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Lighting Glossary: Terms to aid your search for the perfect light

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Lighting Glossary: Terms to aid your search for the perfect light

Lighting Glossary: Terms to aid your search for the perfect light Shortly after venturing into the world of lighting, you'll probably realize that it's a bit more complex than you might have thought. Incandescent, fluorescent, downrods, baffle - it's easy to get lost out there. Our glossary of lighting-related terms will aid your search for the perfect light. If you can't find the answer here, call us with any questions you may have, (800) 457-2109. We have a trained staff of lighting experts who can help you.

Key Terms
  • Ambient: Ambient light, also known as "general light", is an overall level of lighting in your room. Ambient light should provide a comfortable amount of light to suit how the room is used.
  • Base: The decorative body of the lamp, a base can be constructed from an array of materials: metal, brass, porcelain, crystal, hydrocal, or wood to name a few. Bases should be solidly constructed to resist tipping during normal use.
  • Color Rendering Index: Light bulbs offer a varying range of attributes that can produce different light outputs and qualities. The color rendering index (CRI) provides a base of mesaurability to render color accurately and consistently.
  • Color Temperature: Color characteristics of light (temperatures) measure the appearance of the light from warm (yellows/red) to cool (white). Color temperature is rated in degrees of Kelvin and do not reflect the physical temperature (or heat) of a lamp. Light sources such as incandescent bulbs (2700 degrees Kelvin) and halogen lamps (3000 degrees Kelvin)are at each end of the color spectrum.
  • Dimmer Switch: Gradually increases/decreases light intensity. Most torchieres are equipped with dimmers or high/low switches.
  • Downlight: A light fixture that concentrates light in a downward direction. Most often this refers to recessed lighting, though many ceiling fixtures now have more concentrated beams of light.
  • Non-unifrom Downlighting: Non-uniform downlighting uses less light sources and delivers a more "individualized" beam spread of light. This lighting technique creates a more interesting visual effect in a space as the beams do not overlap as in general uniform downlighting. Unifrom Downlighting: Unifrom illumination bathes horizontal surfaces in light. Typically a general lighting technique, uniform illumination adds little dramatic impact to a space.
  • Downrods: An accessory for pendants and chandeliers to add length
  • General Lighting: General Lighting provides an area with overall illumination. General lighting is basically the lighting that replaces sunlight and is fundamental to a lighting plan.
  • Lumens: The amount of light a bulb produces.
  • Swag: Decorative motif, image of a garland of fruit and flowers or of a length of cloth, tied with ribbons and attached to a background. If tied at both ends and suspended from them in a loop, a swag is generally called a festoon.
  • Task Lighting: Task lighting is for those areas where tasks or activities such as reading, paying bills, etc. take place. Task lighting should work with a room's general lighting and enhances the use of a room. Task lighting can be provided by adding portable lamps, undercabinet lighting as well as the addition of recessed lights at specific areas.
  • UL and CUL: Underwriters Laboratory, Inc., like Electrical Testing Laboratory (ETL), is an independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization.
  • Uplighting: Uplighting visually expands a room by providing ambient light. Use them as a complement to recessed down lighting, and place them where they appear aesthetically balanced in the room.
  • Wattage: The amount of electricity consumed by a bulb.
  • Wall Lighting: The illumination of vertical surfaces can impact that perception of a space more than any other type of lighting. Light reflecting off walls creates a bright, spacious feel and adds visual interest. Dramatic effects can be achieved with light to illuminate vertical surfaces and highlight objects. Through proper lighting selection and placement a room can appear more spacious and interesting.
    - Grazing: For dramatic effect on textured surfaces such as stucco, stone or brick, place fixtures 6-12 inches away from the wall. Grazing is not recommended on smooth surfaces as surface imperfections will be exaggerated.
    - Light Scallops:Light scallop is an effect created when the fixture is placed closer to the wall resulting in a more concentrated and tighter scallop. Scallop light effects are often a part of the lighting plan for added drama, however they can be inadvertently created is fixture placement is not properly calculated.
    - Wall Washing: For a gentle and even illumination of a vertical space, place fixtures the same distance apart as they are from the wall. Wall washing is best suited for smooth surfaces.

  • Address Light: This light fixture is usually composed of a backlight that illuminates street numbers. Affixed to the front of a house, or at the end of the driveway, and Address Light lets visitors find a house even in the dark.
  • Bathroom Ceiling Fan: Bathroom ceiling fans are used to clear out the hot and humid air that occurs when the shower is running.
  • Bathroom Vanity Light: Bath or vanity lighting refers to fixtures used to light the mirror in a bathroom. A bath strip is a long fixture that mounts along the top or sides of the mirror.
  • Ceiling Cloud: Ceiling clouds are indiscrete overhead lights that blend into their surroundings. They get their name from their white color and conventionally curved shape.
  • Chandelier: A branched, decorative lighting fixture that holds a number of bulbs or candles and is suspended from a ceiling. These fixtures come in a variety of finishes and are most often traditional or contemporary styles. This fixture if often used to elevate the decor of a room. Some manufacturers are no carrying select styles of outdoor chandeliers to illuminate your covered patio or gazebo. Additionally, many manufacturers have now begun to carry mini-chandeliers. Mini-chandeliers are best for hallways and smaller rooms.
  • Convertible Pendant: A convertible pendant is a dual function light fixture. It can be used as a hanging pendant with a chain or rod, and can also be mounted as a semi flush mount to the ceiling surface.
  • Deck Light: These light fixtures are mounted on deck surfaces and are used to illuminate hand rails, steps, as well as to create an overall ambience in your exterior living space.
  • Desk Lamp: This fixture is used on desks for work or study. These can be very utilitarian styles or a more decorative style such as a banker or pharmacy lamp. The light source should be sit about 15" above work area.
  • Directional Light: A fixture commonly used for mood lighting. They can provide a decorative accent that draws attention to a particular area. Directional lights are also known as exhibit, display or spot lights.
  • Display Light: Display lights have a focused direction that is used to highlight or accent a specific element of the room. A wall mounted display light, for example, might be positioned over a painting to emphasize its impact in the d
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