Residential Lighting: What are the main trends in kitchens and baths?
Clayton Nelson: With open plans and multiple uses, kitchens are the social hub. As for baths, people spend more time at home, and they want a retreat.
In our current economy, though, people are cautious. There isn’t a push for “bigger is better” anymore. So, the industry has to incorporate nurturing on a budget—not just a money budget, but space, too.
RL: What’s lighting’s role?
CN: Lighting represents 33 percent of the household energy budget. Clients want their energy bills down. So, I have to incorporate energy-efficient lighting.
RL: What does this mean in practice?
CN: Title 24 in California has constrained designers’ choices; half of all watts have to be high-efficacy. Until this year, the only lights available have been fluorescent. Yes, bulb companies are putting out dimmable bulbs with good color temperature. But they tend to be screw-based CFLs. And lights in kitchens have to be dedicated two-pin or four-pin connectors, so Mary Homeowner can’t unscrew them and put in incandescent bulbs.
So, I’m thrilled about LEDs. Some have come on the market with a color temperature, efficiency and dimmability perfect for kitchens and baths. In a few years, there will be a cascade of new LEDs.
RL: At what price?
CN: A 13W recessed fluorescent can costs $60 to $70 installed. For LED downlighting, you buy a standard incandescent can, and the electrician can field-change the socket to accommodate the newer bulbs. The LED bulb costs $90 wholesale, about $130 installed. You get more lumens out of the LED, it’s dimmable and the color is 3,000K. While the expected life of the fluorescent is five to six years, the LED is projected to last 20 years with standard use.
RL: How about aesthetics?
CN: The vast majority of Americans favor traditional styles. CFLs and LEDs are much more geometric in their design capabilities. But that is changing as LED engines evolve with optics to make them more versatile.
RL: Describe a project.
CN: I just completed a 350-square-foot kitchen dining room. We used 14 recessed LED downlights—each 650 lumens and dimmable. We used three under-counter LED lights, again dimmable. The total wattage was 170W; none of it was fluorescent.
The master bath is 100 square feet, and we brought in a solar tube to cascade daylight into the shower. The recessed lights were all LEDs, and we had a nice fluorescent decorative fixture over the vanity.
RL: What’s next?
CN: Changes in technology will come fast and furious in the next few years. It will be a job for us designers and retailers to keep up. But opportunities will be great because customers will tell us what they want. They will
make us design with “green” fixtures in their kitchens and baths.
Clayton Nelson, CKD, CR, CKBR, is principal of Clayton Nelson & Assoc., a design-build residential remodeling contractor based in Los Gatos, CA, that specializes in mid- to high-end kitchen-and-bath packages.