Ecological lighting is the use of energy to produce light in an efficient way. Good lighting, I found out (I was a lighting designer for many years) consists in washing large areas with adequate lighting with the lighting source unseen and highlighting certain areas. Of course there are many trendy stylists who like to see artistic and fashionable luminaires (light fittings). I'm not one of them. For me, chandeliers of any kind are 'old style'.
In an ecoenvironment try something better and new. Illuminate the ceiling and upper walls by hidden light sources and use portable reading lamp fittings to highlight features, reading space, plants.
Cornices fitted at high level around the walls can be used to conceal lights pointing up at the ceiling and will give a wash of reflected light to the whole room without having the glare from a light fitting. This cornice could also have light washing down on the wall below if the situation demands it.
Fluorescent lamps reduce energy requirements and filament lamps should only be used where fluorescents aren't suitable. Filament lamps are a luxury we can no longer afford.
There are also low-voltage fluorescent lamps but converting mains voltages to low voltages wastes around 10% of the energy.
A fairly new development are light emitting diodes (LEDs). You see them in torches and mobile phones. These are getting bigger and more reliable and rows of these can give a fair amount of bright light. They use a very small amount of energy to produce light and can be operated from battery systems or low voltage transformers.
Benefits of ecological lighting
If we all change over to ecological lighting our electrical energy bills will be reduced and we won't need more nuclear-powered power stations and no matter what our politicians tell us nuclear power is not safe.
General space lighting
Divide the space in a room into 'area requirements'. There is general lighting and specific lighting. Wash the general lighting area with diffused light that approximates the colour of sunlight using fluorescent lighting.
Fluorescent tubes are so-called because there is no filament permanently on. Instead, the gas is heated for a second by a filament at each end which allows an arc of electricity to jump across the length of the tube. This produces UV light but no or very little visible light. To convert UV light to visible a fluorescent powdered coating is put on the inside of the glass tube which converts UV to visible light. They are a good idea but suffer from an image problem - which is all in the mind really.
Of course you can get fluorescent lamps which do approximate sunlight but, in my experience, the efficiency falls off within a few months of use and you are left with an expensive light source that now gives off the same coloured light as a normal, cheaper fluorescent tube.
If you can, mix a few ultra-violet-rich tubes in with the daylight tubes but never look directly at these UV lamps as strong UV light can cause permanent damage to the eye.
If you want to produce the impression that daylight is coming in, if you live in the north for instance (as I do), then concentrate a light source near windows to give the impression that sunlight is coming in. The psychological benefits are very positive on a grey day.
Reflected light is more 'comfortable' than direct light. Indirect washing with light reflected of ceilings and walls produces a relaxing feeling.
There are areas that need directional light such as collections of plants which need light rich in UV and there are reading areas and work areas where a brighter light is required.
Most of us put up with extremely low levels of lighting in our homes. Compare the brightness of sunlight on a sunny day with the gloom inside.
If you live in the north it is easy to experience the SAD syndrome caused by lack of full spectrum lighting. Simply increasing the lighting level will make you feel better. Have one room which can be very brightly lit - the kitchen or shower room - and spend some time in this bright light during the winter months.
Don't forget to keep luminaires free of dust. A little dust can absorb a lot of light before it even gets out of the luminaire.
It is possible now to get portable light fittings that accept compact fluorescent lamps so make use of these. The benefit of having portable lamps is that you can move them around until you get the right effect. Portable uplighters are very useful to wash ceilings with light if you don't have an illuminating cornice around the walls.
Have brighter-lit rooms using less electrical energy. Good for your pocket, your health and the environment.
Outside lighting and lighting pollution
Do remember the 'wash and highlight' principles used indoors but lighting external space is different. You can't uplight the sky although a lot do try. If you walk around cities at night, when there is a little mist (or smog), you might be appalled at the amount of wasted energy being used to illuminate the sky. If you are an astronomer you will be very aware of this light pollution.
Don't, as some do, shine your 500 watt tungsten floodlight directly into a neighbour's bedroom window. It is irritating, a total waste of energy and just plain stupid. Better to use low power, compact fluorescents pointing down.
Local authorities are guilty of light pollution on a grand scale. Stop it happening. Point it out to them. It's our light and money they are wasting.
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