Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How To Benefit From LED Lighting In Your Kitchen

By Abigail Monot

The best kitchen lighting designs almost always use a lot of lighting, which doesn't mean simply adding a few more ceiling rose fittings. Kitchen lighting demands different types of lighting for different zones. In fact, almost the worst way to light a kitchen is to put a few bright fluorescent tubes on the ceiling. You'll certainly get bright light - but also flat, cold and certain to give you a headache in no time at all.

Clearly, a major problem with central ceiling roses in a kitchen is that they create dark spots and you are always casting your own shadow onto worktops. A popular solution is to fit a number of halogen down lights in a pattern in the ceiling to produce uniform general light and install extra lighting specifically for worktops and hobs etc.

This solution works reasonably well, but does have its own downsides: halogen lamps operate at extremely high temperatures, don't last very long, and are without rival as the most expensive means of lighting a kitchen. Some 90% of the cost of incandescent lighting (of which halogen is an extreme example) is the electricity they use.

This in large part explains the rise in popularity of ultra low energy, cool running, LED kitchen lighting. For mains voltage lighting, all that is required is to replace existing GU10 spotlights in-situ with GU10 LEDs. For low voltage systems, replace existing 12v transformers with one (or more, depending on the number of lights involved) constant voltage 12v LED driver and then change over to LED light bulbs.

The three main aspects to consider when installing LED spotlights are: luminosity (brightness); colour temperature (how cool/blue or warm/yellow); and beam angle. Try to match these as close as possible to the characteristics of the halogen lamps you might otherwise have considered using.

We have become accustomed to rating brightness by wattage, but the rated wattage for an LED light bulb should be about 10% that of the equivalent normal incandescent or halogen bulb. So expect to replace a 35w halogen lamp with an LED rated 3w or greater, 50w requires a 5w LED and so on.

Color temperature describes how cool or warm a light appears. LED lights are available in a variety of white color temperatures (and also, colors) but since it has always been easier to manufacture blue LEDs, many cheap LEDs tend to have a cold/bluish tinge. Go for warm white (color temperatures below 3500K) for a reasonable approximation to the kind of white light normally associated with halogen lamps.

A narrow beam angle, say 45 degrees, makes any light appear tighter and more contained to a defined spot, whereas a much wider 120 degrees spreads the light out evenly, eliminating glare and "hot-spots". Quite possibly the best LED spot light currently available that acts as a straightforward halogen replacement is the Sharp Zenigata.

One of the key factors to how any artificial light appears is not so much the light itself as the surface it shines on. To warm things up, point spot lighting at warmly colored areas (terracotta tiles, natural wood or simply a warmly painted wall). Alternatively, create dramatic effects by for example directing blue LEDs at fairly dark surfaces - blue LEDs reflected off blue, green, granite and steel can look stunning.

Use lights with differing characteristics against different textures and colors to obtain different effects in specific zones in the kitchen. There are so many options, especially with LED strip lighting systems for accenting plinths, coving, worktops and just about anything else you could think of. The best advice though is stick with just one or two ideas - you'll be surprised how stunning even a modicum of LED kitchen lighting looks.

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