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Lighting 101: Basic Techniques

When selecting light fixtures for a particular use, a homeowner should be aware of the differing lighting techniques. To boil things down, there are three basic lighting techniques; downlighting, uplighting and front lighting. These techniques form the basis by which lighting in a household should be arrange, as each is best suited to different tasks. Of the three, downlighting is the most widely used. As its name implies, downlighting is created by placing fixtures on the ceiling and focusing their light downward. Most people are used to this configuration either consciously or otherwise, as most of their life in offices and homes are illuminated by overhead light. Although common, this method of lighting tends to consume more energy than is actually necessary. Downlighting schemes tend to make use of an excessive number of fixtures lighting a wide area. Public areas, offices and kitchens are examples of spaces that tend to be over illuminated by overhead lighting. Because fixtures used for downlighting are usually recessed into the ceiling or enclosed in some sort of enclosure, the potential area for illumination is limited. Use of downlighting on high or vaulted ceilings is more efficient as the light has more room to spread out. On lower ceilings alternatives should be given some consideration. Another drawback from downlighting is its tendency to produce glare. This is something of a big issue in the modern world. Due to the direct lighting approach downlighting fixtures tend to be visible and distracting on televisions and computer screens. These of these fixtures is not advisable in areas of the home where these necessities of modern life are to be used. Compared to downlighting, uplighting is much less common. Uplighting is basically the inverse of downlighting. An uplighting fixture directs light toward the ceiling, the light then uses the reflective surface of the ceiling to illuminate the area below. Although seemingly inefficient, uplighting schemes well suited to illuminating a large area. Generally speaking, uplighting is rarely used in homes. However, in recent decades lamps which direct light upward have become more common. This may be attributed to changing sensibilities in interior design schemes, but its more likely these lights may be more substance than style. Uplighting is useful for illuminating dark corners, where conventional lamps would be otherwise distracting. Unlike downlighting, glare is practically a non issue with uplighting. The light from uplighting fixtures is reflected over a wide swath of area which reduces the glow on television and computer screens. In fact, one should take note, uplighting fixtures are used almost exclusively in movie theaters to ensure the visibility of advertisements before the film starts. Front lighting, or projecting light at an object, and its inverse backlighting, are also very common. In modern homes, front lighting is most commonly used in outdoor lighting schemes to project light in a way that accents features of the home or landscaping. However, because front lighting and backlighting projects light toward an onlooker it may be distracting indoors. In most situations such lighting schemes will undoubtably produce glare on reflective surfaces. Use of this scheme in rooms with TVs or computers is probably not a good idea.