Choosing lights for your home can be a very daunting task. You'll see terms like kelvin rating, lumens, warm, cool, LED, and incandescent. While at the same time you may ask questions like these. Can I hang this light with the box that is already in the ceiling? Does the "damp rating" mean it can go outside? Or maybe we ask, why do these light switches have the wattage capacity on them, do I have to calculate the wattage for my room too?
What do all of these lighting terms mean?!
When we shop for light fixtures, we come across a lot of different terms. So many terms that at times, it may seem like it's in another language. But I hope that by reading this blog we clear up those muddy waters!
Let's talk about lighting terms first. A "kelvin rating" is how the light coming out of light bulb is described. The numbers that you will most commonly see are 3000k, 3500k, 4000k, and 5000k. The 3000k light source will look like your typical incandescent bulb, which would be a warm yellow color. A 3500k will be a little more white but still inviting and is usually employed when you want to do something task oriented at home, like in a home office. The 4000k and 5000k light sources are crisp and vibrant light sources, these types of light sources are installed in areas that are specifically for work tasks and resemble the light color that you would see commercially, for instance, when you're at a hospital or a grocery store. These ratings are also directly associated with the terms "warm" and "cool" lighting. The lower the kelvin rating the warmer the light, and the higher the kelvin rating, the cooler the light.
How are we to understand lumens?
A lumen is a unit that is used to describe the amount of visible light in a room (and yes these is invisible light but that might be for another time). Simply put it is how we measure the brightness of a light source. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light. If you are like most people then you are probably used to thinking about light in terms of a wattage, and for those of us that are, here is a little perspective. Below we have provided a typical incandescent light source wattage and the lumen equivalent.
- 100w = 1600lm
- 75w = 1100lm
- 60w = 800lm
- 40w = 450lm
Why do some light switches have the wattage on the box?
Typically this style of light switch has a dimming capability. An improperly sized dimmer switch will cause excess heat, will be inefficient, and can be dangerous. Wattage is also especially important if you have any LED lighting that will be controlled by this type of switch. Installing a dimmer switch for an incandescent load of 600w will not necessarily mean that you can control 600w of LED fixtures as well, in fact for LED light sources it may be closer to only 150w.
Can I hang this light with the box that is already in the ceiling?
Some ceiling boxes have adequate support and some do not, so really to answer that question you would need to have a solid foundation in construction. But it would be safe to say that if you are replacing a light fixture with one of a similar weight then it should be fine. Any licensed electrician should be able to tell you if a light can be installed with or without additional support, so when in doubt call you local electrician.
What does damp location mean, and can I put a damp location fixture outside?
Damp locations are locations that are subject to moisture and high humidity, but do not get saturated with water. McNatt Electric recently had a general contractor call us to fix a few light fixtures on a commercial building's exterior. These fixtures were installed on a storefront wall, unfortunately they were not "wet location" rated sconce lights and water had begun to pool inside the lenses which caused a premature failure of the relatively new fixtures. While these lights were "outdoor fixtures" they were not rated for wet locations only damp ones, which means that they can only be installed in a location such as a covered patio which may have high humidity but it the fixtures would not be saturated with water. So be careful when choosing a light fixture that will be installed outdoors because not all outdoor fixtures are created equal!
When in doubt, call a licensed electrician for any electrical questions or installations. We are qualified to make decisions about life safety electrical issues, are insured and bonded, and we participate in continuing education and safety courses. All to ensure that you and your family are safe and comfortable.