As days get shorter, it’s time to light up your house

Daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday, and everyone will be resetting clocks and physically adjusting as the dark of winter beckons. And now is a good time to investigate several innovations in home lighting before the sun starts setting at 4:30 p.m.

Kathryn Emery, a spokeswoman for Home Depot, knows that as days get shorter and nights get longer, customers become more interested in lighting.

“LED lighting is what’s trending,” she said. “LED stands for ‘light-emitting diode,’ which is a semiconductor diode that emits a single wavelength of light when charged with an electric current.

“LEDs have many practical applications. The technology is expanding to include organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) that have significant potential for use in space lighting.”

Emery said LEDs are commonly used in a variety of electronic devices such as digital clocks, computer displays, optical mice and laser printers. They are used in traffic lights and flashlights and are being used more frequently in homes for landscape lighting, reading lamps, night lights and recessed light fixtures.

“Because of their increasing popularity, the lights are now available with bases that fit inside standard lamp fixtures,” she said. “LED lights are small and use less energy than incandescent lights. They are also less likely to burn out.

“For space lighting, they are an eco-friendly choice since they use less electricity and produce less heat than incandescent bulbs. And LEDs contain no mercury, unlike fluorescent lights. One other thing: They’re encased in plastic and not as easily damaged as other light sources.”

Marsha Grigsby, the store manager at the Home Depot on South Pecos Road, said LED lights have become more affordable.

“When LED lights first arrived in our store, customers hesitated because they were so expensive,” she said. “They wondered how they could afford to change out a dozen or more lights in their home. Now they’re at a great price point and come with different hues and colors for the kitchen, bathroom, garage and even candelabras.”

Because lighting affects both the mood and the function of a room, Grigsby had several suggestions which fixtures to buy.

“Bedroom lighting should be applied in layers since it’s a multifunctional room,” she said. “Lighting for reading and dressing are two of the primary concerns. Lighting experts suggest wall-mounted light fixtures with adjustable arms so that the light can be directed on the reading material.

“Each bedside light should operate on its own switch, either directly on the fixture or a wall switch within easy reach. Ambient lighting may be provided by floor lamps, while wall sconces provide soothing indirect light and provide dramatic effects on walls.”

The most important function for bathroom lighting is to provide shadow-free light for ease in personal grooming. Many bathrooms feature a central ceiling-mounted fixture that casts shadows on a person standing in front of the mirror.

One of the best improvements is to light both sides of the mirror. In small baths, where one might have to choose between a wall-mounted fixture on the side of the mirror or an overhead fixture, use the wall-mounted placement.

A basic lighting plan for a modest kitchen might consist of a central, ceiling-mounted fixture providing ambient light. That traditional lighting plan is adequate for many kitchens and can be improved simply by putting all lighting on a dimmer with energy-efficient light bulbs.

Because many homes now have home offices, a key consideration is to ensure that a light fixture is not reflected in a computer screen.

“A light for the desk area should be positioned to minimize shadows and reflections, so place it to the right or left side of the main workstation,” Grigsby said. “Use wall sconces or a floor lamp that projects the light upward. If possible, position a reading chair next to a window for natural light for reading during the day.”

The living-family room requires thoughtful lighting because it is an area where people gather for long stretches of time watching television, reading, playing board games or conversing. Lights that bounce off the ceiling for ambient illumination create a sense of brightness in the room and diminish the shadows or downward direction of recessed lights.

The biggest innovation for homeowners is the ability to control home lighting without having to be present.

“Lighting in your home has become smarter now that it can be controlled by a smartphone or tablet,” Grigsby said. “In fact, total home automation is what more people are discovering and using for lights, security and appliances.

“Controlling home lights from an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch has never been easier. Just configure a single device to turn on and off at dusk and dawn or create customized groups of lights that turn on and off at various times throughout the day.

She added. “Not only that, different apps are becoming more common now for camera integration and instant alerts throughout your home. It’s a watchdog. You can receive instant alerts via email the moment something is amiss.”

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