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Best Lighting for Your Home

Ready to light the way? These home lighting ideas can help you optimize how your home is lit.
By David Freeman
WebMD Feature

Like most people, you probably don't give much thought to interior lighting. As long as the light comes on each time you flip the switch, you're satisfied. But why settle for satisfactory lighting when you can have home lighting that makes just about every household activity easier, more pleasant, and safer? It won't cost much -- and you may even save money in the long run.

Curious? Here are a few home lighting ideas that can help you optimize the lighting in your home.

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Compact fluorescent bulbs are the way to go. If you want to optimize the lighting in your home, compact fluorescent bulbs are the way to go for most applications. Also called compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), these have several advantages over ordinary incandescent light bulbs. In addition to consuming less energy, they last up to 15 times longer; greater longevity means greater convenience and safety (think fewer trips up the ladder to change burned-out bulbs). 

Fluorescent bulbs can be tailored to the need. Unlike incandescent bulbs, CFLs come in a range of "color temperatures," from warm (similar to incandescent) to cool (bright  bluish-white). Because the light from a bulb with a cool color temperature can approximate daylight, daytime exposure to CFL or tube fluorescent bulbs seems to promote a normal circadian rhythm in older adults (meaning there may be a smaller chance of sleep problems), according to Patricia Rizzo, design program manager at the Lighting Research Center of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. On the flip side, says Rizzo, nighttime exposure to cool fluorescent light may interfere with sleep. She recommends sticking with an incandescent light or a warm CFL for reading in bed and other nighttime activities.

CFLs may also be better for applying makeup and shaving. "For women who work in an office environment and for light-skinned men, a bright-white CFL is best," says Jane Grosslight, the Tallahassee, Fla.--based author of several books on lighting design, including Energy-Efficient Daylighting and Electric Lighting Techniques. "Office environments are lighted with bright-white fluorescents, and men find that bright white increases the contrast between their skin and their whiskers." Grosslight says that, for people who are seen mostly in their home, soft-white CFLs work well for applying makeup and shaving.

More the one light source may be better. People often assume that a single overhead fixture can illuminate an entire room. It may, say lighting experts -- but not very well. "My cardinal rule is that more than one light source is needed for all but the smallest rooms," says Grosslight. Multiple light sources help balance the light in a room, minimizing glare and shadows. One good strategy is to pair a ceiling fixture with a lamp that shines light upward onto the ceiling; a CFL-equipped torchiere for a bedroom or living room, for example, and inexpensive linear fluorescents atop kitchen cabinets.

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