Sustainable Lighting Ideas for Your Kitchen


Green Kitchen LightingThe Value of Green Lighting Ideas When Remodeling 

So you want to remodel your kitchen. Great Idea. Smart Investment.

In the bay area, in particular, a kitchen remodel will often recoup its value and make a tidy profit for the homeowner when it’s time to sell.

But let say you also want to incorporate green building practices, for instance, install sustainable wood flooring with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approval, add  countertops made from recycled material, or include cabinets that are formaldehyde-free to mitigate potential health risks. All good.

But kitchen lighting and electrical practices to promote an eco-friendly home?
Yes, there are indeed many green lighting practices besides LED lighting systems that save money and promote a healthy environment. And the kitchen is a good place to start. A kitchen is the most energy-intensive room in a house.

Here are five energy efficient lighting-related ideas:

1. Fix Air leaks. Free flowing air is a Pandora’s box of potential energy issues, which can increase a homeowner’s energy bill  make home life less comfortable than it needs to be.  When remodeling  your kitchen take the time to limit air flow by tightening  seals or limiting gaps.

A recent Department of Energy study underscored this by examining energy loss associated with everyday object in the home. Their findings are startling, pointing to a host of energy-leaking sources: ceilings, wall and fans, ducts, fireplaces, doors, windows, electrical outlets and more.

Dishwasher After Cleaning Process. 2. Install Energy Star Appliances. Since 1992, a voluntary Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program has helped to identify and promote energy efficient building and products. For consumers who are looking to remodel, add a new Energy Star washer and/or dryer or dishwasher. An Energy Star product is a great way to go green by conserving water and reducing electrical use. And Energy Star product evaluations extend well beyond home appliances.

Energy Star also examines energy consumption for electronic components such as TVs, computer monitors, windows, HVAC systems and more. Appliances—any home-related device—can receive an energy-star ratings based on off-the-shelf testing and a strict verification process.

3. Eliminate Phantom Loads. There is an energy ghost in your home. It’s called a phantom load and it works covertly, unknowingly, against homeowners each month to increase their energy costs. A phantom load is quite simple the energy consumed by leaving appliances, electronic devices and other home apparatus plugged in when not in use. Yes, even your coffee maker needs to be unplugged.

For those who haven’t yet purchased surge suppressors, now is the time.  After buying one, or multiple devices, effortlessly plug all major household appliances or electronic devices into it. A surge supressor will mitigate damage from occurring during a power surge. It’s really that simple. At night, turn each suppressor off and you’ll be well on your way to defeating phantom loads.

4. Use Lighting Controls. When you can manually dim a light or have an automated light turn on, needless electricity isn’t wasted. Dimmers, a simple device, can be added to most lighting design systems. Dimmers are a smart green investment when remodeling your kitchen.

Inexpensive. Efficient. Reliable. These are the three hallmarks of a dimmer switch. It can also create the right mood or ambiance and, of course, install LED lights—the most energy efficient type of bulb, which can burn brightly for 15-25 years before needing to be replaced. Indoor motions censor lights, and timer lights, are also terrific energy savers . . . triggered to go at specific times, or with censors, lighting up an area only when someone enters a room.

5. Apply Passive Architecture. The notion of using available daylight or natural light to illuminate a room as been around for centuries. When remodeling, pay strict attention to the direction the room is facing and you’ll recognize many options for using natural light. Changes to a room’s architecture will change lighting dynamics. Be mindful of layering lights, too, that is,  combining lights in different ways to generate the right illumination.

For daylight to serve as the main lighting source, a minimum of 5% of the room floor should be a window area and include a low-
emissivity (Low-E) coating to reduce glare. Low-E will play a role a crucial role in heat gain during the summer and heat loss during winter.

Path Lighting: Guidelines

LED Path LightingGeneral Guidelines for Path Lighting

Start with a lighting plan — at minimum a drawing that maps things out visually. But more importantly, first clarify the main points you want to achieve: aesthetic improvements, enhanced security or simply adding financial value to your home.

Keep in mind that besides aesthetics and security, the main appeal of path lighting is to have lights which illuminate a path! So think creatively when placing fixtures — staggering them for variation and avoiding rigid symmetry. Experiment with placing path lights in bushes and other areas around a yard for novelty and excitement. On average, place light 10-15 feet apart, but this may vary by design.  Down lights  can be positioned from a tree to illuminate a path.

The Basics

You will need  fixtures, cables, lights and a transformer to begin your lighting project. Each component will vary in price by style and manufacturer. You can select inexpensive plastic fixtures that run a few dollars to brass or copper ones that cost several hundred dollars apiece. The old adage “You get what you pay for” often holds true for fixtures. So be mindful of making a purchase based on price alone.

Lighting TransformerFor ongoing safety for pets and children it is essential to reduce the electrical wattage for outdoor lighting from 120 to 12. Reducing wattage is the job of a transformer. Most household voltage is 120/240. A transformer takes this high-voltage output and transforms it into a safe level. And in case you add more light in the future, select a transformer that exceeds the amount of light you’ll need by 25-50 percent. Transformers come in two varieties, electronic and magnetic. We use only magnetic ones for landscape lighting. Magnetic transformers are highly efficient; they run quietly and will not flicker or dim. The cost of a magnetic transformer is easily recouped over time.

There are other devices to consider installing as well: a remote timer, multiple circuits, a photo-electric sensor and wireless activation. But again, before you begin, map out a plan to determine what is “mission critical.” We recommend consulting with a lighting specialist from the outset, for assistance with the planning and/or installation of your project. Click here for more information on path lighting.

Path Lighting for Home Security

Path Lighting for Home Security and Financial Value

Outdoor Landscape LightingWinter is a time when people dress in warm layers, dust off umbrellas and pray for rainfall. It is also the season to install path lighting to close a gap in security and add financial value to your home.

Installing path lighting can be an exciting endeavor and is not, as many believe, a time- and labor-intensive process. Got a unique lighting vision?  The effort required to illuminate an exterior from street to entryway can often be completed in a day or two.

Where to Begin? A Holiday Assignment

It’s important to start with a lighting plan and then hire someone with landscape lighting experience, though a lighting project can certainly be undertaken by a capable do-it-yourselfer.

Then take a drive through your neighborhood at night, taking note of homes with outdoor lighting designs. You’ll see a variety of schemes with a range of complexity – walkways brightly lit up, driveways, architectural features, and gardens cast in varying degrees of illumination.  What was unique, creative or unusual? What lighting might work for your home to promote security? Improve aesthetics?  Increase its financial value?

Low-voltage Lighting

Since incandescent bulbs were banned by Congress in 2014, LEDs have paved the way for low maintenance and long-lasting outdoor lighting. Low-voltage LEDs are safe, affordable and do a marvelous job of brightening up a dimly-lit street or darkened alley way. LED bulbs can last 50,000 hours—yes, 30-plus years of use—and provide abundant light much like formerly popular incandescent and halogen bulbs

Important Considerations

There are some essentials you will need to create a well-balanced path lighting design—fixtures, cables, lights and a transformer. Fixtures range in style and price, from inexpensive plastic that costs a Pathway Or Wall Light For Building Or Housefew dollars to brass or copper ones running several hundred dollars apiece. Stagger fixtures along a path to avoid a layout that looks too predictable; fixtures work well in risers (stairs) leading to a door or displayed on a wall. And down lights can light up a path from above in a unique way. Most landscape lights require little maintenance. However, to keep your lighting ensemble fit, remove debris, check for lose connections and replace faulty bulbs at least once a year.

Selecting a Transformer

A transformer takes high-voltage electricity (120 volts) and literally transforms it into a safe, 10-volt level. Transformers come in two varieties, electronic and magnetic. We only use magnetic transformers for landscape lighting and they offer great value. A magnetic transformer is very efficient, runs quietly and can be placed close to lighting fixtures. A toroidal transformer, the better of the two magnetic options (stack laminated is the other), is generally recouped with savings over time. Click here for the basics of path lighting.



Your Home’s Health: An Electrical Safety Inspection

Electrician & Breaker PanelWhen was the last time your home had an electrical safety inspection? If it’s been several years, or you can’t remember when, then a checkup is overdue.

An electrical inspection should be a priority before starting any remodeling project; after purchasing a home; if a home is older than forty years; and when adding any new household appliances.

A licensed electrician’s safety checklist will include your home’s entire electrical system — all wiring, appliances and related components. The review will outline ways to improve home safety and identify faulty installation and/or worn out and potentially hazardous materials.

Older Homes: Safety First!

Age-related electrical issues are common with older homes, those hovering around 40 years or more. Things wear out. And some materials and practices once thought to be safe and effective have proven to be otherwise. To maintain your home’s integrity take action after you witness dimming lights, see the aftermath of burned wires, or experience the regular tripping of circuit breakers.

Some fixes may be low cost and quick to remedy by a handy do-it-yourselfer. Hopefully, your checklist will only entail small adjustments that bringMagnfiying glass on the word investigate to illustrate detective quick-and-ready solutions. But this is not always the case; electrical problems are often hidden behind walls and take a bit of investigation to figure out; some have more costly solutions. For larger, more complex projects such as rewiring or a panel-box upgrade, hire a licensed electrician.

The electronic-gadget age has indeed crept up on us rather suddenly. Ever find yourself using several appliances all at once, and charging a laptop, tablet and/or smart phone simultaneously? Did you notice the lights dim? A breaker shut off? There is often a simple solution, like an appliance needing a dedicated circuit. But it may signal a larger issue and it might be time to rewire your home.

Older homes were typically built with 60-amp electrical systems and may lack the electrical capacity to handle a bevy of high-tech devices. Newer homes generally have 100, 150 or even 200-amp systems, which allow for a greater flow of electricity.

Here are  three important reasons to replace an electrical panel box:

1. Your Home Has a Fuse Box

Many homes built prior to the 1950s are equipped with fuses rather than circuit breakers. Fuses remain safe, except when they are replaced with the wrong size. If your home has a fuse box, replace it with a circuit-breaker panel. Some insurance companies may even require the upgrade.

2. You Have a Faulty Electrical Panel

There is no mystery here — or shouldn’t be. Old circuit panels will often present warning signs of impending failure. If any of these indicators are present, you may need to replace your home’s electrical circuit panel:

  • Circuit breakers that fail to trip
  • Flicker or dimming lights
  • The inability to use multiple appliances at once
  • Charred or melted wire
  • If your home uses a 60-amp electrical service

federal_pacific3. You’ve got a Federal Pacific Electric Panel

If your home is equipped with a Federal Pacific Electric panel box replace it. Federal Pacific’s Stab-Lok model was installed in millions of homes nationwide through the 1970s and has a dubious history. FPE breakers can work for years without issue, then fail to trip, overheat and become a fire hazard.


New Wiring: Capacity, Convenience and Safety

What about safety? . . . Residences before 1950 used knob-and-tube wiring. Even today, this type of wiring works well, and is generally safe, though arcing (sparking) can occur and short a system or cause a fire. Faulty wiring is a leading cause residential fires in the United States.

And there are other safety risks.  A home built in the 1960s and 1970s may be wired with aluminum, a cheaper—and potential dangerous substitute— for copper. Aluminum wire corrodes when coming in contact with copper and may unravel, causing arcing and fire. (Note: There are effective solutions to prevent this, other than replacing all the aluminum wire.)

Whatever electrical issues you suspect, before taking action, get sound advice from a seasoned pro. Rewiring a home can be disruptive process (most wiring is hidden behind walls) and a costly endeavor as compared to a panel upgrade or other simpler electrical repairs. A complete service upgrade, which includes a panel upgrade and rewiring, is best undertaken as part of major room remodel (e.g., kitchen or new addition) or complete home renovation.

7 Essentials Tips for Hiring an Electrical Contractor

In the world of residential lighting, someone will often say they “do” electrical work rather than say “I am” an electrical contractor. If you hear such a remark raise an eyebrow of skepticism.

To be sure, from interior lighting installations and home wiring, to landscape lighting and electrical panel upgrades, you need to feel confident with whomever you hire. Here are few tips to shine a light on your decision-making process and help you navigate the way:

1. Make sure the contractor you hire holds a C-10 electrical license. This will help to ensure quality and reliability. The alternative: Hire someone who knows lighting and is not licensed and take your chances.

2. A first-rate electrician combines technical know-how, good instincts and the investigative skills of a keen detective.He or she should be able to resolve wiring issues and design and install lighting projects efficiently. With a depth of lighting design experience, a professional also emphasizes safety and/or security concerns, and has the skill to handle electrical panel upgrades, wiring malfunctions, outdoor landscape lighting installations, or the ability to rewire your entire home and more.

3. Select someone who understand the indoor-outdoor lighting connection. A house is a single entity. From a lighting perspective, every room, including the home’s exterior, needs to share a continuity of style and purpose. An experienced pro knows that both interior and exterior lighting projects will often have similar planning steps and related solutions. For instance, ambient lighting brings a remodeled kitchen to life; and using ambient lighting for the exterior works as part of a layered-lighting effect. Recognizing this indoor-outdoor connection translates into quality work and is a money-saver for homeowners.

4. Expect integrity or enduring quality from any respectable lighting contractor. Quality lighting professionals stand by their work. Warranty periods may vary but often cover workmanship, materials and typically incorporate upgrades factored into the project at little or no additional charge.

5. From the start, hiring someone with strong communication skills will ensure the best possible outcome. Can your contractor clearly articulate the need and the solution? From rewiring a new addition to creating a landscape lighting design-build, make sure you understand the project details. This will save time and energy, and surely help to eliminate unforeseen problems down the road.

6. Keeping up with Technology. A lighting designer/electrician needs to stay current with new lighting technologies. Rapid advances in the industry are dictating more varied lighting choices. For security concerns, for instance, automated mobile-control system are now quite popular; and for maximum control and lighting variety indoors, a lighting control and dimmer system will produce the desired effect.

7. Aesthetic Sensibility. For outdoor lighting, in particular, knowing how lighting products work to enhance a well-designed landscape is essential. There almost seems to be a Zen factor to it: What type of lighting will create balance and harmony? Indeed, creating a “wow” factor for any lighting project consistently requires someone with an artistic vision who is comfortable working within predetermined time, space, and budget constraints.

Learn about five key lighting ideas for your home.

Five Lighting Ideas for Your Home

Kitchen Lighting DesignWhat is the best way to brighten up or illu­mi­nate your home? Here are five light­ing ideas that can trans­form any room!

  1. Prior to Remod­el­ing or Redec­o­rat­ing, Com­mit to a Plan. Before you start, ask your­self: How will this room be used? A liv­ing room, for instance, can have mul­ti­ple uses: din­ing area, TV room, part-time office, a place for entertaining. How a room is used should deter­mine light­ing choices and placement.
  2. Incor­po­rate Lay­er­ing. When a room serves many func­tions, then lay­er­ing (com­bin­ing dif­fer­ent light­ing types for appro­pri­ate bal­ance) is impor­tant. A sin­gle type of light­ing is often not enough. So when lay­er­ing con­sider a room’s size, the avail­abil­ity of nat­ural light, a room’s dimen­sions, and ambiance desired. A large chan­de­lier can work well for dis­trib­ut­ing ambi­ent light; table lamps or pen­dant lights are ideal for read­ing; and wall sconces can cre­ate the desired mood or atmosphere.
  3. Famil­iar­ize Your­self with Light­ing Options. There are three broad cat­e­gories of inte­rior lights– ambi­ent, task and accent – and it may take all three to get the desired light­ing effect you want.
    – Ambi­ent Light­ing. Gen­eral light­ing is another name for ambi­ent light­ing and is typ­i­cally the start­ing point for illu­mi­nat­ing an entire room. Recessed lights, chan­de­liers, track lights, out­side lights, and torchieres (stand­ing floor lights) are exam­ples of ambi­ent lighting.
    – Task Light­ing. If you have a job or duty to perform—reading, cook­ing, study­ing, writing—you’ll need a handy task light, such as a desk lamp, table light, van­ity light or pen­dant light.
    – Accent Light­ing. When look­ing to cre­ate a sub­tle or dra­matic effect, use accent lights. Accent light­ing will draw atten­tion to art objects, archi­tec­tural fea­tures in a room, wall hang­ings — almost any­thing you want to call atten­tion to.
  4. Swap Out Cer­tain Lights. If your kitchen has recessed track lights, try swap­ping them out for pen­dant lights. Pen­dant lights, a type of task light­ing, can be low­ered to pro­vide more direct light on food prep areas such as kitchen counter tops or islands.
  5. Buy a Fam­ily of Lights. Light­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers often cre­ate light­ing fam­i­lies, lights with sim­i­lar styles or design com­po­nents. Stylistically-related lights offer visual con­ti­nu­ity and take the guess work out of buying.