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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.


Nightlights can help -- sometimes. It's best to sleep in total darkness, experts say, because light exposure can limit your body's synthesis of the sleep hormone melatonin. If you wake up at night and need to get out of bed, it helps to have some strategically placed warm-color nightlights -- but the light they give off should be dim. You might have one by your bedroom door, another by the toilet, one in the hallway, etc. Your goal should be to see well enough to avoid hazards, without having to turn on a bright light. Exposure to bright light at night can make it hard for you to fall back asleep.

For outdoor security lighting, less is often more. A very bright outdoor light may make you feel safe from assailants, but experts say that it can actually compromise your safety. How? By interfering with your night vision. Better to have a dim light -- say, a 25- to 40-watt incandescent bulb -- so your eyes are able to make things out in dark areas in your yard, where an assailant might be hiding. Make sure the bulb is shielded, so glare is not a problem.

Motion-activated lights can help prevent burglaries, but be aware that pets and other animals as well as burglars can set them off. Exterior stairs and other potential hazards should be illuminated at night.

In the not-too-distant future, light-emitting diode (LED) lights may supplant incandescents and CFLs. LED bulbs consume less energy even than fluorescent bulbs. But for now, LEDs are considered too costly for widespread residential use.

What if you've tried CFLs and found their light too dim? The Lighting Research Center recommends using the "Rule of Three" when buying CFLs: to get the same brightness as an incandescent, buy a CFL that's rated at one-third the wattage (not one-fourth, as some have suggested). To replace a 60-watt incandescent, for example, you would get a 20-watt compact fluorescent light bulb.

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Reviewed on September 21, 2010
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