

bulbs5Are you still struggling with how much light that LED light bulb is going to give you? The light output of LED is measured in lumens. Our brains have been trained to measure light output in watts. Time to flip the switch in our brains! Here is a simple reference chart to help you with the conversion to lumens.


Remember when you were little and you would make a wish upon the first star seen? Tonight, after dark, go outside and take a look at the night sky in your area. What do you see? Do you see stars? Did you know that city dwellers only see about 3% of the stars in the sky? There are simple and inexpensive steps we can take to help reduce light pollution and restore the beauty of our night sky. Learn more about light pollution and the night sky on our FAQ page.

img_0611Many of us will soon be hanging Holiday lights; the season is upon us! Sometimes we get busy and forget to put safety first, here are a few do’s and don’ts:

Do – throw away those old lights and replace them with LED. LED Holiday lights use a fraction of the energy, they are cool to the touch, they will outlast the old incandescent lights and they have great intense color.

Do – make sure the lights are rated for outdoor use when installing outdoors.

Do – use only outdoor rated extension cords.

Do – plug the lights into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet or use extension cords with a GFCI on the cord.

Do – use plastic hooks instead of metal, staples or nails.

Do – tuck cords away out of the reach of children and small pets. Avoid running cords under carpets.

Don’t – connect too many strings of lights together. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Don’t – plug one plug strip into another. Plugs strips are not approved to be joined together.

Don’t – leave the lights up over 90-days. Holiday lights are approved for temporary installations only.

Do – be safe and have a great Holiday Season!

colorprimaryWhy are most ceilings painted white? Before we can figure that out, let’s review a bit about color. We need to go back…way back, to what you learned in kindergarten; primary colors. Red, blue and yellow are the three primary colors, these colors cannot be achieved by mixing other colors together and they are the basis of all other colors. Which brings us to black and white. Are they colors? Black is the absence of all color and therefore is not considered a color. White is the blending of all colors and is considered a color. What? You say.

Let’s jump ahead, to 8th grade science. The answer is light, vision and reflection. Objects are made of molecules and those molecules reflect or absorb light. We see the colors that are reflected back to our eyes from that surface. For example: we see a red apple because the molecules that make up the skin of the apple are absorbing the blue part of the light spectrum and are reflecting back the red wavelengths.

It’s time to run down the hall to art class and paint our masterpiece. We can mix the three primary colors together and create a very dark color. Technically you would need to add a substance such as charcoal to achieve black, but for this we will call our creation black. But, how do you create white? You can’t mix colors together and get white. Again, we create white with other substances such as chalk. Hmm… isn’t that the opposite of what we just said above?

Which brings us back to the science of light, vision and reflection. All paint colors have a Light Reflectance Value (LRV) which measures the amount of light that is reflected or absorbed by that color. The LRV value of black is 0% and is 100% for white. Which means that black is absorbing (almost) all the light and reflecting the lack of color back to our eyes. White is reflecting all the light (and color) back to our eyes and we see that reflection as the color white.

So, now we know why ceilings are usually painted white. A white ceiling will reflect all light and color back to our eyes making the room feel larger and livelier. A black ceiling will absorb all the light and color from the room giving it a dark cave like feeling.

undercabsHave you noticed how many choices there are now for under cabinet lighting? It can be overwhelming at times. It used to be that most undercabs were halogen or fluorescent; you bought the length and color you needed, had an electrician install them and bam! you had light. Now you have all these choices to sort through. Let’s review a few of the choices so you can decide which works best for you.

Traditional undercabs – these are just like they used to be only now in LED. They come in various lengths and colors. Most have a high/low or on/off switch on the fixture so you can control them individually in addition to wiring them to a wall switch. They install just like the older versions and can be direct replacements. What is new; now some offer tunable LED color temperature so you have options.

Puck lights – these are the little round ones that look like hockey pucks (thus the name). They used to come in halogen or xenon only. You could buy them in kits that included the wire and the transformer. They can be recessed or surface mount. All that is the same except now they are LED and use an LED driver instead of a transformer. The LED version can be a direct replacement for the halogen.

LED strip Lights – this type of undercab is a recent addition to the mix. Strip lights require a remote LED driver, so think about where that driver can be located. By code you need to have access to it. You may need to calculate for voltage drop if the driver is far away from the strip itself. To avoid LED flicker or strobing be sure to get the type of dimmer that the driver requires. The strip should be mounted in a channel with a lens. An angle channel with a milky white lens is best, aim the light at a 45-degree angle towards the backsplash. Especially if your counter has a polished finish, otherwise you will see the LED dots reflected in the counter top.

Give us a call or stop by and we will help you work through it. Whichever choice you make, under cabinet lighting is always a good thing!

photo-11Save yourself from headaches down the line and do your research first. That is really good advice for almost any investment that you are making. Be proactive! Whether you are replacing a single light fixture, doing a remodel, or building new; doing some research first and asking the right questions will make your project go much smoother. You can’t avoid every pitfall when it comes to construction, there will always be unforeseen issues and delays, that is almost a given!

Here are a few trips and traps to take into consideration before you begin:

Before hiring the contractor – interview them and check them out on-line. A good place to start is your State contractor board. Here is the link for Oregon.

Do some shopping – have in mind what types of lighting you want, get a budget and print spec sheets. This is good information to have on hand for the contractor interview.

Tips for LED lighting – all LED light fixtures use an LED driver to drive the LED modules. LED technology will vary from fixture to fixture, even within the same manufacturer. The LED driver may or may not be dimmable. Dimmable LED drivers can require different dimmers. Keep that in mind if you are mixing different fixtures on the same circuit / dimmer. Go over this with the contractor. Are they up to speed on dimming LED and the different dimmers and wiring required?

Traps with LED lighting – if the dimmer is not compatible with the LED driver the light may strobe or flicker when dimmed. If the LED driver requires 0-10V dimming, the contractor must pull two extra control wires. This is important to know ahead of time.

Tips for low voltage lighting – low voltage light fixtures require a low voltage transformer to operate. Low voltage transformers are either electronic or magnetic and they require different dimmers. Be sure to ask your contractor if they have installed low voltage lighting before. You don’t want to pay them extra to figure out how the system goes together.

Be aware – once you have selected the lighting, be wary of any contractor suggestions to substitute products. They may indeed have a suggestion that you like, just be sure that the substitute is compatible with the other lights and dimmers that you already selected.

With a little research before you begin your project you will know what questions to ask during the contractor interview. Plus the more you know beforehand the better equipped you will be when those unforeseen issues arise. For more information on these subjects plus more, please visit our FAQ page

Complete List