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The Metamorphosis of Green Lighting

A commodity today in most countries worldwide, electricity has traveled a long historic journey since the first arc lamp in 1803. Contrary to popular belief, it was not Thomas Edison who “invented” the first light bulb – it was James Bowman Lindsay.  


What’s more, lighting didn’t reach true efficiency until recently 2014, when all incandescent light bulbs were banned in the United States. Today there are new lighting solutions from light- emitting diode (LED), to halogen incandescent, and compact florescent lightbulbs (CFL). Word has it that CFLs use 70 percent less energy than the outlawed incandescent bulbs.  This year, there is yet another invention from Stack; the first “responsive light bulb” which automatically adjusts according to the amount of natural light that’s available.


If you are building your first home using one of our house plans, you may want to know more about how to illuminate your home efficiently once it’s built. This article answer questions such as what type of lighting is required by each room, the kinds of fixtures are available and it also offers some good advice for illumination and ambiance. But first let’s take a look back through the history of electricity, just so you will appreciate it more once your new home is fully lit.


The History of Lighting


  • Arc Lamp – 1803: Humphry Davy used battery volts to create a lamp producing light equal to one thousand candles.
  • First light bulb – 1835: James Bowman Lindsay contained an electrical charge within a glass bulb.
  • Paris Street Lights- 1841: A new record was set in Paris using Humphry Davy's Arc to light their streets with electric street lamps.
  • Joseph Wilson Swan created a “light bulb” – 1850-1860: By enclosing carbonized paper filaments in an evacuated glass bulb, the English physicist had a working prototype by 1860.
  • The Geissler Tube – 1856: Heinrich Geissler created a unique glass tube to use with electricity. It could contain an electric charge, used for future neon lighting.
  • Thomas Edison's light bulb – 1880: The 16-watt light bulb was patented by Edison in 1880.
  • Nikola Tesla – 1893: Created a wireless electrical lamp.
  • Neon lighting – 1910: Georges Claude first demonstrated neon lighting at the Paris Motor Show.
  • Fluorescent lighting – 1926: Edmund Germer developed fluorescent lighting.
  • The World Fair – 1939: The fluorescent light bulb was demonstrated at the New York's World Fair
  • Energy saving lighting – 1981: The Philips Company created the first fluorescent energy saving lamp.
  • Philips Long Lasting Fluorescent Light Bulb -1991: Philips’ new fluorescent bulb lasts up to 60,000 hours; Edison’s patented 16-watt bulb could last up to 1500 hours. 
  • The LED light – 1995: Shuji Nakamura started the revolution of LED lighting using blue and white light-emitting diodes (LED)
  • LED's pushed forward – 2000: The Energy department created a device to package LED's together to generate better lighting.
  • Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) –2007
  • Philips Wins “L Prize” Competition – 2008 – 2011: A contest was held by the Energy department for companies to create more efficient energy; Philips won in 2011 with its affordable LED bulb.
  • 100-watt bulbs banned – 2012: More than 49 million LED bulbs were being used in America saving more than $675 million in energy costs.
  • 75-watt bulbs banned – 2013: The EISA’s three year approach to converting the United States to energy-efficient lights.
  • 60 and 40-watt bulbs banned – 2014: The last task in the EISA plan.
  • Stack “Alba” First Responsive Lightbulb – 2015: Embedded occupancy and ambient light sensors enable Stack's Alba lightbulb (right) to change the lighting automatically. It’s “the only light bulb that adjusts to both occupancy and natural, ambient light.” 


Home Lighting Rules of Thumb


Lighting is a big source of energy consumption in a home, so be aware of just a few simple things that can reduce your dependency on the light bulb in teh first place when you are in the process of choosing a floor plan and building your home.

Place the windows in the right places. It's usually better to put more windows facing south to absorb as much sunlight as possible. Also, make sure you get well insulated windows. The more efficient, the more expensive, but only up front. You will save in the longrun.


Add light shelves on all south facing windows. A light shelf is a reflective surface located near the top of the window that bounces the light toward your ceiling and into the home. There are both exterior and interior light shelves.


Dimmers. Make sure you put dimmers on as many lights in your home as possible. This alone can change the ambiance of a room, but dimmers also control the amount of energy being used.


Use a mix of light sources at different levels to create a flattering ambience iside your new home. ALso remember to install the right task lighting for whatever you do in any given space - from reading, to kitchen prep work to dressed or grooming. 


Living Rooms require lighting in at least three corners. Use a combination of table lamps and floor lamps – in other words  some shining upwards and the others shining down. It is also important to allow for reading in as many seats you have using down-glowing lamps that are on three-way switches for optimum viewing. Place all overhead lights on dimmers.  


Your dining room requires a chandelier or a pendant above the table. This should be the brightest spot in the room. But make sure you limit the total wattage to 100. Elsewhere in the room, indirect lighting is most flattering. One idea is to place a few little battery-powered votives inside your china cabinet.

Bedrooms need a soft, cozy lighting atmosphere, and reading lamps or sconces by the bed. You can also place low table lamps with a tinted low-wattage bulb to mimic romantic candlelight.

kitchen lighting


The kitchen (right) requires overhead lighting. Several sources are required to illuminate the various work and/or eating surfaces. Pendant and under-cabinet lights work well. This very luxurious country house plan (#161-1030) features high ceilings and drop lighting. Use dimmers as needed.


Bathrooms need sidelights for grooming and makeup application. Lighting might include a pair of sconces on the sides of the mirror. Overhead light illuminates the entire bathroom, however many larger rooms require an extra light above the shower.


Types of Lighting Fixtures


There are many unique types of light fixtures available today, in a myriad of decorative styles that can be coordinated for your new home.  The basic light fixtures include:


Ceiling: For general lighting, ceiling lights are often used hallways or foyers and rooms with low ceilings.


Chandeliers:  To add drama to a room such as the dining rooms, kitchens, hallways and entrances, chandeliers will often dominate an open space. Hang the chandelier about 30 to 36 inches above a table, and use a minimum of 150 watts total.


Fans: These popular fixtures should include a dimmer for managing light intensity. Fan lighting is best used in kitchens, playrooms, or anywhere that air circulation is required. However, any Feng Shui experts warn against using them above beds or entry ways.


Pendants: Lighting with globes and shades, these fixtures are great for task area lighting -- over kitchen islands, counters, tables or workbenches. A pendant can also be used in place of a table lamps. Use with dimmers.


Recessed: This type of lighting is versatile neutral when it comes to a room’s decor.  Recessed lighting is used for overall room illumination, task lighting, or as an accent to highlight art or collections.


Overheads: Flush-Mount – These ceiling fixtures are used in kitchens and bathrooms. They offer whole-room illumination, and can be downplayed by using low-wattage bulbs. Aim for 60 watts.


Semi-flush Overhead –This type of fixture hangs down about a foot from the ceiling. The term applies to any fixture suspended from a cord or chain, such as chandeliers, and are best over tables and countertops. The best size?  Add the width and length of your room the room in feet, then use the same number in inches to calculate the diameter of the fixture.


The Future of Lighting



After 2014, all Incandescent light bulbs have been banned and supplies are diminishing. The EISA’s three year approach to converting the United States to energy-efficient lights prohibits any manufacturing or importing of non-compliant incandescent light bulbs.


Recent surveys suggest that the average American household uses about 47 light bulbs. There is no doubt that switching to CFL or LED bulbs saves energy. The average cost of electricity in the United States is currently 11.88 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). Today, an average household using just five energy-efficient bulbs can save around $75 per year by switching to energy-efficient lighting, according to Energy.gov. Your overall savings will be based on the amount of electricity used, the cost of the electricity and the amount of time the lights are turned on in your home.


Since the new lighting standards took effect in 2012, there are now many lighting options such as light- emitting diode (LED), halogen incandescent, and compact florescent lightbulbs (CFL) available today. Word has it that although CFLs need more energy when first turned on, they use about 70% less energy than the old outlawed incandescent bulbs.


As new lighting technologies emerge like the new embedded occupancy and ambient light sensors from Stack, and the costs for energy-efficient lighting continues to go down, the overall savings for our global environmental is priceless.  



Sources: Softschools: http://www.softschools.com/timelines/history_of_the_light_bulb_timeline/284/; Bulbs.com: http://www.bulbs.com/learning/history.aspx;  Energy.gov: http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/lighting-choices-save-you-money and Stack Lighting: https://stacklighting.com/news/stack-in-the-internet-of-things-enchanted-objects


May 14, 2015

home lighting

house plan lights

lighting history

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