Do you know the difference between ambient light and task lighting? And what do they have to do with green home design?
Defining the Two Kinds of Lighting
Ambient light is a general, soft light that fills an entire room, commonly from an overhead fixture. Task lighting on the other hand is for specific locations to focus light near work surfaces (like countertops and desks) or seating and beds for things like reading.
How This Relates to Green Design
Remember, green design is as much about careful thinking and planning as it is using green products and materials. By incorporating and allowing for both ambient and task lighting in each room of your home, you can light more effectively and therefore more efficiently. And you can also improve your health by being kind your eyes through always having the appropriate amount of lighting any need.
By having separate fixtures with separate switches for ambient and task lighting, you can reduce your energy use while still receiving necessary light. If you have multiple lamps or under countertop lighting in an area for a variety of tasks, think about also separating these with different switches or power cords so you can selectively control what light is in use (and drawing power).
Keep in mind that the further away a light, the brighter it needs to be. An ambient light source is normally much brighter than a task lighting source. Thankfully, improved light bulbs choices such as CFLs and LEDs allow this brightness to come at less Watts (energy used) than traditional incandescent bulbs. So, you can save energy and money and still have a brightly lit space. Having overhead fixtures that bounce light of the ceiling also helps to diffuse the light more pleasantly and imitates the brightness of the sky above us (making your room feel more comfortable and natural). Daylight is also a great source of ambient light and is especially good for your well-being. There are building methods for bringing daylight into a space without increasing heat gain, preventing higher cooling loads and energy consumption from that area.
Whenever you are considering remodeling or making changes to your home, remember these two different types of lighting. Their combination will not only make the rooms in your home more useful but also more comfortable and more efficient.