Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Should Government BAN Incandescent Light Bulbs?

No questions lately so a semi-rant:

I have been recommending that my clients select 100% fluorescent lighting for their kitchens for the last twelve years or so. Ever since I attended a seminar by Randall Whitehead, a renowned San Francisco lighting designer, back in the 90's. Randall convinced me that fluorescent was the sensible choice for kitchen lighting back then, when we HAD a choice. Fluorescents consume far less energy, burn cooler and last way longer than their incandescent forbears. Compact fluorescent lights have even recently come down in price and become available in various shapes like spots and floods. Hooray!

Before the 90's I was already recommending fluorescent general lighting in kitchens in conformance with California's Title 24 Energy Code. I started small, with fluorescent general lighting (preferably indirect) and incandescent recessed cans for task lighting; mixing the few available colors of fluorescent with the warmer incandescent light to get a satisfactory overall result. Then, as compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) came into being and became available in better colors of light produced, I began to recommend using fluorescent recessed can lights as well. All this while my peers, and the general public, were avoiding fluorescent like the plague and dallying with super-hot halogens (You know, those lights in torchieres that set so many dorm rooms on fire before the colleges banned them).

In the intervening years fluorescents have been made available in a much wider range of colors that can be utilized with the full range of colors we find in today's kitchens. So, while incandescents are only available in a warm golden color of light that does horrible things to some colors, fluorescents are being continually improved.
Nowadays I am even more strident in my recommendations, with California's energy crisis behind us and global warming staring us in the face.

Recently I have noticed a number of nations (Australia, for example, with an outright ban) and States, including California, are discussing a total ban on incandescent bulbs, with some exceptions, such as appliance bulbs.
Is It Time to Ban the Bulb?

Radical that I am: I think it IS time to ban the energy hogging incandescent, until such time as technology has improved its performance to match that of fluorescent. Such a move would go a long way toward cutting our dependence on scarce resources and stretching the energy we produce farther. Fluorescent is the 21st Century way of lighting our environments; especially the kitchen.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Come join us at The Hammer Museum
Thursday, March 29, 8:00pm
An evening of radio, readings, special guests and some LA hidden kitchens cooking.
A free event.
For details visit our website at www.kitchensisters.org

We’re still collecting LA hidden kitchen stories. Got one? Who’s cooking on your street corner,in your family? Who glues your community together through food? What LA cooking traditions do we need to know about? The event is the 29th, so point us towards your unusual, little known and clandestine kitchens soon. E-mail us at kitchen@kitchensisters.org.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Fluorescent Recessed Lighting Spec Q&A

We were able to find someone who sells fluorescent lights w/ electronic ballasts, but they can accommodate only 18Watt.
Will that be enough for our kitchen?
What wattage do you normally recommend (13, 18, 26)?
Supposedly the store also sells cans that accommodate 13w lights.

I don't usually specify specific fixtures or wattage, leaving that up to the electrician, contractor and owner to decide.
The reason is that lighting is a very fast moving target these days, and most of my clients are not willing to pay me to research the issue.
It is MUCH more cost effective to hire a lighting designer than to pay me to learn enough to be able to advise you.
A lighting designer does this every day and, by definition, is an expert in the field and up to date.
I recommend Randall Whitehead, who inspired me to learn as much about lighting as I know.
He is in San Francisco and his web site is
Randall's philosophy on lighting mirrors mine:
He really believes in fluorescent lighting and knows how to make it beautiful.
He is expensive hourly, but very cost-effective when you already have a lighting plan and just need specifications...Far less than I would cost you to do it as well.
You can contact him and email your electrical/lighting plan and he can give you a price for doing the spec.

Now, to tell you what I do know (some of it based on a seminar a couple of weeks ago):
You should be able to find/order fluorescent recessed fixtures in 13, 18, and 26 watt bulb (lamp) sizes.
Electronic ballasts are not available in 13 watt (to my knowledge).
If you are going with electronic ballast (and you should because the older magnetic ballasts will soon be phased out), the 26 watt lamps and fixtures will give you a wider variability than lamps which are not as bright.

You should be able to install fewer fixtures if they are brighter AND have an appropriately wider beam spread to spread the light beam widest at 36" from the floor.
This is a function of the fixture, reflector and lamp all working together to achieve the desired objective.

If the 26 watt fixtures and reflectors are really designed for higher commercial ceilings, they won't do you any good because your ceilings are 8'.
This MAY be why you are having trouble finding them.
I do not know the answer to that question.
You need to ask it of a fixture manufacturer or lighting designer.

Imagine hanging a bunch of flashlights from the ceiling.
Each one projects a cone of light.
You want the widest part of the cone to fall at 36" from the floor (counter height).
You also want the light cones to intersect so that there are no dark spots in the kitchen.
Doing this effectively with an 8' ceiling is the most difficult way to light a kitchen.
The problem's answer will give you general illumination PLUS task lighting in a kitchen in all the areas exposed to such a lighting scheme.
It will also give you how much space between the fixtures, and thus how many fixtures you need.

Hope this helps a little.
Unfortunately I can not give you an easy answer to your problem.
So much depends on variables: fixture, lamp, wattage, reflector, beam spread, ceiling height, etc., etc., etc.
Remember, this is all supposed to be fun!