When working on a lighting scheme for your new home you need to plan well in advance to ensure you get the right solution that suits your lifestyle. It is important that you know how you will use the space and where you will put your furniture. LED downlights offer amazing energy saving and, when well planned, can meet all your needs.
Recessed downlights are particularly suitable for kitchens, bathrooms, en-suites and corridors. They can be effective in most domestic situations if correctly planned.
For areas such as bathrooms and kitchens it is essential to ensure sufficient light levels to be able to complete the task required; for example, in a bathroom there needs to be good light for shaving or applying make-up. For kitchens you need more light for preparation and cooking areas, but when boiling a kettle you only need a local light or possibly some background lighting.
Think about how you use the space. This is particularly important in a kitchen/diner or open plan living area. Do not limit yourself to rigid layouts and fixed rows. Downlights are very flexible and can be placed where they are needed without upsetting the balance of the room, unlike pendants or flush fittings which are more obvious. The most important thing is to put the light where you need it.
Spacing will vary according to the light source being used and the area you are lighting. As a general guide you need approximately one downlight (equivalent to the old 50w halogen) per 1.2 sqm in a kitchen or bathroom area where you need good general light and bigger spacing in corridors, bedrooms and living areas.
For corridor areas put the downlights in the centre of the corridor if possible and increase the spacing depending on the width of the corridor. Typically the spacing can be quite a lot greater because this is a transit area and does not require a high light level. In narrow corridors the spacing can be as much as 1500mm, however, do not start more than about 1000mm from the beginning or end of the corridor, think about the position of the doorways and light switches.
Use multiple switches to zone the area for best use. Firstly, link the four corners, or two ends if a long room, this is the minimum light level which can be left on as background for making drinks or getting a glass of water or just passing through the room. Don’t be afraid to have just one light on one switch just for the kettle. You can leave this on all evening and come and go with ease.
Look at the task areas and light these separately so you can switch on just when you need it. Do not put the light too far behind where you will stand to work as this will create shadow over the task. We normally recommend that the downlights are positioned 700-800mm from the back of the worktop walls.
Linear spacing depends on the room layout and wattage, but typically 850-1100mm between each light would give very good light levels. If you are adding more rows, the spacing can be larger as there is a lot of shared light from these secondary areas which will often be on when you are in task mode.
For an island unit or dining table add a specific group to light this area on its own. If you are just dining or doing homework on the table you need some good light, if you are having a dinner party and need mood lighting you can leave these off and use the outer rings to create the atmosphere (and then just have some candles on the table if you are feeling romantic).
For bigger rooms with TV areas or seating, you can consider adding more background or specific reading lights. Consider using just the outer limits so as not to over expose the viewing area. If you need to read and not affect others, use table and floor lamps for these specific tasks and to create other changes in atmosphere.
With lots of switches and different zones you can create lots of different lighting options for any situation without being too fixed.
For bathrooms again put the lights where they are needed most i.e. around the mirror and sink area and just away from the bath so that you do not stare into them when you lay back to soak. You do not need as much light in the bath as you do for the mirror.
For showers, you can get enough light from outside if there are glass sides. If the shower is enclosed, you should fit an IP65 model in the centre.