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How to get the best from energy efficient lighting in your living room

•  Part Two in our lighting series with design expert
•  Creating a liveable lounge with LEDs
•  Simple effects and more control can be key

In the first part of our series of blogs with lighting designer Graham Festenstein, he talked us through the initial things to consider when changing to low-energy lighting such as LEDs in the home.

Here, we take a closer look at getting the look and feel just right in the living room.

Pleasant reflections

The first priority in this room is achieving the ‘warm white’ colour temperature we’re all used to – and so Festenstein recommends choosing 2,700 Kelvin bulbs, which are similar to the old tungsten lights.

In the first blog, he strongly recommended getting your home’s lighting on different circuits, with dimmers. But he has more to say about creating an inviting living room look.

He said: “I’m keen on using reflected light, for example from table and floor lamps, but there’s also quite a trend for building lighting into things. So, if you’ve got some joinery or a bookcase, you could add a pelmet and hide a bit of LED tape underneath. This little bit of light there makes the room feel brighter, and it can be really attractive.”

Meeting aesthetics with energy savings

Festenstein thinks looking at energy efficiency in lighting without considering design is a mistake.

He explained: “Reflected light may not be the absolute most energy efficient kind of lighting, but in terms of creating a pleasant environment, particularly in the living room, it really does that.

“Ultimately, you can’t always view things purely on a technical basis, because getting some light on the walls and vertical surfaces is a perception of brightness that you don’t get if you’re purely down-lighting, for example. So you can actually end up using less energy by using what appear on the surface to be less energy efficient options – providing you’ve got dimmers.”

Setting the scene

If you’re using a wider refurbishment as an opportunity to upgrade lighting, it may be that you have some funds set aside to create the best effects. If so, Festenstein has a top tip.

He said: “If you’ve got a bit of a budget, I very much recommend using scene-setting. These are control systems that allow you to set up a scene that you can recall by pushing a button. You can have specific lighting set up for different times of day and different experiences.

“During the day when you’re getting ready for work you might want your living room pretty light, as you’re moving around doing lots of things. Likewise on a weekend when your kids are painting on the coffee table. You might also want to use varying levels of light to put the focus on different parts of the room. On the other hand, while sitting watching telly on an evening, you might actually need very low levels of light.”

In control, looking good, saving energy

Lighting controlled in this way definitely falls in line with the modern trend for ‘smarter’ homes. A trend that, with the right information to hand for householders, can result in lower bills.

He adds: “Controls are great for setting the mood, but also saving energy, as you’re not using loads of bright light when you don’t need it. If you’re doing something, you might need a bit more task lighting, but if you’re just sitting back on your sofa, just having a soft glow of light around you is probably adequate. The human brain adapts very quickly to changing light levels and after a few minutes a darker room will feel subjectively brighter.

“There are quite a few control systems around that can be retrofitted. While they’re not cheap, they’re much more affordable than they were ten years ago. We now have systems where you can control your lighting from your phone.”

The next blog in this series will look at lighting your kitchen and dining area. 

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.