Know Your Lighting ABC’s?
From Accent to Zone lighting, we’d like to clarify some common ~ and not so common ~ lighting terms you may hear as you build or renovate your home!
A Lamps: The most common incandescent household lamp; a standard general service lamp.
Accent Lighting: Localized and directional lighting used to highlight, focus attention or dramatize a room or outdoor space. As part of a decorating scheme, it is used to spotlight paintings, houseplants and other possessions, or to highlight the texture of a wall, drapery or outside landscaping. Accent lighting requires at least three times as much light on the focal point as the general lighting around it.
ADA Wall Brackets: Wall-mounted fixtures that extend less than 4” from the wall comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and are usually called ADA brackets.
Adjustables: Adjustables are accent lights that can be aimed. The professional term is “adjustable accent light.” In practice, most of the fixtures used for accent lighting are adjustable in some fashion.
Alabaster: Shades can be made of either alabaster stone or alabaster glass. Alabaster stone is much like marble in that it is quarried, cut and made into shades and bowls. It creates a warm, rich look, with each piece being completely unique. Stone is very expensive, however, so many lighting pieces recreate the look with more affordable alabaster glass.
Alzak: The trade name used for a method of anodizing. Now a generic term for brightened, anodized aluminum.
Aluminum: A pure metal, aluminum can be shaped and finished easily. It can be dyed to a brass-like finish, but without the depth and luster of real brass. Aluminum is usually sealed through painting or anodizing to avoid oxidation.
Ambient Lighting: Also known as general lighting, ambient lighting provides an area with overall, non-specific illumination. Ambient lighting radiates a comfortable level of brightness, enabling one to see and walk about safely. It can be accomplished with chandeliers, ceiling or wall-mounted fixtures, recessed or track lighting or with outdoor fixtures. A basic form of lighting that replaces sunlight, ambient lighting is fundamental to lighting a home.
Amperes / amps: The standard unit of measurement for electric current that is equal to one coulomb per second. It defines the quantity of electrons moving past a given point in a circuit during a specific period. Amp is an abbreviation.
Antique Finish: A finish that simulates aging, often accomplished by wiping dark pigment across a metal or wooden part.
Aperture: Opening of a fixture through which light exists.
Architectural Lighting: This broad term generally refers to built-in fixtures, such as downlighting, valance lighting or a luminous ceiling. Some people also include functional lighting, such as track or simple fluorescent, which has an architectural appearance.
Art Deco: A mainstream design style that reached its heyday in the 1920s. Typified by streamlined design shapes, geometric patterns, bold outlines and the artistic use of industrial materials, such as stainless steel, plastic and pressed glass.
Art Nouveau: A decorative art movement that emerged in the late nineteenth century. Characterized by dense asymmetrical ornamentation in sinuous forms.
Average Rated Life: The number of hours required for half of a large group of lamps to fail or burn out. The actual life of any lamp or small group of lamps will typically be different from the average rated life.
Baffle: Part of the fixture that blocks light to prevent glare and control brightness. Baffles may be integral blades, plates or grooves or an accessory. Baffles are often painted black to absorb light.
Ballast: Electrical or electronic component required for fluorescent (and HID) lamps. Ballasts provide enough voltage to start the lamp and then limit the current for continuing operation.
Banker Lamp: A desk or table lamp, usually in a traditional style, that has a rectangular cased glass or metal shade. So-called because they were common fixtures in banks in the first half of the 20th century.
Base: The end of the lamp that inserts into a lamp socket. The end or ends of a lamp that makes electrical and mounting connections.
Bath: 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. Also see “bathbar lighting.”
Bathbar Lighting: These fixtures supply task lighting, while supplementing the general lighting provided by ceiling fixtures. Similar to lighting in theater dressing rooms, these softly glowing lights are most often arranged in a row / bar fashion to provide excellent lighting for shaving and grooming.
Beveled Glass: Clear glass, often with a high lead content, with edges that are cut on an angle to add depth and glitter.
Blades: Move the airflow in a ceiling or desktop fan. Blades are made of plywood, laminated woods or plastic.
Blade Holders: Irons that hold a ceiling fan’s blades.
Blade Pitch: Angle of the blade iron or blade holder on a ceiling fan. Fans with a higher degree of blade pitch will move more air.
Blown Glass: Hand blown glass is created by artisans who blow air into a molten balloon of glass. The artisan’s skill determines the shape and texture of the finished piece.
Bobesche: The saucer at the base of a candle originally designed to catch the molten wax drippings of the candle. Used on chandeliers, sconces, etc.
Bollards: Lights mounted on short, heavy piers or posts. They are used mostly for larger residences and campus settings.
Bound Glass: Glass elements held together by metal strips, typically brass or copper; includes Leaded Glass, which has a heavier look.
Brass: An alloy of zinc and copper, brass forms and polishes easily. Solid brass means the fixture is made entirely of brass, rather than a brass-plated material.
Bronze: Harder than brass, bronze is used for its durability, especially in high-grade outdoor lighting.
Brushed Finish: Satin or lightly textured finish, usually on metal, produced by brushing with a wire wheel or buffing with a fine abrasive.
Built-In Lighting: Built-in lighting generally refers to lighting equipment mounted into coves and cornices, behind valences, or integrated into furnituire and bookcases.
Bulb: The everyday term for an incandescent lamp. Also refers to the outer glass envelope of the lamp.
Cable: Multiple wires arranged in a common covering of insulating plastic or other materials, used as an electrical conductor.
Cased Glass: Glass consisting of a layer of clear glass fused to a layer of opal or other tinted glass. Cased glass transmits light more efficiently than opal, with more luster and better diffusion. Cased glass can be blown or molded.
Candlea (cd): The unit of measurement of luminous intensity of a light source in a given direction.
Candlepower: Luminous intensity of a particular light source expressed in candlea.
Candlestick Lamp: A fixture that has a tall, slim column, taken after traditional candlestick lighting. Also known as a console lamp.
Canopy: Fixture part that covers an outlet box.
Cans: Another term for recessed downlights.
Casting: Pouring or forcing metal or glass into a prepared mold or any part manufactured in this manner.
Ceiling Fixtures: Provide general lighting. They are practical in busy areas such as foyers, hallways, bedrooms, kitchens, baths, laundry rooms and dens. They are available with incandescent, fluorescent and energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.
Ceiling Fans: Ceiling fans consist of (from top to bottom) a canopy with hanger ball, a down rod, the motor, blades, and light kit.
Chain Pliers: Tool with jaws that open as you squeeze the handles together. Used to pry open links of chain to change the suspension height of a chandelier or other fixture.
Chandeliers: General lighting fixtures that can provide sparkle and style to rooms and entryways. They are also used in bedrooms, foyers, over a living room furniture grouping, or over a piano. Some are designed with downlights or use shades to provide task lighting for homework, reading or cooking. Chandeliers are available in both incandescent and tungsten-halogen models. The addition of a dimmer control allows you to alter the intensity of the light to suit your mood or time of day.
Channel: In dimming controls, a group of fixtures that are operated together, generally of the same type or for the same function.
Chimney: A blown glass tube of various shapes placed around flame to protect it against wind. In today’s usage, it is for ornamentation and light diffusion.
Chrome: Chrome takes a high, lustrous finish. A softly brushed chrome finish simulates stainless steel, but without the durability and depth.
Circuit: Wiring path for electricity, including conductors, load and circuit protection.
Circuit Breaker: Re-settable safety device to prevent current flow or prevent excess current flow.
Clip: Piece that is used to clip a shade onto a light bulb.
Color Rendering Index (CRI): A scale of the effect of a light source on the color appearance of an object compared to its color appearance under a reference light source. Expressed on a scale of 1 to 100, where 100 indicates no color shift. A low CRI rating suggests that the colors of objects will appear unnatural under that particular light source.
Color Temperature: The color temperature is a specification of the color appearance of a light source, relating the color to a reference source heated to a particular temperature, measured by the thermal unit Kelvin. The measurement can also be described as the “warmth” or “coolness” of a light source. Generally, sources below 3200K are considered “warm,” while those above 4000K are considered “cool” sources.
Colonial Style: Reminiscent of pre-revolutionary America, this style emphasizes clean, simple lines, though it may also refer to a more ornate style which relies on curving lines and scroll work.
Compact Downlight: Small recessed incandescent fixtures generally five inches deep.
Compact Fluorescent: A small fluorescent lamp that is often used as an alternative to incandescent lighting. The lamp life is about 10 times longer than incandescent lamps and is 3-4 times more efficacious. Also called PL, Twin-Tube, CFL, or BIAX lamps.
Contemporary Style: Lighting derived from the industrial styling of Modernism, blending function and form. Brushed metal surfaces, the use of plastic materials, sleek, streamlined forms, and geometrically shaped glass shades and bowls predominate.
Copper: A soft, pure metal, usually used for accent detailing. It oxidizes to a distinctive green color when exposed to the air.
Cove Lighting: Light built into a cove, a shelf or ledge at the upper part of a wall, to illuminate the ceiling. Typically fluorescent, cold cathode or low voltage strip.
Crystal Glass: Fine quality transparent glass. May be used in table lamps, chandeliers and floor lamps in a variety of styles and cuts. See also Lead Crystal.
Cylinder Downlights: Outdoor fixture, which can be mounted to a wall or an overhang to aim light directly on paths and porches.
Stay tuned for the next installment as we work our way through the alphabet of lighting!
Posted in Boston Magazine, Go Green, Lighting News, Lucia Press