Q: How effective are ceiling fans and what should I look for when shopping for one?
A: Ceiling fans have a place in every home. While they do not lower the temperature, they make you feel more comfortable on steamy days by evaporating moisture on the skin and reducing body heat. In the winter, you can reverse the motor so the blades rotate clockwise and run the fan on low to gently recirculate the warm air that normally gets trapped near the ceiling. By employing ceiling fans throughout the year, and therefore relying less on your furnace and AC, you can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs.
Aesthetically, ceiling fans have gotten a bad rap over the years, but they’ve come a long way. There are now many attractive ones available in a wide range of designs — from traditional shapes with streamlined styling to futuristic models with curvy, aerodynamic blades. A lot of fans are also equipped with LED lights that provide good ambient illumination. Check out some of my favorite styles, below.
Once you’ve zeroed in on a fan style, be sure to pick one with a blade span that is right for your room. A 36-inch unit is appropriate for small rooms up to 75 square feet; for spaces up to 144 square feet, choose a 42- to 50-inch one. Large rooms up to 255 square feet require a 52- to 54-inch model and those up to 400 square feet need a 54- to 72-inch one. Use multiple fans in a room that’s bigger than 400 square feet. Look for blades with a 14- to 16-degree pitch for optimum air movement, measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm). I recommend a fan with a cfm rating of 5,000 or higher, which will have a stronger motor, last longer, and operate more quietly than other types.
For best performance, mount your fan seven to 10 feet from the floor and six to eight inches from the ceiling. Every three months or so, wipe down the blades with a dampened cloth to remove dust that can curb efficiency and cause wobbling.
The Modern Fan Co. – Stella
Q: What’s a good strategy for lighting a yard?
A: I suggest following a less is more approach. You don’t want your yard to be lit up like a theme park, and I promise your neighbors don’t either. Too much exterior light can be blinding, uses unnecessary electricity, and contributes to the brightening of the night sky, making it difficult to see stars and disrupting animal habitats. Instead, focus on installing fixtures where you need them — near a patio or path, for example — and accentuating a few special features in the landscape. In addition to making your yard feel inviting when you’re outdoors, these pockets of illumination give you something to gaze out at (other than a black window) when you’re inside your home at night.
I recommend down lighting, also known as moonlighting, as an environmentally friendly means of landscape lighting. You can place downlights, which have a cylindrical casing around the bulb to eliminate glare, high up on tree trunks and aim them at a walkway, seating area, or the tree’s own foliage for a moonlit effect. Path lights — typically 18- to 24-inch posts topped with canopies that direct light downward — are a good choice for highlighting plantings in a garden. Modern versions, such as those shown above, are also available. Place path fixtures about 20 feet apart to create glowing areas that draw the eye from one plant to the next versus a single blast of illumination. Avoid stationing these lights at regular intervals along a path, which conjures a landing strip, and using them on lawns, where they are vulnerable to lawnmowers and weed wackers.
Opt for solid brass or copper fixtures, which hold up well in Maine weather and can withstand the occasional ding from a power tool, and use 20-watt equivalent LED bulbs. These last up to 20 years in a landscape setting (compared with six months to a year for halogen bulbs), a lifespan you’ll be especially thankful for if your fixtures are in a tree.
By Sanford Fogg
Photo Courtesy of Tech Lighting
Q: What’s the proper way to light a bathroom?
A: While the most critical need is adequate lighting at the vanity, I recommend incorporating additional layers of ambient and task lighting in a large space. In a master bathroom, these might consist of a centrally located ceiling fixture, a recessed light over the toilet, and recessed light(s) in the shower. In a powder room, vanity lighting alone might be sufficient (although I always recommend a recessed fixture over a toilet). Every situation and budget is different. But if you spend $10,000 to tile your walk-in shower, you should allocate $200 more to light it properly! For those on a smaller budget (i.e., most people), installing an exhaust fan with a light over the tub/shower is also a fine solution.
Sconces mounted beside the mirror at approximately head height, 65 to 70 inches above the floor, provide the best vanity lighting. These produce even illumination across the face. A sconce or bath bar installed above the mirror provides the next-best lighting. Most lighting designers advise against having recessed fixtures over a vanity as they create shadows under the eyes, nose, and chin, making tasks like shaving and applying makeup more difficult.
Opt for sconces with opal versus clear-glass shades, as the latter tends to produce glare. When choosing fixtures, I recommend ones that accept a minimum of 60-watt light bulbs, or the equivalent in an LED, per sconce. Like all lights, these fixtures should be on a dimmer that you can crank up when you’re getting ready in the morning, and down when you want to relax in the bath.
By Sanford Fogg
Photo Courtesy of Hubbardton Forge
Q: What should I consider when selecting fixtures for the exterior of my house?
A: The first step is determining the type of fixture, or fixtures, that best suit your house. This is, of course, a matter of personal taste. A flush-mount fixture works well on porches with low ceilings, while a pendant can be a good match for higher ceilings, depending on wind. Sconces on one or both sides of the door are a classic choice and can be combined with a ceiling fixture if you have a portico. If you have a tight space with no covering overhead, mount a single sconce near the door on the handle side. Whatever style you choose, invest in a quality material, such as copper, brass, or powder-coated forged steel. These metals come in multiple finishes and hold up well in Maine weather.
Choosing exterior fixtures that are too small is a common mistake people make. Lanterns that look large in a crowded showroom often get lost on the broad façade of a house. And when you stand back 50 feet, they appear about half their size. As a general rule, select models that are roughly ¼ to ⅓ the overall height of the door. Before making a purchase, cut cardboard to the size and shape of the light and affix it to your house, then stand on the street and see how it looks. Lamppost fixtures should match those in the entry and be approximately the same size. Garage fixtures are usually a little smaller and can be a different style if they are not visible from the front of the house.
Glare is another issue with a lot of exterior lights. A prime example is the motion-sensor flood lighting many people have on their garages. Instead of helping you see, these fixtures actually blind you! When it’s dark out, a little light goes a long way. One frosted, 40-watt-equivalent LED bulb per fixture is usually just right. To truly minimize glare, and light pollution in your community, opt for a “dark sky” fixture, which has a shade that shields the bulb and directs the beam downward — your neighbors will thank you!
By Sanford Fogg
In a new monthly column, Sanford Fogg, of Fogg Lighting in Portland, offers his best advice on illuminating your home.
Q: What’s the most important thing to consider when planning lighting for a new home or remodel?
A: Bringing in a lighting designer at the start of a project is key. This is not a luxury reserved for people with big budgets. We will consult with any customer, free of charge, in our store. For a reasonable charge, we’ll also make a house call, but this is not typically necessary. Working with floor plans or drawings, we can determine how much light you need in a room, what types of fixtures will work best, and where they should go. Because lighting is one of the last things to be installed in a house, people often don’t contact us until the final weeks of a project. At this point, the wiring is done and it’s no longer possible to alter the lighting plan. We see kitchens that are drastically under-lit, with a grid of recessed lights in the center of the room instead of over the work surfaces. In living rooms, people frequently use recessed fixtures like klieg lights overhead, when they should be positioned around the room’s perimeter to create more comfortable, ambient illumination — to name just a couple of potential pitfalls.
Because contractors’ allowances are sometimes not enough to cover the type of lighting homeowners want or need, we also help clients devise a realistic budget up front so they are not hit with unexpected costs at the end of the process. You can spend a lot of time and money on your plans and architect, and choose the prettiest countertops, tile, and art, but if you don’t light it all properly, you can’t take full advantage of, or truly appreciate, the work you’ve done.