An array of bulbs for a cozy environment

The Ultimate Lighting Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Lighting

Ever had the annoying moment when you wanted to spice up your house with some beautiful lights, but you don’t know where to start? At one point in time, we were just as blur and lost as you. And this is perfectly understandable given that there are simply too many products to choose from due to the ever growing market and technology. 

We’re definitely not complaining about having an overflow of options. After all, having more options is definitely better than having none right? Yet, this makes it difficult for consumers like ourselves, as plenty of our time and effort is spent researching and understanding the technology and price points behind it.

Therefore, we have now done the arduous and complicated work to craft a comprehensive (but simplified) guide about lighting definitions and concepts for your next purchase. From the different types of lights to the nitty-gritty considerations you should be aware of, you can be assured to feel more at ease the next time you walk into a lighting shop!

PART 1: What kind of lights are there? Isn’t it all the same?

Let’s get on to nailing down the foundations of lighting. The first set of questions, and arguably the most mind-boggling of all, would be this: How many types of lights are there? What sets them apart? And most importantly: which one would be best suited for my home?

With a huge selection of lighting products to choose from, like chandeliers, to the more obscure ones like track lights and the recently popular cove lights (LED strips mounted into the ledges of the ceiling), there is certainly no doubt that you have to understand the distinctive functions of each type of light and what categories they fall under since there is no one-size fit all approach to lighting.

So, to ensure that you have the best lighting experience, let’s dive into the three main categories of lighting: Ambient, Task and Accent.

Ambient Lighting

Look above you if you’re sitting comfortably in your room right now. Chances are, the light you’re seeing is probably what you call ambient lighting, which serves to illuminate the entire room. Given its functionality as the main lighting, it is evidently the most common type of light found across all households. Hence, it is paramount to have it installed at the optimal spot to fully maximise its potential to ensure every corner of the house is well-lit.

Bright and evenly lit kitchen with VIO smart downlights
Ambient lighting aims to illuminate your entire room with the sole intention of allowing you to see clearly. Pexels.

Apart from its main function, ambient lighting also improves the sense of warmth and depth, thus enhancing the overall aesthetics of the room. That being said, choosing the best ambient lighting need not be a boring affair as it comes in a wide variety of styles, like the all-famous chandeliers and cove lights. Depending on factors like the colour of your walls and the use of the room itself, choosing the correct ambient lights can indeed radically improve the overall ambience.

Task Lighting

Nowadays, as consumers, we are naturally becoming more concerned with our health and lifestyle needs, so it is inevitable that we want to choose lighting that delivers the most health benefits. Given that the work from home culture is now normalised, it is essential to have good lighting to make our workstation more comfortable.

Workspace with two computers being lit by a desk light
Desk lights serve to better improve the lighting situation around your workspace. Unsplash.

That being said, having effective task lighting is part and parcel of an ergonomic workstation if you wish to reduce the uncomfortable pressure on your eyes and to ease the strain. As task lighting serves to illuminate a particular area, it is ideal for detailed tasks such as reading, writing and working on your computers.

Most often, task lighting is used alongside ambient lighting for performing tasks that require concentration or extra light such as sewing, which offers direct and intense illumination. Some fairly obvious examples of task lighting would be the conventional desk lamps or even linear lights that can be suspended from the ceiling above your table.

Accent Lighting

Got that beautiful family portrait or graduation photo lying around? Now’s the time for you to show it off! By highlighting your family portrait or photo with accent lighting, you can add “character”, flair and even spice up the ambience and atmosphere of your house.

Spot light on a potrait of a girl
Show off your favourite photo with accent lighting. Pexels.

Not to be confused with task lighting, accent lighting is likely more intense, although both generally require a degree of focused and intense lighting. A good analogy would be to compare accent lighting to the use of makeup, which is also used to highlight and accentuate certain facial features. Some common types of accent lighting you should be familiar with include track lights, wall sconces and LED strips.

PART 2: What else should I look out for?

After getting the basics of the different kinds of lighting out there, what’s next? Should you head down to the nearest store to make your purchase? That’s certainly possible, but we recommend that you stick around to delve deeper into other factors that you should keep in mind to make your purchase easier!

Broadly speaking, there are 4 main considerations that you should definitely take into account during your decision making process: the Stroboscopic Effect, Luminous Efficacy, Colour Rendering Index (CRI) and Unified Glare Rating (UGR).

The Stroboscopic Effect

The top and most important question when it comes to buying lights should be this: is it non-stroboscopic? This is an extremely important requirement that is often disregarded due to it sounding too “technical” and its general unfamiliarity among consumers.

The Stroboscopic Effect is the phenomenon of flickering lights (not your typical flicker that happens when your light is faulty) that we often don’t realise due to the persistence of our vision. This flicker usually becomes more evident when the lights reflect off objects that are in our direct line of vision. Thus causing eye discomfort, strains and fatigue. In more serious situations, severe accidents may happen if heavy machinery or dangerous equipment is involved.

Thus, purchasing lights that are non-stroboscopic should definitely be at the top of your list for your own comfort and safety.

Luminous Efficacy (Lumens)

Luminous Efficacy indicates the ability of a light source to emit visible light using a given amount of power measured as lumens (Lm) in ratio to power (W).

Dimmed warm white round filament bulb
Lights with higher lumens are generally optimal for most situations. Unsplash.

Generally, a light high in lumens and low in watts is preferred as it is more energy efficient. Depending on the purpose of the light, having a higher luminous efficacy is generally the ideal case for most situations, unless you are going for a cozy ambience.

In fact, did you know that LED lights typically produce more lumens (>100Lm/W) as compared to fluorescent lights (50-100Lm/W)?

Unified Glare Rating (UGR)

However, having a bright light doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s more glaring! Glare is determined by the Unified Glare Rating (UGR) which indicates how likely a light source is to cause discomfort to those in the room. This measurement takes into account the eye level and direction of view from the individual.

Simply put, the lower the UGR, the less glare it will cause, therefore a lower level of discomfort for individuals. Thus, it is highly recommended that your choice of light should be low in UGR, especially in situations where you have to constantly be on the computer.

Colour Rendering Index (CRI)

The Colour Rendering Index is a measurement of a light’s ability to reveal the true colour of objects in comparison to natural light which measures at a score of 100. In short, you would want to have the light source reveal the natural colours of the objects as much as possible.

Colorful RGB lighting on tree branches
Let smart lighting create an unprecedented, immersive gaming haven for you. Unsplash.

Of course, this may differ across situations where you really have no use for colours. Otherwise, a high CRI index would prove to be the best choice here. No matter young or old, smart lighting has something for everyone. So don’t be too quick to turn smart lighting away. Give it a chance and you will experience the difference. 

Am I ready to make an informed purchase now?

After sitting through this simple crash course on lighting fundamentals, you can finally give yourself a pat on the back! You are now well-equipped with your newly acquired knowledge and ready to make an informed purchase.

If you’re still skeptical about whether you are able to make your purchase worth, we will break it down further. 

Identify the functionality of the light you wish to purchase.

  1. Ambient lighting – main lighting of the room
  2. Task lighting – intense light for performing specific task
  3. Accent lighting – for spicing up the ambience and atmosphere of the house.

Check if the light fulfils the following requirements

  1. Non-stroboscopic – reduces eye strains and fatigue
  2. High luminous intensity – emits more light
  3. High Color Rendering Index (CRI) – to accurately display true colours of object
  4. Low Unified Glare Rating (UGR) – low glare for better eye comfort

So, where can you find these high quality products that fulfil these criteria even while being on a budget? (Hint: It’s probably not Taobao).

VIO Singapore is the answer! Because we create easy access to physiologically-compatible flicker-free lights that takes care of your well-being and your experience. We are a home-grown start-up that creates integrative and immersive smart lighting experiences with our diverse range of products.

Still need some help figuring what lights you need? Sign up for a free lighting consultation here

Access future living with VIO today and #Experiencethedifference with us!