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How to select your home lighting

RJL Electrical
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Lighting options for your home

Whether you’re redecorating a room or remodelling your entire home, new lighting can add warmth, comfort and elegance to your living space. The lighting choices you make should correspond to the setting and application of each room. This article is written to inform and inspire your lighting decisions. The experts at RJL Electrical would be happy to discuss your lighting needs with you and handle any type of lighting installation.

Types of lighting

The lighting choices you make should correspond to the setting and application of each room. Too often people expect a single type of lighting to fill all their needs; however, a room’s function and style can be dramatically enhanced by applying at least two of the styles described below.

Large living room with ambient lighting

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting provides the overall illumination in a room and creates a uniform light level throughout a space, independent of any individual lighting in targeted areas of the living space. In most home settings, when a person enters a room and flips the light switch, ambient light illuminates the space. Many types of fixtures and bulbs can produce ambient lighting, and it is where you should begin your lighting plan, followed by considering accent and task lighting.

two paintings with accent lights

Accent lighting

Accent lighting adds drama to a space and draws attention to a particular object such as artwork, plants, a bookcase, or any other special piece of decor. It can also be used outdoors to highlight a landscape feature such as a tree, plant, or pond. Recessed or track lighting with adjustable fittings is commonly used for accent lighting.

recessed lights over a desk for task lighting

task lighting

 Task Lighting targets a specific area in a room to provide lighting for a specific function. Task lighting is commonly used over kitchen counters; seating areas for reading; and on home office desk surfaces. In many situations, task lighting serves dual-duty as accent lighting.

Fixture Options

Selecting light fixtures is one of the details of decorating that you will want to pay careful attention to. The decision is not always easy as there are so many options to choose from. But, once you have some idea of the type of lighting you want (ambient, accent, task), it should be easier to narrow down the list of fixture options.

recessed lights in a living room


Recessed lights, also known as ‘pot lights,’ are installed in an opening flush to the ceiling. Installation requires at least 6 inches of clearance space above them. Recessed lighting typically sends a narrow band of light focused in one direction to provide task or accent lighting, however, bulbs that cover a broader area are also available for more ambient lighting.

track lighting over a dining room table


Track lighting consists of several lights mounted on a rail. Each light can be positioned independently to provide accent lighting. Track lighting is a great choice to make your wall hung photos, or artwork really stand out.

two classic ceiling chandaliers


Chandeliers are decorative fixtures whose style can be quite ornate and traditional, or more modern. A chandelier can beautifully brighten a room with both their elegance and ambient lighting. They are particularly popular in dining areas and entryways.
recessed lights over a kitchen counter


As the name suggests, undercabinet lights are mounted underneath cabinets. They are quite popular as task lighting in the kitchen and, as demonstrated in this photo, can serve dual-duty as accent lights.
example of architectural lights around a swimming pool


Architectural lighting is concealed behind a cove, soffit, or valance. The light is softened by being bounced to provide indirect lighting on a ceiling or upper wall. This ambient style of lighting minimizes shadows and glare.
A collection of pendant lights


Pendant fixtures are suspended from the ceiling and direct light downwards. They are usually set up over a dining table or a kitchen island and are available in a wide variety of designs for all decors. They’re typically used for both ambient and task lighting.

A wall sconce against a brick wall

wall sconce

Wall sconces are mounted on a wall and can be used to wash light upwards or downwards (or both). They add a unique decorative quality and feature nicely in a living room or as bedside lighting.

a modern ceiling light with 6 globes


Ceiling lights are mounted close to the ceiling and provide ambient light. They are available in a variety of styles that from the very simple to the elaborate.

Bulb Options

There are many considerations to take into account when selecting the right bulb. For example; what type of lighting will the bulb be used for, ambient, accent, or task? While each type of bulb will manage the job in some fashion, some are more suited than others. The purpose and function of the lighting will determine if you should go for a bulb that offers a warm light that is complementary to skin tones, or for a brighter cooler light that illuminates better.

an LED light bulb


LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs are long-lasting (25,000 hrs) and at least 75% more efficient than the old incandescent bulbs. They emit very little heat, making them ideal for undercabinet and recessed lighting. LED technology is improving rapidly, and they no longer cast a harsh direct light. They are still available as bright white; however, you can now get them with the same light qualities and appearance as incandescents, and they are even available in remote or app-controlled RGBW strips and bulbs.

an LED filament light bulb

LED filament Bulbs

LED Filament, or Edison Bulbs, look just like traditional incandescent bulbs thanks to new LED technology. These bulbs come in all shapes and sizes and impart a warm and cozy light that is complementary to skin tones. They are most frequently seen with a vintage design similar to the original Edison or Marconi style of bulbs. They have a shorter lifespan than regular LED bulbs, but at 15,000 to 40,000 hours they are still far superior to incandescent bulbs. Like all LEDs, they are incredibly energy efficient.

a halogen light bulb


Halogen bulbs supply the closest approximation to natural daylight, colours appear sharper under these bulbs, and they are compatible with dimmer switches. They’re are only slightly more energy efficient than the old incandescent but are more expensive to purchase. They are most commonly used in recessed or track fixtures for accent lighting. They burn at a high temperature, and you should never touch them with your hands. The slightest bit of oil residue from your skin can rub off, and the bulb may explode when it heats up. When installed in recessed lighting they require at least 6″ of clearance in the ceiling.

a compact fluorescent CFL light bulb

compact fluorescent lights

Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) consume only 25% of the energy that incandescent bulbs did. And they last ten times longer. Unlike regular fluorescent lights they are instant-on, and their colour is warmer. They can be used anywhere that an incandescent bulb was used. For a time they were quite popular due to the energy savings they delivered, but as the price of LED lights come down, they are losing popularity. They contain small amounts of mercury and it is recommended that you follow EPA guidelines if one breaks or when disposing of burnt bulbs.

fluorescent light bulbs


Fluorescents are known for delivering a flat, cold light that has a bluish tinge. While many people find they’re light too harsh, there are now warmer fluorescent bulbs available as well as ones that replicate daylight. Fluorescents are not compatible with a dimmer switch, but they do produce more light and are long lasting. The bulbs are housed in a ballast system that can emit a buzzing noise as it ages and they the bulbs take a few seconds to come on after the switch is flipped. They provide effective ambient lighting, and because they are so bright, they are useful task lights. They are often used in a garage or workshop.

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