Finding the right LED for you

LED is fast becoming the standard light source in the home. Knowing which one to buy can be very overwhelming in this competitive market. So what key information should you look out for?

Colour Temperature – How warm is your light

The colour temperature, measured in Kelvins, determines how cool or warm the white light is. LEDs can range from 1800K (orange/red light like glowing embers) to 6500K (cold blue/white light like daylight). Generally, for a home, a 2700K light source is best, giving the warm light like old incandescent lamps. If going with cool colour schemes, such as blues and greys, 3000K can bring the colour out better, though this should be tested.

Lumen Output – How bright is your light

We have been so used to the old incandescent lamps, and using the wattage, which is a measure of power used, as a guide of brightness, that it has now become very confusing. The luminous flux, measured in lumens, is the information that you should be looking for. This will tell you how bright a lamp is, and allow you to compare between different brands. As a reference, a 60W incandescent lamp had an output of around 600 lumens (lm).

General Tips

·        Don’t assume an LED is dimmable, check with the supplier to make sure it works properly

·        If lighting artwork, try to find LEDs with a colour rendering index (CRI) of 90+

·        Cheap LEDs will have poor colour matching, meaning they will be different shades of white. Look for manufacturers who offer good colour matching.

The key to good lighting in your home

Lighting a home is very different from lighting a commercial property. Some parallels can be drawn between hotels and residential lighting, but even they are very different. However, there are several key techniques that will help improve any lighting in a home, and these can even be applied without having to rewire the entire building.

Design with light...and shadow

Good lighting in a home is not about providing light everywhere, but really providing lighting to the right places. Even lighting will end up producing a bland lighting scheme, with the space appearing flat and uninteresting. Having light highlighting the correct areas, and leaving others in shadow is what creates the atmosphere.

Identify the key spaces

Identify where light is needed. This could be features in the room, such as artwork hung on the wall, architectural features such as columns, or task areas like a kitchen island. Work out how to light these, rather than apply lighting to the whole space. Keeping the lighting targeted to these areas will enable you to pick light fittings which are appropriate to that space, and avoid having unnecessary lighting in the room.

Adding atmosphere to an existing room

Rewiring can be a huge amount of work, but adapting your existing scheme to offer more targeted light can work for any space. For example, targeted lighting can be added to a seating area by using table or floor lamps with a solid shade directing the light onto the chair. Pendants can be moved by replacing the existing fitting with one with a longer cable, and then hanging it in the new position with a hook fixed to the ceiling.

Recessed Downlights - do you really need them?

Downlights (sometimes called spotlights) are ubiquitous in new builds and extensions. Seen as a more upmarket form of lighting than just a pendant in the room, it’s a common sight to spot neat little rows of them everywhere. But is this right? Is this the best way of lighting a space? The answer is no, and there are a multitude of pitfalls to the use of spotlights in properties. Many of the cheaper fittings have poor colour quality and produce lots of glare. Here are the top tips of when, and how, to use downlights.

It is about the light, not the light fitting

Good lighting is all about putting light in the right places, highlighting features and providing good task lighting. Think about where you need light. Downlights are very good at producing a beam of light, so if you want to highlight a piece of artwork, or a centrepiece on a table, then a downlight is an excellent choice. Make sure every downlight has a purpose.

Ignore Symmetry

Rarely is the architecture and interior of a room symmetrical, so neither should the lighting layout. Ignore neat rows, and put the lighting where it is needed. Unsymmetrical layouts will not be noticed, but having to do the washing up in the dark will be.

Make sure the downlight has anti-glare features

Most downlights have the light source at the front and it produces a lot of glare. Once there are a few in the room it will be uncomfortable and can cause headaches. Make sure the downlight has a baffle (which recesses the light source back) so that it is not visible. This will still produce a beam of light but will feel much softer.

Getting the most from lighting control

The general consensus about lighting controls is that their main benefit is to make things simple. In our mind, and surely for most people, this doesn’t mean having an endless number of buttons to press.

Having a lighting control system should make life easier, offering a straightforward approach that doesn’t require excessive amount of thought or effort. There is no sense in having a control system that ultimately needs you to adjust 6 different dimmers in a room, just to get the beautiful space you want to achieve - surely it should just be a simple as pressing a button, and the desired result happens.

Our advice would be this; think about how you use a room, and that will tell you how many buttons you need. For example, a dining room is a place used for entertaining and eating. So most homes will need a brighter setting for family dinners, and a more ambient setting for romantic dinners or entertaining guests. So with two purposes, that equates to two buttons.

The next question is of course, how do you get this? Make sure that the commissioning engineer or programmer does not finish their work until all of the lighting controls have been set up to your liking. In our experience, often they are waiting on others to instruct them on what to do, rather than be proactive. If they are not provided with any guidance, more often than not they will leave basic settings such as 100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, and off, which ultimately means you are paying 10-20 times too much for having 1 dimmer for all of the lights in the room.

Lighting controls are amazing, but only if they are set up correctly to ensure they deliver the desired results, with minimum input from the user.

An insight into lighting design project management

MS Lighting Design is delighted that owner Marcus Steffen has been given a highly sought-after speakers’ slot at Darc Room, part of London Design Festival. Darc Room is a curated, creative lighting exhibition for specifiers and designers and is now in its’ second year. Join Marcus on the 19th September at 2.20pm at the venue in Shoreditch.

Marcus will be sharing an insight into the world of lighting design project management and how to deliver a successful project. Ahead of the full talk, here are just a few tips to keep your projects on track and running smoothly.

1.     Be clear on your objectives – before you even begin the project, make sure you have all the background information and all key stakeholders are fully on board. Make sure you know their expectations and have provided feedback on whether these expectations are realistic.

2.     Identify your project team – once your plan is in place, who do you need to involve to deliver it? Make sure you involve people who are reliable and will completely commit to the project, otherwise they may cause unnecessary delays.

3.    Communication is key – communication is one of the most critical elements in project management. Make sure you keep in touch with all key stakeholders and team members during the project. Ensure everyone has the information they need to complete their individual roles, and make sure everyone is kept up to date with project developments.

4.     Keep on track of additional deliverables – while changes are inevitable during any project, you need to make sure that extra deliverables aren’t being added in without being accounted for. If the project requires more, or something that was not part of the initial agreement, make sure this is factored in when it comes to time and budgets.  

These are just a handful of useful snippets based on Marcus’ extensive experience of lighting design project management. For a full insight and some real-life examples, join Marcus at the Darc Room on 19th September.

Speaking at YLP/LSE Technical Summit

It is exciting to reveal that I will be giving a talk at the YLP & LSE technical summit on 10th November. I will be doing a case study of a house without switches, and how the controls operate. It will also cover methods and pitfalls for creating a switchless home. This will be covering the project which was Highly Commended in the Lux Awards 2015, and should be very insightful for a potential future in lighting control. There are some other great talks on the day as well, so well worth signing up to come and see. 

Date: 10th November 2016

The Brewery
Chiswell St
United Kingdom

More info at the ILP website

Automated Lighting - Early Evening

Automated Lighting - Early Evening

Automated Lighting - Late Evening

Automated Lighting - Late Evening

Light + Building 2016

Light + Building has been and gone, the axis about which the lighting industry turns. For those who are not familiar with it, Light + Building is a biennial lighting exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany. The lighting world gathers together, from the huge multinationals taking over entire halls to small niche companies doing specialist products. It is gargantuan in scale; for the week that it runs it would be almost impossible to see every stand at the show. It also has real character with the different halls; from hall 1 with it's trendy high end designer lighting to hall 10 with the Asian manufacturers and all the stereotypes and judgement that would be attached to that. 

A stand with examples of both plant lighting and light fittings highlighting the structure

A stand with examples of both plant lighting and light fittings highlighting the structure

As a lighting designer I attend L+B to keep abreast of all the new products been launched and see what is out there. It is one of the best chances to see everything in one place, ask questions and discover new products. Here are some of the highlights from the show for me and the trends that I picked up on. It is in no way exhaustive, but should give a snapshot of the show. 

LEDs are THE light source

While it is seen as inevitable for a long time. LEDs truly have become THE light source of the lighting industry. While their remains a place for specialist lamps of other types, LEDs where what almost all manufacturers were displaying to the exclusion of all else. Even the resurgence of the carbon filament lamp is been turned into an LED lamp (and about time, they are just so grossly inefficient). 

LED form coming into its own

Industrial style modular LED structure with both direct and indirect light, as well as spotlights. 

Industrial style modular LED structure with both direct and indirect light, as well as spotlights. 

Many lamented that when LEDs first started been used they were just placed in products designed for different lamps. Rows of LEDs placed behind CAT 5 louvres (an outdated design in itself) and fixed into wall lights designed for R7s halogen strips. LEDs require both different light control from their fittings (optics) and also allow different forms due to their tiny stature. This year one of the elements that set the designer and high end market apart from the middle market was the form their fittings are taking. Manufacturers are really embracing LEDs and the fact that almost impossible designs can now be realized. here are a few examples of what has been created. 

Dim to Warm

This year there was a big push for dim to warm fittings. Colour temperature, sometimes known as colour tuning, lighting has been around for a long time, with fluorescents been used before LEDs. While the principle of the idea of having the ability to change the colour of the white from warm to cool is good, unfortunately the technology has just not been suitable, with both dimming and the colour range (usually 3000K-6500K) been inadequate for the areas that it is needed. it does seem that this is changing though. There were a number of fittings available with a better colour range (1800K-3000K) which work with conventional phase dimmers, including some retrofit lamps as well. While the quality varied, it is positive to see that progress is been made. 

Final thoughts

It was a good show, and it is promising to see that the industry is making big strides to embracing the freedom that LEDs can provide product design. it is also good to see evolution in the types of light and fittings provided beyond the stale choices of linear LED strip in a variety of garish colours. I'll leave you with some other pictures of the show. 

Best Promotion goes to Prolicht, which had a custom bag factory on site. Really ingenious and their stand had queues all week. Not sure how much people saw of actual products, but they will definitely remember the name. 

External floor lamps giving a soft glow of light

External floor lamps giving a soft glow of light

A selection of asymetrical wall lamps both with and without reading lights. 

A selection of asymetrical wall lamps both with and without reading lights. 

One of the more interesting stand displays

One of the more interesting stand displays

A selection of decorative fittings

A selection of decorative fittings