LED reading lights offer an efficient focus

LED reading lights: why would you invest in them instead of bedside lamps? Reading is one of the most popular pastimes in the UK. Stimulating, educational and mind-sharpening, it can transport you to a different world, away from the stresses and strains of everyday life. “There is no friend as loyal as a book”, said Ernest Hemingway.

If you’re a guest-house owner or hotelier, you may wonder what value there is in providing an LED reading light. After all, a bedside lamp is good for reading as well as low-level room lighting. This brief article will show you how dedicated LED reading lights benefit all parties.

Goodnight sweetheart…

An LED reading light is, by nature, like a small spotlight. Its light will be more than sufficient for reading, but won’t spill out to the rest of the room. So, caring partners can enjoy a book without disturbing each other’s sleep.

Compact designs

LEDs are so small that they’re opened up countless possibilities for lighting designers. LED reading lights exploit this, with a compact head that can be easily aimed wherever required. Designs generally come in two forms: the snake-neck variety for completely unhindered adjustment, or swing arm, which perhap have a neater look for a hospitality premises. Innovative lighting company, Astro, even offers a recessed reading light in its Digit range.

Vail LED reading light Digit LED Reading Light

Dedicated LED fittings – lifespan and technology

LED lighting lasts 10 to 50 times longer than original incandescent lighting. Dedicated LED fittings such as reading lights have no requirement for replacement lamps. They provide several years of service before the whole luminaire is replaced.

Fuse LED Reading LightYou’ll note that LED reading lights vary significantly in price. This reflects the materials used and their aesthetic appeal. More expensive fittings also tend to use SMD (aka SMT) LED chips, whereas the cheapest models may use original ‘through hole’ LED types. This affects lifespan, so low-priced LEDs are liable to depreciate in brightness faster than costlier counterparts. The Fuse LED Reading Light, for example, uses a single 3W Luxeon SMD LED chip with a long 30,000 hour expected lifespan. Appreciable reduction in its light output would be very slow.

Remember that wattage is not an indicator of brightness in LED lighting, so a 1W reading light may produce more light (measured in lumens) than a 3W model. The price is always influenced by this. Always check for lumens, not watts!

Dual-purpose fittings

Arosa LED Reading LightSome fittings include two light sources, in the form of a dedicated LED reading light and a regular bedside wall lamp. The Searchlight Arosa Reading Light is an example of this. The shaded wall light provides mood-enhancing, secondary illumination for the entire bedroom, whilst the LED extension emits a low-cost focused light for reading.

LED v halogen v fluorescent (low energy)

Various lighting technologies are used in the manufacture of reading lights. All have their advantages, but LED technology always fares favourably in any comparison:

  • LED is up to 90% more energy efficient than filament lighting, and up to 50% more than low-energy fluorescent.
  • LED lasts much longer than other technologies with typical 25,000 to 50,000 hour lifespans.
  • LED is naturally directional with very little spilled light; halogen and fluorescent lighting is inherently omnidirectional.
  • LED lighting has a cool beam with little or no projection of IR heat.
  • LED lighting is a solid-state technology, resistant to vibration or shock.
  • LED lighting has no toxic mercury content.

In summary

Few applications benefit so obviously from LED technology as reading. An LED reading light will focus its energy-efficient light on the page, sip power at a glacial pace, and outlast a healthy library of books. In a hospitality premises, an LED reading light adds value for guests whilst using much less energy than any bedside lamp. They offer a real ‘win win’ scenario for both you and your customers!

Feel free to browse our full range of LED reading lights.

If you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, why not take a look in our Lighting Advice section.

Ways of lighting your patio

Whether you’re a homeowner or manager of a hospitality premises, a darkened patio is wasted space. Good patio lighting makes a property more inviting, and is often an important facet of an entertainment venue. The patio may connect to a garden, or it may be a small garden in itself. Here we’ll show you how to use outdoor lights (and other tricks) to illuminate the various features of your patio, so you can reap the rewards of this valuable outdoor space.

But first… indoor dimming

It may seem an odd place to start, but dimming is useful if you want to enjoy outdoor lighting from the comfort of a living room, or conservatory. In restaurants and hotels, patrons may gaze out over a beautifully lit patio and garden during winter months. Indoor lighting that is too strong will cause excessive reflection and impair the outdoor view.

Lyco sells a range of dimmer switches, which help you balance indoor and outdoor illumination. Varilight models are exceptional for LED dimming. They also have a ‘soft start’ feature that reduces the chances of filament bulbs expiring in the cold.

Customised patio lighting

Simpson LED Walkover LightsJust like indoors, you should never over-light a patio or garden. Contrasting areas of light and dark create ambience and visual interest. Ground rules aside, various features of a patio might benefit from good lighting. Here are some examples:

Decking areas

These can be lit by walkover lights. Decking Lights serve this purpose. Discreet and durable, they are useful around the edges of a decking area for creating mood and adding an element of pedestrian safety.

Paved areas

Such areas can be installed with ground lights, like the Messina LED Ground Light from Searchlight. This can be safely walked over, and with an IP68 rating it tolerates immersion. The Messina is totally impervious to dust and torrential rain.

Low walls

Low walls are common around patio areas. Many ground lights are also suitable for embedding in walls, like the Stratford Recessed Square LED. Again, these are robustly weatherproof and provide excellent low-level lighting.
Stratford Recessed Square LED Light

Flower borders and shrubbed areas

These areas are perfectly served by post lights. The Parma Post is one of many options here, with a black finish that blends well with green foliage.

Trees

Often a neighbouring feature of patios, they provide a good opportunity to create visual interest. Use a strong spotlight to dramatically light trees from below. Solar lights are excellent for this, since they’re self-sufficient and not tethered to a mains supply.

Statues and garden ornaments

These can be lit by the Deltech GL7 LED Spotlight. The GL7 comes with a ground spike and wall bracket, so is usable in numerous scenarios.

Take a closer look at the Ground or Wall-mountable - GL7- LED Spotlight - Warm-White

Trellises and gazebos

Such fixtures are ideal for fairy lights, which create restful but eye-catching illumination. The Solar Centre’s Everbright Solar Fairy Lights are usable all the year round. A built-in photocell automatically triggers these lights on and off at dusk and dawn. If you’re going for a party mood, colourful festoons are effective overhead or along a fence.

Exterior walls

Regularly overlooked, these offer a simple means of lighting a patio. Here we’re looking for something decorative as well as functional. The Festa Opal Wall Light is economical and long lasting, with a shatter-resistant polycarbonate shade. In traditional vein, the Coach Half Lantern from ASD offers an equally durable solution.

For more inspiration, advice and news, visit our Lighting Advice section.

Lighting your picture properly

Picture lighting is important to most people whether they’re a homeowner with a favourite water-colour, a gallery owner with a priceless Rembrandt or even a hospital art coordinator looking to make the corridors a pleasure to walk down with fetching scenes. Picture lights provide a convenient solution to displaying artwork but choosing the right light fitting to get the best out of your artwork can be testing. Below we look at two of the most important factors to consider when it comes to lighting your pictures properly: size and colour temperature.

What size of picture light should I choose?

Rule of thumb

The most common rule of thumb is ‘choose a picture light that is half the size of the picture, excluding frame’, but if you dig around you’ll confusingly find one or two others. In truth, with smaller artworks you’ll often be able to choose lights that are as little as a third of the picture width. The opposite is true of extra large artworks (e.g. over 36” width), where the ideal is two-thirds.

Don’t go too small

This sliding scale of requirements comes from the varying distance between the edge of the light and the picture edge. With a large picture, there is a greater risk of creating a vignetting effect and leaving large corner areas underlit. In general though, the half-picture-size rule is a decent guideline.

Don’t go too large

A light fitting that is too wide for the picture is equally undesirable. Remember that light will spread when reflected off a surface. By limiting the amount of light that falls outside the picture, you are focusing attention on the artwork. This is especially important with dark pictures, where brightly lit surroundings will immediately draw the eye away from the subject.

How important in picture lighting is colour temperature?

Most people enjoy art without paying great heed to the lighting, but lighting directly affects the colour of art. Warm white light emphasises warm colours, and cool emphasises cool. It makes sense, then, to pick a light colour that enhances the dominant colours of your picture.

Shades and technologies

Each lighting technology has different colour properties, as follows:

  • Incandescent: warm white light with a typical 2700-2800K colour temperature. Less than ideal for blue or violet-coloured pictures, but excellent for emphasising reds, oranges, and yellows (flattering to skin tones in portrait pictures).
  • Halogen: warm white light with typical 2800-3200K colour temperature. Stronger radiation at shorter wavelengths (violet and blue) makes halogen appear whiter and brighter than incandescent lighting. It is better balanced than incandescent for artworks containing warm and cool colours. Both technologies offer superb colour rendering, though with a warm overall hue.
  • LED and low-energy fluorescent: manufactured with warm or cool colour temperatures (i.e. anything from 2700K to 6500K). A cool colour temperature lends a natural overall appearance, not unlike window light. These technologies are widely used in art museums (the Louvre Museum in Paris recently switched to LED). However, filament bulbs are inherently more reliable for reproducing individual colours and nuance. Vastly reduced running and maintenance costs may tip the balance!

Lighting Vincent

Below we compare the effect of warm and cool lighting on a Vincent van Gogh self-portrait. You’ll notice the blue areas are emphasised by cool light, whilst the complexion, hair, and palette are more vibrant under warm light. You’d probably base your picture lighting decision on the focus of the painting, which is the artist himself. You may well choose to sacrifice some of the blueness to avoid a pallid complexion. The decision is ultimately subjective.

Vincent under warm white light Vincent under cool white light
Vincent under warm white light Vincent under cool white light

Image courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington

Feel free to view our full range of picture lights. Alternatively if you want to more inspiration and advice, take a look at our Lighting Advice section.

Outdoor party lights – useful tips

Outdoor party lights are a vital consideration if you’re a hotelier aiming to host outdoor events, or a pub landlord who wants to attract custom to a beer garden. You might be a restaurateur, trying to entice passing trade to outdoor tables. On a fine summer evening, people like to socialise outside with friends… or make new ones, so creating an agreeable ambience is crucial. In this feature we look to offer some useful lighting tips and create a couple of scenarios that offer inspiration.

Party lighting tricks

Alder LED Spotlights - Set of 3Before we look at how to use outdoor party lights in specific scenarios, here are some useful outdoor lighting tips to help create a great atmosphere:

  • Do not over-light a garden. Just like indoors, areas of light and dark help to create intrigue and mood. Use a layered lighting scheme to create different areas of visual interest.
  • Create and light a focal point in each area of a garden, or on a patio. This could be a statue, ornament, or water feature. Again, do not overdo this – multiple focal points are ineffective.
  • Use subtle lighting to illuminate different parts of the garden, such as plants, grasses, or shrubs. Inconspicuous stake lights such as the Alder LED Spotlights are good for this.
  • Lighting festoons and fairy lights lend a positive mood to outdoor surroundings. Use parasols at night as a frame for fairy lights, with cable ties to secure them in place. Other suitable lighting supports include gazebos and trellises.

A few words about solar lighting

One of the best things about solar lights is that you can place them almost anywhere. Perhaps even better is that they’re completely free to run! They also recharge in any weather, although it is better to expose the solar panel to maximum sunlight.

Most solar lights have a ‘dusk to dawn’ sensor, which switches them on at dusk and off again at daybreak. A manual override switch is useful during sustained periods of cloudy weather, as it allows you to save the charge.

Outdoor party lighting inspiration

Scenario 1: Hotel – outdoor wedding party

Weatherproof festoon lightsYou are a hotelier with a private booking to host an outdoor wedding party and evening meal. The rear garden of your hotel will accommodate twelve dining tables. What lighting will you use?

Festoon lighting is superb for celebratory events, and a string of white bulbs befits a wedding. Lyco sell a 22.6-metre double-insulated festoon fitting with room for 40 bulbs. The bulbs are available separately in a choice of colours.

Let’s also say that alongside the dining tables are some trees. The attractive Assisi Solar LED Lantern is detachable from its stake and looks great suspended from branches. As solar lights, these are free to run and not tethered by a mains lead. Perfect!

Close to the guests is a raised flower border with a statue of Aphrodite at its centre. A staked Deltech GL7 Spotlight lights the Greek goddess of love and beauty.

Scenario 2: Riverside restaurant – al fresco lighting

Simpson LED Walkover Lights (Set of 10)We’re at a modern glass-fronted restaurant at Wapping, right on the Thames. There is an outdoor area to the rear with decking and dining tables, where customers can relax whilst gazing out over the river. A waiting area is set aside where a barman serves aperitifs – there are outdoor sofas! It all has great potential, but how do you light it?

It’s important not to over-light, but staff and customers still need to see where they are stepping. There is a glow of light from inside the restaurant, but it’s not enough by itself. The Simpson LED Walkover Lights are ideal for this – attractive, yet practical. Use them to define the edges of decking areas. They’re long lasting, discreet, and tougher than other lights thanks to use of shock-resistant LEDs.

Assisi LED PlanterSeparating guests from a plunge to the riverbank is a rail fence. We can weave Everbright Solar Fairy Lights around this. Here you can reverse the effects of light pollution, adding twinkling LED lights where once we might have seen stars. There is an emotional response to this type of lighting, which helps create romantic mood. At the corner of the fence, or at the doorway of the restaurant, you might show off a shrub with the Assisi LED Planter.

Over at the sofa-furnished waiting area, a delightful Lucca Exterior Floor Lamp is lighting guests as they contentedly sip on cocktails.

More options

Hopefully we have given you some useful tips to use to use for your premises. Feel free to browse our full range of outdoor lights, which can be used in a variety of ways to enhance any outdoor event / party.

For more useful inspiration and advice try our Lighting Advice section.

Light switches – a choice of style and function

You may think there’s not much to say about light switches, but they’re more sophisticated than might be assumed. There are various styles to choose from, terminology to negotiate, and then with dimmer switches the complex topic of compatibility arises. This guide aims to cast light over some of these issues, describing the types of switch available, and where they’re used.

Design choices

Light switches are designed in a variety of ways. Some are purely functional, whilst others have style in mind, too. Here are some of the common design features:

    • Flat plate: extremely low-profile, usable only on perfectly flat walls or tiles.
    • Low profile: a slim but raised profile that allows installation on uneven surfaces. The smart BG Low Profile 10A 1 Gang 2-Way Light Switch is an example of this.
    • Metal clad: usually designed with a white plastic switch and an impact-resistant metal wall plate, these are used in industrial environments or in domestic rooms where damage is more likely (e.g. garage, games room).
    • Moulded: an inexpensive plastic switch for use in areas where appearance is of secondary importance (e.g. workplaces, utility rooms, larders). The BG White Moulded 10A 1 Gang 2 Way Light Switch offers great value under this category.
    • Screwless: provides a neat finish with no visible fixings, and installs easily by clipping onto a rear mount.
    • Weatherproof: electrical components are well protected against dust and rain, either directly or through use of a sealed enclosure.
    • Time Delay Switch: saves energy by automatically switching off light after a set duration. Lyco sell a 1-way Electronic Time Delay Switch with a neon-lit button perimeter for easy visibility.

Brush Steel (low profile) 10a - single gang - 2 way light switch

Terminology

Terminology is pretty straightforward in light switches. The word ‘gang’ describes the number of switches on a wall plate. For example, a 2-gang switch is really two switches on a single plate, capable of controlling one light each.

The term ‘way’ describes the ability of a switch to operate in conjunction with other switches in different locations. For instance, a ‘2-way switch’ is usable in pairs to control the same light from two places. These switches can also be wired for conventional 1-way use with a single light.

Anyone researching switches on the internet should be aware that US terminology is different. The 2-way switch is known as a 3-way switch (owing to its use of three terminals), whilst an intermediate switch in the UK is equal to an American 4-way switch. Intermediate switching is used when the light is required to be controlled from three or more places (e.g. in large halls).

Dimmer switches

Dimmer switches are useful for controlling mood and saving energy. They can extend lamp life, too, depending on the lamp technology.

The type of switch you’re most likely to encounter is the phase-cut dimmer. This works by cutting out parts of the voltage and reducing power to the light source. There are two types to consider:

Leading-edge dimmer

Chrome screwless - single gang - 2 way 400w Dimmer
The leading-edge dimmer is commonly used with incandescent or halogen lighting. By far the most popular dimmer in existence, it is designed for inductive loads (e.g. magnetic low-voltage transformers), or resistive loads (e.g. incandescent).

Many modern LED lamps are backward compatible with this style of dimmer. This is especially true of products from larger manufacturers. However, the low wattage of LED lamps makes it difficult to meet the minimum load requirement of existing dimmer switches.

The BG  Screwless 1 Gang 2 Way 400W Dimmer is an example of a leading-edge dimmer switch. This flat-plate screwless switch has a minimum 60W load, making it ideal for halogen or incandescent lighting circuits.

Trailing-edge dimmer

Varilight 400w led compatible dimmer in white The more sophisticated trailing-edge dimmer is intended for capacitive loads (e.g. electronic low-voltage transformers or LED drivers), and resistive loads (e.g. incandescent).

Some of the benefits of this dimmer include smooth, silent dimming and a lower minimum load for modern technologies. A ‘soft start’ feature is usually included, which prevents filament bulbs from prematurely expiring during a cold start.

The Varilight LED Compatible Dimmer range is an excellent choice for LED lighting circuits, whilst also offering compatibility with other technologies (including some dimmable CFLs). The award-winning Varilight V-Pro range is widely revered as one of the best LED dimmers on the market. This particular model has a minimum 2.5W load.Varilight 3x300w gang led compatible dimmer in polished chrome

Various models from the Varilight V-Pro range are available from Lyco, including a 3-gang switch with a minimum 2.5W load per gang. By controlling multiple luminaires you can fine-tune areas of light and dark, which is a sure way of creating drama and ambience.

Bringer of light

Light switches are bringers of light, and though they’re part of everyday life, they also allow you to express yourself by adding finishing touches to décor. A wide choice of switches is available, from basic no-thrills to refined and stylish. You can even assume the role of lighting technician, using a dimmer switch to creatively control layers of light.

Why not take a look at our full range of switches and dimmers.

Looking for more advice or inspiration? Take a look at our Lighting Advice section.