Rebuilding After Hurricane Sandy
A couple looks for LED lighting advice as they seek to emerge from Hurricane Sandy more energy efficient than before.
This room could benefit from blending various types of lighting instead of depending on just fixed recessed downlights.
We are rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. Should we put standard recessed housings and install retrofit LED modules or should we use the new LED cans? We are trying to be as energy-efficient as possible, but we are so confused. We received a bid for the lighting for all-LED and it is through the roof. Our contractor advised us we can use the traditional housings and just add an LED retrofit trim. What would be our best option? Any suggestions you can give us would be appreciated.

I know that you want to be energy-efficient, but just putting in a series of recessed cans (whether they are retrofit or new LED) is not the best way to light your home. Recessed downlights on their own will create harsh shadows in people's faces and make the ceilings look lower, plus the rooms will feel smaller. Hurricane Sandy gave you the opportunity for a fresh start in how you approach the lighting for your home. You'll want to do a bit of light layering so the lighting can be more effective and welcoming.

There are some places where a fixed LED downlight is fine, such as a garage, a shower or in the ceiling of a covered porch. Choose a 2700K color temperature to be close in color to incandescent. A good 4-inch can, such as the Cree CR4 produces 575 lumens (equivalent to about 50W of incandescent light) for 9.5W. That's a savings of more than 40W of power consumption per fixture. You could also use a standard downlight with an LED PAR30 bulb. Just make sure that they are rated for damp locations if they are used on the porch or in the shower.

Elsewhere, instead of downlights, consider using recessed adjustable fixtures. These can be directed towards tabletops, bookcases and any art that hangs on the wall. I am going to recommend using an inexpensive housing that takes a 120V halogen reflector bulb (MR16 GU10) or a 120V LED MR16 GU10. No transformer/driver is required so the cans are reasonable. While halogen bulbs cost around $8 and the LED versions cost around $40, the LED MR16s offer 50W worth of illumination for 11.5W of power consumption. They are also rated for 25,000 hours, as compared to around 3,500 hours for standard halogen MR16. Additionally, they produce far less heat, so this can cut down on the need for extra air conditioning at night in the summers. For an example of a GU10 housing, take a look at the Juno TCIR-GU10 Whip-445WH (slot aperture trim). This is a remodel housing; new construction versions are available as well.

Then I would have you consider adding a couple of pairs of wall sconces in the dining room, flanking the sideboard and in the entryway on either side of the mirror. Additionally, I would have you consider adding a close-to-ceiling fixture in the square rooms, and two close-to-ceiling fixtures in the rectangular rooms. These will both provide a decorative element as well as a source of ambient light.

Hang a couple of pendant fixtures over the kitchen island, if you have one. Put indirect lighting on top of the kitchen cabinets if they don't go all the way to the ceiling. Even if you don't have the money for the light fixtures you want, get the junction boxes installed while the remodel work is being done. Think of these decorative fixtures as potential future gifts from family and friends for holidays and birthdays. In the meantime, use inexpensive lights that can be placeholders until the real lights arrive.

Randall Whitehead, IALD

Randall Whitehead, IALD, is a professional lighting designer and author. His books include "Residential Lighting, A Practical Guide." Whitehead has worked on projects worldwide, appeared on the Discovery Channel, HGTV and CNN, and he is regular guest on Martha Stewart Living Radio. Visit his website for more information on books, upcoming seminars and the latest lighting trends.

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