15 Mar 2013
Optimize Your Kitchen Lighting
If you wait until the last minute to consider your lighting needs when you are remodeling your kitchen, you may repeat some of the mistakes you have lived with all these years. Installing a single ceiling light fixture in the center of your kitchen creates unwelcome shadows over your work space as you try to prepare meals. Another oversight would be to install ceiling cans around the perimeter of the kitchen without carefully considering where the beams of light will contact the various surfaces in the room. If you place the ceiling cans too close to the kitchen cabinets, for example, you may create uneven scallops of light on the surface of the cabinets, as well as shadows in the middle of the room.
Good lighting design is developed simultaneously with the rest of your kitchen remodeling plans. It takes into account the following three separate layers of light that work in concert to achieve the optimal lighting experience. Ideally, these layers should be switched individually.
1. Ambient — This is the general illumination of your kitchen that allows you to see well enough to move about the room confidently and safely. The ceiling mounted fluorescent boxes that used to be the standard fixture used for this purpose are out. The most popular choices today are ceiling cans and large surface mounted fixtures. Chandeliers may also be used for ambient lighting.
2. Task — This is lighting that helps you perform tasks in your kitchen, such as meal preparation, cooking and work space clean up. For obvious reasons, when you are wielding a sharp knife you want your work space sufficiently bright, but free of glare so you can clearly see what you are doing. The same thing is true when you are stirring a bubbling pot of soup on the stove. Task lighting is usually provided by under-cabinet lights or pendants over an island.
3. Accent — This is the lighting that emphasizes the little details that make your kitchen look exceptional. It can include the spotlight that accentuates a large painting hanging on the wall, as well as the several small pucks installed behind glass cabinet doors to highlight your favorite crockery. Recessed cove lighting is accent lighting that creates visual interest on a ceiling.
As you are planning your lighting, take into account that highly reflective surfaces will impact your lighting design. You should avoid placing fixtures in a location where the light will reflect off your polished granite countertop, causing an uncomfortable glare in the eyes of anyone seated at the kitchen island.
It is also important to consider how your age, and the ages of others living in your home, may influence the amount of light necessary in your kitchen. In order to see clearly enough to read recipes or the instructions on food packages, most older adults need three to four times more light than they did when they were younger.
01 Jan 2013
Three Ideas for a Smarter, Greener Kitchen
Have you already gathered lots of ideas for how you’d like your new kitchen to look, once it’s remodeled? Perhaps you’ve thought about the style of cabinets you’d prefer or the beautiful materials you envision on your countertops and backsplash.
You should also consider these three kitchen trends that will add both safety and convenience to your kitchen. And, their green benefits extend beyond the usual energy and water savings.
1. Hands-free Faucet Controls – touch or motion activated
A kitchen faucet with hands-free technology is a tremendous advantage to meal preparation. Advanced sensors detect movement or a slight tap on the faucet itself to start the flow of water. If your hands are full or too dirty to turn on the faucet, a wave of your hand, the touch of your arm, or the presence of your hands under the spout will start the water flowing.
Hands-free technology saves water, since faucets shut off automatically, unless instructed to do otherwise. And, it can be incorporated as part of Universal Design for those with restricted reach and/or limited hand mobility.
2. Induction Cooktops
Would you be surprised to learn that induction cooking technology was developed in the United States? It didn’t immediately take off here–as it did abroad–possibly because of the specialized cookware requirements. It now appears to be gaining popularity in the U.S as consumers become better acquainted with its advantages.
Induction cooking uses induction heating to directly heat a cooking vessel, as opposed to using heat transfer from electrical coils or burning gas as with a traditional cooking stove. For nearly all models of induction cooktops, the cooking vessel must be made of a ferromagnetic metal, or placed on an interface disk which enables non-induction cookware to be used on induction cooking surfaces. Induction cooks food very quickly–90% of the energy produced is used in the cooking process as it heats only the pan and the food inside the pan–rather than the kitchen environment. The induction cooktop surface remains cool to the touch, so spills can be wiped up easily and there are no open flames or hot burners that can cause safety issues.
3. LED Lighting
LED lighting has opened up amazing new opportunities for placing light in your kitchen wherever you desire and however your imagination dictates. It doesn’t produce heat so it is perfectly suited for the inside of refrigerators and food storage cabinets. And, it’s available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from long, narrow strips that fit under cabinet toe-kicks to round pucks suitable for cabinet interiors. LED provides white light in warm and cool tones, as well as a wide variety of other colors that can add drama to your kitchen décor.
Quality LED products typically last longer than CFLs, and are therefore preferable for hard-to-reach areas such as ceilings. The long life of LED lights make them an eco-friendly product.
01 Dec 2011
Daylighting Your Home
The winter solstice occurring on December 22 marks the beginning of winter and the longest night of the year. The amount of light that reaches us from the sun decreases this time of year, which can darken our home interiors more than usual. Read below about how you can bring more natural light into your home this season and year ’round.
Lack of light exposure has been shown to make people feel sluggish and even depressed. Dim interiors can pose safety hazards, especially for those with diminished eyesight. Rather than turning on more electric lights during the day, which drives up your electric bill, you can introduce more natural light into your home. This process is called daylighting. Exposure to sunlight in your home has many benefits, such as preventing vitamin D deficiencies, making you feel more connected to nature, and increasing your sense of well-being.
Start by determining how your home is oriented on its site. Your home will let in maximum winter sun and minimum summer sun when a majority of the windows are located on the south side. East and west facing windows often let in too much sun in the summer and not as much in the winter as south facing windows. Windows on the north side can lose heat in cooler months, so should be de-emphasized. If you are planning an addition, or if you want to reconfigure the existing interior spaces of your home, keep in mind that the direction a window is facing is crucial.
In order to block heat gain and glare from entering through south-facing windows in the summer, include a deep overhang on the exterior. Other options are retractable awnings and adjustable interior window blinds. Either way, it is important to choose energy-efficient windows with the proper glazing and low-E coating for the climate zone. Remember that daylighting requires careful evaluation of where each window is placed on the walls and ceilings of your home.
It makes use of a wide variety of openings, including clerestories, skylights, tubular skylights, translucent doors and windows installed in interior walls. When the placement of openings is calculated to bring natural light even into the deepest recesses of your home, it is possible to eliminate most of your electrical lighting needs during the day.
Positioning a window to one side of the room or high up on the wall allows the daylight to reflect off an adjacent wall or ceiling, increasing the amount of light entering the space. If wall space for windows is limited or unavailable, install a small skylight with a flared light well. A tubular skylight fits between roof framing members, offering a daylighting solution for hard to reach areas, such as closets. Interior windows or glass doors offer a way for one room to borrow light from another.