Q: As I get older, I’m finding it harder to see when I read or do other simple tasks in my home, even with my glasses on. Can you suggest some lighting improvements that might help?
A: When I was a teenager, I used to kid my father because he could not read menus in dimly lit restaurants. Now that I’m in my 70s, I realize how insensitive that was! As we age, our pupils actually get smaller, so less light makes it to the back of the eye. Many people start noticing changes in their vision around age 50 and, by the time you’re my age, you need about three times as much light as a 25-year-old does to read and perform fine-motor tasks. In addition to more wattage, older adults need glare-free illumination that is consistent from room to room, since moving from a low-light space to a bright one can be disorienting.
At Fogg Lighting, one of the things we try to educate people about is the concept of layers of light. Basically, you need a mix of light sources at different levels to create a properly lit space. We generally establish a first layer of ambient illumination in a room using decorative fixtures such as a chandelier, pendants, or semi-flush or flush-mount units. Accent and task lighting — typically some combination of well-placed recessed or track fixtures, sconces, under-cabinet units, cove lights, and table and floor lamps — fills in the shadows and helps you see what you’re doing. Contrast this scenario with one in which recessed fixtures are the only light source, as is sometimes the case in hallways. Used on their own, these units create pockets of light and darkness that make the area difficult for seniors (and toddlers!) to navigate.
For reading and other activities, it’s important to have a dedicated fixture that can accommodate the equivalent of a 100-watt incandescent bulb. Choose an opaque shade to reduce glare and an articulated arm if you want the option of shining the light onto a book. Here are a few of my favorite products.
These dimmable lamps by Holtkotter have transitional shapes and efficient halogen bulbs. Adjust the height of the floor lamp and move the arm to direct light where you need it.
For a more modern look, I love these sleek LED fixtures by Koncept, which are dimmable, adjustable, and work well in tight spaces.
Want more information? We are trained to design lighting plans that will see you through the aging progress. Stop by our store for a free consultation tailored to your specific needs.
Q: It used to be easy to replace a light bulb; now there are so many options, I don’t know what to choose. What do you recommend?
A: It’s hard to imagine a household commodity that has changed more in the last five years than the light bulb. The incandescent bulbs we all grew up with wasted a lot of energy and have been phased out. Government mandates ushered in the brief reign of the more efficient, but widely despised, compact fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs, which emit terrible-quality light and are difficult to dispose of because of their mercury content. The public’s loathing of CFLs accelerated the development of light-emitting-diode bulbs known as LEDs, which now rule the lighting world. These use up to 80 percent less energy than the old incandescents and can last for decades. LEDs are improving all the time and their prices are coming down. However, the quality of light they produce varies significantly, so it’s helpful to understand some lighting nomenclature before you buy.
Most LED bulb boxes have a Lighting Facts label that indicates brightness (measured in lumens), color temperature (labeled K for Kelvin temperature), energy use, estimated energy costs, and expected life. Since most packages also specify the type of incandescent bulb the LED replaces, you don’t need to pay much attention to the brightness measure. Instead, zero in on color temperature: 3,000K is my recommendation for a universally flattering, warm-white light. Anything higher is going to have a cooler, bluish-white cast. Another good measure is the Color Rendering Index, or CRI, which tells you how accurately the bulb renders colors compared to an incandescent bulb, which has a CRI of 100. For LEDs, a CRI of 80 or higher is best.
To ensure an LED will fit in your fixture, bring your old bulb with you to the store and compare the bases. The splayed fins that LEDs have to dissipate heat make them larger than other bulbs. Make sure the bulb is dimmable (you may need to replace your dimmer switches with LED-friendly ones to avoid annoying flickering or buzzing). And if you plan to use the bulb outdoors and/or in an enclosed fixture (some LEDs require more airflow than these lights provide), check that these applications are noted on the box.
If you haven’t already, now’s the time to embrace this new technology — unlike previous innovations, this one is here to stay.
Technical Explanation: The CRI is a unit that measures the ability of a light source to reproduce the colors of objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal source of light, or natural sources such as sunlight. The CRI is a determined value from 0 to 100, with 100 being the value “perfect” or daylight.
Real World Explanation: The CRI determines how you and your surroundings appear to you and the other people in your environment.
Here is an example of what is happening in the the world of lighting today and what will continue to happen in the foreseeable future. LED’s are all the rage and designers are finding all sorts of new ways to incorporate them into light fixtures. The reasons are clear: LED’s consume far less energy than incandescent light bulbs, LED’s are cool to the touch, LED’s have better color temperature than they did in the past, LED’s have a super long life, and LED’s are small so fixture design can be very creative. In addition to LED fixtures like this one, LED light bulb design is evolving very quickly also. Technicians are finding ways to make them more attractive and more like the good old fashioned incandescent light bulbs. Some of the new LED light bulbs even grow warmer in color temperature as they are dimmed, just like incandescent light bulbs do. Additionally, new, more efficient heat sink materials are being developed which allow LED light bulbs be more streamlined and closer in appearance to both A-lamps and candelabra bulbs. Pretty soon you will be able to use LED bulbs in chandeliers and not notice a difference between them and the candelabra bulbs they replace. Best of all, LED’s are becoming less expensive all the time as manufacturing becomes more efficient and more manufacturers enter the marketplace. As with anything though, I urge you to be careful when buying any LED product as there still are huge quality differences among the myriad of products and producers out there. Try to see the product before you buy it to make sure the color of the light is acceptable to you. I recommend buying dimmable LED light bulbs and fixtures – some LED’s are not dimmable. I also recommend caution in using dedicated LED recessed lighting fixtures. Once you install them they are in the ceiling a long time and the quality of the light might not be satisfactory for you. Instead, consider buying a regular recessed fixture and using an LED light bulb. That way you are not locked in. Please visit our website www.fogglighting.com and like us on Facebook. You also might be interested in the Underwriter’s Laboratory app, LightSmart, which can be downloaded from the App Store. It has all kinds of great information about lighting…and its free.