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Lighting Singapore Guide

Lighting 101 – ambient, accent, task, or decorative light?

Before start thinking about fluorescent vs LED, cool vs warm, or pendant vs chandelier, you should be thinking about what type of light you want to have in your home. There are 4 basic ways that lighting can be used in the home. You need to understand before you can know what types of lighting fixtures are best for that purpose.

Ambient light: Usually the first lighting you consider, this is the general lighting that illuminates the room. Think of it as the “night shift” worker that comes in when natural light (daylight) calls it a day. So, select warm tones that soften the room, mimicking natural light as much as possible.

Types of ambient lights include pendant lamps, wall lights, downlights (recessed lights), cove lights, and lamps.

Accent lighting: These provide concentrated light that highlights certain details or features such as wall decorations, artwork, photos, bookcase displays, pieces of furniture, or certain architectural features. Added to ambient lighting, accent lighting contributes depth and shade to a room.

These include halogen spotlights, downlights, tracking lights, and table lamps.

Task lighting: These are lights we need to carry out certain activities such as reading in bed, working on the computer, cooking, or putting on make-up. This type of light needs to be focused on a certain place. The most common types are table or desk lamps, as well as under-cabinet lighting and vanity mirrors.

Decorative lighting: These are mostly ornamental lights that add flair to the room. Chandeliers are the obvious example but there are also items like wall sconces and neon lights. These lights shouldn’t be too bright.

Lighting is often being neglected when we renovate our homes. This could make a world of difference to the decor. It’s not only functional, but it can also create ambience and add colour to a room. It’s the interior designer’s secret weapon. To help you understand better, here’s a guide to find out how lighting works in your home, the types you can use and where to buy them in Singapore.


Common Types of Lighting in Singapore

Now we move on to the types of light fixtures to explain what exactly your interior designer is talking about.
Ceiling/fluorescent lights: These are lights attached to the ceiling. They are usually for ambient lighting because they flood a room with light, making it a canvas for other forms of lighting to create points of interest.

Recessed/downlights: These are lights that are fitted into false ceilings. They can be used as ambient lighting and are perfect for the minimalist look or in places where the ceilings aren’t too high. They can be fitted over the kitchen sink and reading areas and shelves to illuminate the items within.

Cove lighting: Similar to recessed lighting, it fitted into a ledge along the ceiling. These allow for ambient lighting that’s more diffused because the light is cast indirectly, bouncing off the adjacent walls before reaching the eye.

Halogen spotlight: These are spotlights that are used for ambient or accent lighting. Spotlights can also be used for wall washing.

Wall sconces: These are lights mounted on the wall and are great for hallways, balconies, and bedside lights. They can also light up wall decorations for art.

Lamps: These standalone lights can be placed on tables or the floor and make wonderful decorative or task lighting.


How to Choose Cost-effective Lighting?

When we choose a cost-effective light fixture, we should take note of the number of lamps/bulbs used and the type of lamps/bulbs. For example, no matter what kind of energy-saving bulb you used for a chandelier, it’s always going to cost more than a lamp, because of the number of bulbs needed in a chandelier. So if you’re looking to save costs, skip the multi-bulb lights.

Then, there is the type of bulb to consider. Some types use up more electricity and, therefore, cost more than others in electricity bills. Here’s a crash course on the types of lighting, in roughly ascending order of cost-effectiveness.

Incandescent lighting: This is the light bulb that we’re most familiar with. Electricity heats up the metal filament in the bulb till it glows, giving off light. Unfortunately, only 10% to 25% of the electricity is actually converted to light, the rest simply produces heat. So, it’s not energy efficient.

Halogen incandescent lights: The improved version of incandescent lights, these are more efficient than the predecessors. But, they still need 3 times more energy than LEDs and CFLs.

Halogen incandescent lights: An energy-saving replacement for incandescent bulbs, so you needn’t throw out the entire light fixture. CFLs are miniature fluorescent lamps that can be screwed into the same socket. They use just ¼ to ⅓ the electricity of an incandescent bulb while giving off the same amount of light. They also last up to 10 times longer.

Linear fluorescent lamp: These energy-savers are an improvement on the old-style fluorescent lights. They’re sold with electronic ballasts that regulates the current to the lamp, making them energy-efficient.

LED (light-emitting diodes): LED is the newest and most energy-efficient type of light. LED bulbs can be grouped into clusters or used as a single bulb. They are 30% more efficient than CFLs and 75% more efficient than halogen incandescent lamps.

HID (high-intensity discharge): HID lighting is an energy-efficient option for outdoor use. They’re brighter than LED lights.