Lighting is something we often neglect when we renovate our homes. Yet, done well, it can make a world of difference to the decor. It’s not only functional, it can create ambience, add colour and accentuate different aspects of a room. It’s the interior designer’s secret weapon.
To help you wield it well, here’s a guide to understanding how lighting works in your home, the types you can use and where to buy them in Singapore.
- Lighting 101 – ambient, accent, task or decorative light?
- Common types of lighting in Singapore
- How do you choose cost-effective lighting?
- How else can you save on your electricity bill?
- Top 10 lighting shops in Singapore to get you started
Lighting 101 – ambient, accent, task or decorative light?
Before you even start thinking about fluorescent vs LED, cool vs warm, or pendant vs chandelier, you should be thinking about what type of light you want to have in your home.
There are 4 basic ways that lighting can be used in the home. You need to know what they are before you can know what types of lighting fixtures are best for that purpose.
Ambient light: Usually the first lighting you consider, this is the general lighting that illuminates the room. Think of it as the “night shift” worker that comes in when natural light (daylight) calls it a day. So, opt for warm tones that soften the room, mimicking natural light as much as possible.
Types of ambient lights include pendant lamps, wall lights, downlights (recessed lights), uplighters (usually a wall lamp or standing lamp that directs the light up), cove lights and lamps.
Accent lighting: These provide concentrated light that highlight certain details or features such as wall decorations, artwork, photos, bookcase displays, pieces of furniture or certain architectural features. Added to ambient lighting, accent lighting contributes depth and shade to a room.
These include halogen spotlights, downlights, uplighters, tracking lights and table lamps.
Task lighting: These are lights we need to carry out certain activities such as reading in bed, working on the computer, cooking or putting on make-up. This type of light needs to be focused on a certain place. The most common types are table or desk lamps, as well as under-cabinet lighting and vanity mirrors.
Decorative lighting: These are mostly ornamental lights that add flair to the room. Chandeliers are the obvious example, but there are also items like wall sconces, fairy lights, even neon lights. They shouldn’t be too bright.
Common types of lighting in Singapore
Now we move on to the types of light fixtures to demystify what exactly your interior designer is talking about.
Ceiling/fluorescent lights: These are lights attached to the ceiling. They are usually for ambient lighting because they flood a room with light, making it a canvas for other forms of lighting to create points of interest.
Pendant lights/chandeliers: These are lights that are also attached to the ceiling but they dangle from a cord, chair or metal rod. They’re ideal for places with tall ceilings or as decorative lighting that set the mood in the dining room, foyer, walk-in closet, over a tub or kitchen island. Use them in places where you don’t need too bright a light.
Recessed/down lights: These are lights that are fitted into false ceilings. They can be used as ambient lighting and are perfect for the minimalist look or in places where the ceilings aren’t that high. They can be fitted over the kitchen sink and reading areas, or into display cabinets and shelves to illuminate the items within.
Cove lighting: Similar to recessed lighting, except that instead of being fitted into a false ceiling, it’s fitted into a ledge along the ceiling. (In some cases it’s fitted into a decorative board used to conceal curtain fixtures – this is called valence lighting.) These allow for ambient lighting that’s more diffused because the light is cast indirectly, bouncing off the adjacent walls bef0re reaching the eye.
Under cabinet light: Used in the kitchen as a task light, these are lights fitted beneath the cabinet to give you extra light while you work on the counter top. Sometimes, they’re fitted beneath bathroom cabinets or cabinets in walk-in closets where space is limited.
Surface-mounted lights: These are lights fitted into wall brackets. They are usually found in bathrooms or by dressing room mirrors and work well as task lightings.
Tracking lighting: If you like the industrial look for your home, you’d be familiar with tracking lights. The light fixtures are attached to a continuous track along the ceiling (that’s where the wiring sits). They can be used for ambient or accent lighting and are ideal over kitchen islands, rows of study tables or a play area because they can cover a wide space.
Halogen spotlight: These are spotlights – individuals or clusters – that are used for ambient or accent lighting. Spotlights can also be used for wall washing (when you want to light up an entire wall).
Wall sconces: These are lights mounted on the wall and are great for hallways, balconies, porches and as bedside lights. They can also light up wall decorations or art. Consider them accent or decorative lights.
Lamps (table, floor, swing-arm): These standalone lights can be placed on tables or the floor and make wonderful decorative or task lighting.
How do you choose cost-effective lighting?
What makes one light fixture more cost-effective than another has to do with 2 things: the number of lamps/bulbs used, and the type of lamps/bulbs.
For example, no matter what kind of energy-saving bulb you use for a chandelier, it’s always going to cost more than a lamp, because of the number of bulbs needed in a chandelier. So if you’re looking to save costs, skip the multi-bulb lights.
Then, there is the type of bulb to consider. Some types use up more electricity and, therefore, cost more than others in electricity bills. Here’s a crash course on the types of lighting, in roughly ascending order of cost-effectiveness.
Incandescent lighting: This is the light bulb that we’re most familiar with. Electricity heats up the metal filament in the bulb till it glows, giving off light. Unfortunately, only 10% to 25% of the electricity is actually converted to light, the rest simply produces heat. So, it’s not energy efficient and it makes the room warm, not something you want in tropical Singapore.
Halogen incandescent lights: The improved version of incandescent lights, these are more efficient than the predecessors. But, they still need 3 times more energy than LEDs and CFLs.
CFL (compact fluorescent lamp): An energy-saving replacement for incandescent bulbs, so you needn’t throw out the entire light fixture. CFLs are miniature fluorescent lamps (usually spiral shaped) that can be screwed into the same socket. They use just ¼ to ⅓ the electricity of an incandescent bulb, while giving off the same amount of light. They also last up to 10 times longer.
Linear fluorescent lamp: These energy-savers are an improvement on the old-style fluorescent lights that buzz and give off a cold bluish-white light. They’re sold with electronic ballasts that regulates the current to the lamp, making them energy-efficient and getting rid of that annoying hum.
When you buy linear fluorescent lamps, look for those with high colour rendering index (75 – 90 CRI). The CRI measures the light’s ability to illuminate colour accurately. Also, get those with high efficiency or efficacy (the thinner the diameter the better – T8 and T5).
LED (light-emitting diodes): Also known as solid state lighting, LED is the newest and most energy-efficient type of light. LED bulbs can be grouped into clusters or used as a single bulb. They are 30% more efficient than CFLs and 75% more efficient than halogen incandescent lamps.
HID (high-intensity discharge): HID lighting is an energy-efficient option for outdoor use. They’re brighter than LED lights.
How else can you save on electricity bills in Singapore?
You know the usual drill – switch off what you don’t use, unplug those electricity-slurping devices, use LED bulbs. But, Singapore has another way to help you save on electricity bills and it’s called U-Save.
U-Save is part of the permanent GST Voucher scheme introduced in 2012. It helps lower- and middle-income Singapore HDB households by giving them quarterly rebates to offset their utilities bills.
From 2019 to 2021, eligible households will also get $20 more per year to help offset the impact of the carbon tax which the government will levy on facilities producing 25,000 tonnes or more of greenhouse gas emissions in a year from 2020.
For more about GST Voucher and U-Save and to find out how much subsidy you’ll get, read our comprehensive article.
Top 10 lighting shops in Singapore to get you started
Singapore has no lack of lighting shops, both online and offline. Here’s a selection of the 10 best places to get started, depending on what sort of style you’re after.
|Lighting shop||Location||Best for|
|Sembawang Lighting House||602 Sembawang Rd||Affordable lighting, mostly ceiling lights|
|Lightcraft||131 Jalan Sultan||Wide variety, customisation|
|L&H Lighting & Electrical||452 MacPherson Road||Wide variety (many different styles)|
|Danish Design Co||100e Pasir Panjang Road, Century Warehouse #06-03||Scandinavian-style lighting|
|Three Cubes||55 Siglap Road, #01-06 Siglap Centre||Eco-friendly lighting|
|Lightingshopsg||10 Winstedt Rd||Customised lighting|
|Taylor B||43 Keppel Road, L3 & 4||Chandeliers, pendant lamps, decorative lighting|
|Bungalow 55||501 Bukit Timah Road, #01-05A, Cluny Court||Luxury chandeliers & lamps|
|Screed||www.screed.com.sg||Wide variety, modern pendant lamps|
|Lights & Co||www.lightsandco.com||Modern, industrial, Scandinavian lights|
Got a favourite lighting shop you want to share? Tell us about it in the comments!