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Lightings: Lighting Glossary

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Lightings: Lighting Glossary

Terms to aid your search for the perfect light
Shortly after venturing into the world of lighting, you'll probably realize that it's a bit more complex than you might have thought. Incandescent, fluorescent, downrods, baffle - it's easy to get lost out there. Our glossary of lighting-related terms will aid your search for the perfect light.

Key Terms

Ambient: Ambient light, also known as "general light", is an overall level of lighting in your room. Ambient light should provide a comfortable amount of light to suit how the room is used.
Base: The decorative body of the lamp, a base can be constructed from an array of materials: metal, brass, porcelain, crystal, hydrocal, or wood to name a few. Bases should be solidly constructed to resist tipping during normal use.
Color Rendering Index: Light bulbs offer a varying range of attributes that can produce different light outputs and qualities. The color rendering index (CRI) provides a base of mesaurability to render color accurately and consistently.
Color Temperature: Color characteristics of light (temperatures) measure the appearance of the light from warm (yellows/red) to cool (white). Color temperature is rated in degrees of Kelvin and do not reflect the physical temperature (or heat) of a lamp. Light sources such as incandescent bulbs (2700 degrees Kelvin) and halogen lamps (3000 degrees Kelvin)are at each end of the color spectrum.
Dimmer Switch: Gradually increases/decreases light intensity. Most torchieres are equipped with dimmers or high/low switches.
Downlight: A light fixture that concentrates light in a downward direction. Most often this refers to recessed lighting, though many ceiling fixtures now have more concentrated beams of light.
Non-unifrom Downlighting: Non-uniform downlighting uses less light sources and delivers a more "individualized" beam spread of light. This lighting technique creates a more interesting visual effect in a space as the beams do not overlap as in general uniform downlighting. Unifrom Downlighting: Unifrom illumination bathes horizontal surfaces in light. Typically a general lighting technique, uniform illumination adds little dramatic impact to a space.
Downrods: An accessory for pendants and chandeliers to add length
General Lighting: General Lighting provides an area with overall illumination. General lighting is basically the lighting that replaces sunlight and is fundamental to a lighting plan.
Lumens: The amount of light a bulb produces.
Swag: Decorative motif, image of a garland of fruit and flowers or of a length of cloth, tied with ribbons and attached to a background. If tied at both ends and suspended from them in a loop, a swag is generally called a festoon.
Task Lighting: Task lighting is for those areas where tasks or activities such as reading, paying bills, etc. take place. Task lighting should work with a room's general lighting and enhances the use of a room. Task lighting can be provided by adding portable lamps, undercabinet lighting as well as the addition of recessed lights at specific areas.
UL and CUL: Underwriters Laboratory, Inc., like Electrical Testing Laboratory (ETL), is an independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization.
Uplighting: Uplighting visually expands a room by providing ambient light. Use them as a complement to recessed down lighting, and place them where they appear aesthetically balanced in the room.
Wattage: The amount of electricity consumed by a bulb.
Wall Lighting: The illumination of vertical surfaces can impact that perception of a space more than any other type of lighting. Light reflecting off walls creates a bright, spacious feel and adds visual interest. Dramatic effects can be achieved with light to illuminate vertical surfaces and highlight objects. Through proper lighting selection and placement a room can appear more spacious and interesting.
Grazing: For dramatic effect on textured surfaces such as stucco, stone or brick, place fixtures 6-12 inches away from the wall. Grazing is not recommended on smooth surfaces as surface imperfections will be exaggerated.
Light Scallops: Light scallop is an effect created when the fixture is placed closer to the wall resulting in a more concentrated and tighter scallop. Scallop light effects are often a part of the lighting plan for added drama, however they can be inadvertently created is fixture placement is not properly calculated.
Wall Washing: For a gentle and even illumination of a vertical space, place fixtures the same distance apart as they are from the wall. Wall washing is best suited for smooth surfaces.


Address Light: This light fixture is usually composed of a backlight that illuminates street numbers. Affixed to the front of a house, or at the end of the driveway, and Address Light lets visitors find a house even in the dark.
Bathroom Ceiling Fan: Bathroom ceiling fans are used to clear out the hot and humid air that occurs when the shower is running.
Bathroom Vanity Light: 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.
Ceiling Cloud: Ceiling clouds are indiscrete overhead lights that blend into their surroundings. They get their name from their white color and conventionally curved shape.
Chandelier: A branched, decorative lighting fixture that holds a number of bulbs or candles and is suspended from a ceiling. These fixtures come in a variety of finishes and are most often traditional or contemporary styles. This fixture if often used to elevate the decor of a room. Some manufacturers are no carrying select styles of outdoor chandeliers to illuminate your covered patio or gazebo. Additionally, many manufacturers have now begun to carry mini-chandeliers. Mini-chandeliers are best for hallways and smaller rooms.
Convertible Pendant: A convertible pendant is a dual function light fixture. It can be used as a hanging pendant with a chain or rod, and can also be mounted as a semi flush mount to the ceiling surface.
Deck Light: These light fixtures are mounted on deck surfaces and are used to illuminate hand rails, steps, as well as to create an overall ambience in your exterior living space.
Desk Lamp: This fixture is used on desks for work or study. These can be very utilitarian styles or a more decorative style such as a banker or pharmacy lamp. The light source should be sit about 15" above work area.
Directional Light: A fixture commonly used for mood lighting. They can provide a decorative accent that draws attention to a particular area. Directional lights are also known as exhibit, display or spot lights.
Display Light: Display lights have a focused direction that is used to highlight or accent a specific element of the room. A wall mounted display light, for example, might be positioned over a painting to emphasize its impact in the d
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