Important aspect of having a good bathroom is lighting. Many kinds of lights for bathrooms are available, and all for different purposes. Lighting can achieve aesthetic or practical effect.
Oddly enough, bathrooms are generally given the least consideration of all the rooms in the home when lighting decisions are made. The reason for this is that the focus is typically on the living room or kitchen. Since the bathroom is the place where one gets ready and unwinds after a long day at work (not to mention getting ready for work), it’s important to consider various types of lighting options.
Bathroom Lighting Options
The bathroom requires two types of lighting, which is task lighting and ambient lighting.
Task lighting is necessary in the bathroom because it is lighting that is focused on a specific area making the completion of visual tasks easier.
This type of lighting enables us to perform tasks that require attention to detail, such as, applying makeup, styling our hair, doing our nails, tweezing, and shaving.
Ambient lighting refers to light that comes from all directions. This lighting is important since it provides lighting throughout the whole bathroom.
Aside from the lighting aspect, the fixtures provide that extra decorative touch because of the ornate and stylish details. It is the combination of the two that creates a spectacular and alluring ambience in the bathroom.
A fantastic way to create another layer of light in bathroom lighting is by installing a small recessed light directed at a specific piece of decorative art or a powder room basin. You may also wish to include a recessed fixture in an angled position to highlight elegant tile work, bathware, or special features in the bathroom.
Types of Bathroom Lighting
Bathroom lighting fixtures are available in the following:
Ceiling Mount – These are fixtures that are flush with the ceiling.
Chandeliers – This is a bathroom lighting fixture that is suspended from the ceiling, with two or more arms bearing lights.
Mirror Lighting – This is an accent light that is typically made up of a single strip with multiple lamps.
Pendants – Lighting that resembles a hanging lamp.
Sconces – A light fixture that is affixed to the wall in a manner that it uses only the wall for support and the light is usually directed upwards.
Shower Lights – This lighting is specific for the shower and rated for withstanding humid conditions.
Bathroom Lighting Styles
Bathroom lighting is available in the following styles:
Arts and Crafts/Mission
The vanity requires the right amount of illumination. Since many individuals are highly critical of their appearance, it is important that mirror lighting be bright and flattering, but not glaring.
A common mistake some folks make is putting recessed ceiling fixtures directly over the mirror, which casts shadows on the face.
For even lighting, consider mirror lighting, pendant lighting, or sconces mounted on either side of the mirror.
A functional and decorative choice for vanity lighting is topping your mirror with mirror lighting. Try to remember to purchase vanity light bulbs that have a lower wattage or frosted glass to minimize overbearing light. In doing so, you will have an even distribution of light.
Sconce height should be eye level. When standing and looking at the sconce, you don’t want to be able to the see the light bulb itself. Yet, in some cases, the size and positioning of various vanity mirrors make sconces impractical.
In this situation, you may want to consider mirror lighting over the mirror with it being approximately 75 to 80 inches above the floor and at least 150 watts that is distributed over a fixture that is a minimum of 24 inches long.
Shower/Bathtub/Toilet Closet Lighting
A secondary area for task bathroom lighting is the shower. In bathrooms that are smaller in size, if the shower has a glass door, then an additional fixture may not be necessary.
If that is not the case, then a recessed light that has a plastic lens will provide that needed illumination.
Recessed fixtures work well over a shower, bathtub, or in the toilet closet.
For the shower, it is very important to use a recessed fixture that is intended for the shower and rated to work under conditions of humidity and possible contact with water.
You may also want to use a light bulb that is rated for use in the shower.
If your bathtub is independent of your shower, you will typically be using recessed lighting. It is not necessary to have water rated fixtures and light bulbs in this area. Consider positioning one or two recessed fixtures aimed at the outside of the tub in order to cut down on any potential glare.
If you are fortunate enough to have high ceilings in your bathroom, then consider a decorative fixture, such as a small chandelier or a ceiling mount.
Generally, the size of the chandelier is calculated by taking the width of the room added to the length of the room. If you are installing multiple bathroom lighting fixtures, use the dimensions of the area that this fixture is intended to illuminate (that number should be equal to the diameter of the fixture).
For instance, if a master bathroom is 15′ X 13′, then you would need a chandelier or decorative fixture that is approximately 28″ in diameter.
Other Lighting Considerations
Color Rendering Index
Color Rendering Index (expressed as CRI) is a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reproduce the colors of objects accurately in comparison with an ideal or natural light source.
The CRI is a scale from 0 to 100. Light sources with a high CRI are desirable in color-critical applications.
Natural daylight is assigned a CRI of 100. When choosing lamps for a bathroom lighting installation, those with a CRI of 70 or higher should be used. This will ensure that colors and skin tones appear natural to the people in the space.
When choosing a fixture style, opt for one that has a translucent lens. If the lens is clear then the fixture may be glaring. Also, if the lens is opaque (metal or ceramic), it will not allow enough light to pass directly onto your face.
Types of Light Bulbs
Incandescent bulbs produce a steady warm, light, and are commonly used in bathrooms.
The bulbs function by using electricity to heat a tungsten filament in the bulb until it glows. The filament is either in a vacuum or in a mixture of argon/nitrogen gas.
Since most of the energy consumed by the bulb is given off as heat, it causes its lumens per watt performance to be low.
Due to the filament’s high temperature, the tungsten tends to evaporate and collect on the sides of the bulb. The imperfections in the filament causes it to thin unevenly and when a bulb is turned on, the sudden surge of energy can cause the thin areas to heat up much faster than the rest of the filament.
This in turn causes the filament to break and the bulb to burn out.
A standard incandescent bulb can last anywhere from 700-1000 hours, and it can be used with a dimmer. Soft white bulbs have a special coating inside the glass bulb, which helps diffuse the light while keeping the color of the light unchanged.
Halogen bulbs are also known as “white light” since it provides the closest approximation to natural daylight. These bulbs are available in various shapes, sizes, and are energy efficient.
A variation of the incandescent bulb technology, halogen bulbs work by passing electricity through a tungsten filament, which is encased in a tube containing halogen gas.
The halogen gas causes a chemical reaction to occur which removes the tungsten from the wall of the glass and deposits it back onto the filament, thus extending the life of the bulb. In order for this chemical reaction to take place, the filament has to achieve a higher temperature than what is needed for incandescent bulbs. A hotter filament produces a brilliant white light.
Although halogen bulbs have a longer life span than the incandescent bulb and are compatible with a dimmer switch, it is more expensive and burns at a much higher temperature.
Fluorescent bulbs are considered the most energy efficient since it produces very little heat. These bulbs pass a current through a tube filled with argon gas and mercury, which produces ultraviolet radiation that floods the phosphorous coating causing it to emit light. It lasts about ten times longer than incandescent bulbs with a bulb life anywhere between 10,000 to 20,000 hours.
These bulbs offer a good color rendering ability of as high as 95 and are excellent for lighting large areas where minor detailed tasks will be undertaken. Unfortunately, most fluorescent bulbs cannot be used with dimmers.
Lighting dimmers enable absolute control over lighting and in creating the mood of the room.
In a small space, such as the powder room, dimming the light provides enchanting accent lighting.
In addition, dimmers help conserve energy since one light bulb that is dimmed 10 percent will last twice as long as a bulb at full brightness.
If you are not sure what dimmer will work with your light source, don’t hesitate to consult a lighting specialist.
A 120-volt incandescent or halogen light source will require an incandescent dimmer, while low-voltage and fluorescent fixtures require their own compatible dimmers.
Sometimes, dimmed bulbs will make a slight buzzing sound as the filament vibrates. To reduce or eliminate the noise, consider switching to a lower-watt bulb (which has a smaller filament).