The right lighting can make everyday tasks easier and more enjoyable

Hanging around the house more lately? Sometimes the more time we spend at home, the longer our to-do list grows. To ease the burden of persistent homeowner obligations, it is important to have appropriate lighting for specific tasks. Terry McGowan of the American Lighting Association (ALA) answers some of homeowners’ most frequently asked questions about lighting activity spaces.

What is task lighting?
It is lighting intended to properly illuminate common visual tasks in the home. Usually, such visual tasks are done in relatively small areas so the task lighting is local rather than spread out over a whole room. Examples are reading, sewing, cooking, grooming, dressing, and doing homework, laundry and puzzles.

Why is special lighting required for tasks?
Because many visual tasks can be difficult to see – especially if older eyes are involved. Good task lighting reduces eye strain and fatigue. There are many lighting fixtures and products designed specifically to illuminate task areas to make it easy to clearly see details with minimum glare.

Tip: Look at the words and numbers on postage stamps, coins or printed money under normal room light. Then illuminate the same details with a bright flashlight. Notice how many more details can be seen with the flashlight and how much easier it is to read or see colors.

How can task lighting in the home be improved?
Table and floor lamps and directional sconces make excellent task lights that are easy to optimize for tackling tasks by installing a bulb with higher light output in the fixture, changing the shade, or positioning an existing fixture to allow more light to fall upon the desired area.

What should I look for to get a good task light these days?
Look for both functionality and appearance. Today’s task light fixtures can offer both, and a lighting professional at an ALA-member showroom can ensure that you have exactly the right features for the task work that you want to do. When considering a portable task lighting fixture, consider these features:
  • Light source – Task fixtures that use LED light sources are highly efficient and long lasting. LEDs emit less heat than older incandescent light bulbs too.
  • Amount of light – Specific tasks may require different amounts of light for optimal visibility.
  • Adjustability – This allows the light to be directed where it is needed and for the size of the lighted area to be adjusted to cover the whole task area.
  • Light color – LEDs come in a range of tints and colors often described as “warm” (reds and yellows) or “cool” (blues). The color appearance of the light is measured in kelvins (K), technically known as chromaticity. LED light bulbs and fixtures have a chromaticity rating printed on the bulb or carton that lists the chromaticity value.
  • Dimmability – There are two options for dimming LEDs with electronic controls. The first option is simply a dimmer that adjusts the brightness of the LED. The second is a control that adjusts the brightness of the LED, as well as changes the color so that, as the light gets dimmer, it changes to a warmer tone. That type of dimming is known as “warm dim,” and is intended to match the familiar dimming characteristics of incandescent bulbs.
Tip: Some types of task lighting fixtures have controls for both dimming and color control. Such fixtures provide maximum lighting flexibility, and are an excellent choice for those with older eyes or with eye problems such as cataracts, because both the light intensity and the color of the light may affect visibility and visual comfort.
  • Special features – Task lighting fixtures are available in a variety of types and designs so they can match the needs of the user as well as fit easily into the home and room décor. For example, task fixtures can be designed for either table or floor use, and there are versions with wheels for portability. Models with magnifying lenses and built-in lighting are designed to make reading easier for people with limited vision or hard-to-see tasks.
  • Smart lighting – Certain types of LED bulbs and a growing number of lighting fixtures are “smart.” That means they can connect with other smart products in the home and be programmed to follow a schedule or be controlled wirelessly via a cell phone or other types of remote controls and systems.

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