VIDEO: Energy-saving lighting makes a splash in a bathroom upgrade

| by Gary Wollenhaupt
VIDEO: Energy-saving lighting makes a splash in a bathroom upgrade

If going away on vacation is not in the budget this year, it may make sense to add energy-saving lighting to upgrade your master bath into a spa-like environment.

Other upgrades to pamper the body and spirit could include soaking tubs, steam showers, countertops and cabinets made from recycled content, eco-friendly flooring and water-efficient fixtures.

To finish a bathroom remodel with the look of a spa, the final touch is lighting, according to a press release from the American Lighting Association. Designers recommended a few simple lighting tips to bring a new look to a bathroom setting.

“People are making an investment and creating a retreat reminiscent of a hotel room at their favorite vacation spot,” said Kellee Hollenback of Savoy House, a lighting manufacturer based in Georgia. “Redoing the bathroom is an economical way to do a home makeover. Even simply installing a UL-listed shower light, chandelier or spotlight over the tub can enhance both comfort and ambiance.”

(UL listed products have been tested and evaluated for safety by Underwriters Laboratories.)

There are two must-haves for proper bath lighting: an ambient light source and task lighting. With energy-efficient lighting options, new fixtures can actually help save money.

According to the lighting experts, the most critical area for proper lighting is at the mirror, where most grooming tasks – from make-up application to shaving – take place. Although many builders and interior decorators install one recessed light over the sink, this situation is not ideal for putting your best face forward.

“I always recommend at least three layers of light,” said architect Joe Rey-Barreau, education consultant for the ALA and an associate professor at the University of Kentucky’s School of Interior Design. “The primary one would be at the vanity, which is best achieved with lighting above and on the sides of the mirror. Although not my preference, small recessed lighting above the mirror can also create a very dramatic effect.”

How much illumination is enough? Rey-Barreau said the lighting at the vanity should be approximately 120 watts of incandescent at the top of the mirror and 60 watts on each side. If you’re using compact fluorescent bulbs, that would be approximately 30 watts at the top and 15 watts on the sides.

Decorative sconces that either match or complement the over-the-sink light will evenly illuminate both sides of the face. Rey-Barreau recommends a minimum of 150 watts of incandescent lighting per sink, or 40 watts of fluorescent lighting.

“An alternative to a compact fluorescent is the halogen IRC by Osram, which is low-voltage and provides 28 lumens per watt. It gives a lot of light and gives good color so that skin doesn’t look washed out,” said Paul Eusterbrock of Holtkoetter International, a lighting manufacturer based in Minnesota. “People need energy-efficient light that helps them look good,” he said.

Dimmers are an inexpensive way to create a mood and reduce electric use. Energy-efficient bulbs such as CFLs and LEDs are available in models that use dimmers. Dimmers are also available in models designed to control the new types of bulbs.

“The reality is that the amount of light provided by typical vanity fixtures gives much more lighting than we need for the majority of times that we are in the bathroom,” Rey-Barreau said. “Once you have a dimmer, being able to adjust the light levels for different situations is amazingly practical.”

Libbe Milicia, director of decorative product development for Progress Lighting, suggested placing wall sconces on either side of the mirror to help reduce shadows that could be cast on the face and to supplement the ambient lighting.

“Accent lighting with natural textures will offer a pampered touch to any vanity and provide more bang for the buck,” Milicia said.

For more information on lighting design for your bathroom and other rooms in your home, watch this video from the American Lighting Association.

For more information, see our Energy-efficient Lighting Research Center.

Have you remodeled your bathroom? Let us know how it went. Continue the conversation in the comments below!

Topics: Bathroom, Lighting, Remodeling

Gary Wollenhaupt

Gary Wollenhaupt is an experienced writer and editor, with a background as a daily newspaper reporter as well as corporate and agency public relations and marketing. He is constantly looking for affordable green upgrades to make to his home in eastern Kentucky.

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