A casual glance at shop windows in the High Street will be sufficient to indicate the enormous range of electrical fittings on the market.
If you know precisely what you want you may get fittings a little cheaper at chain stores such as Walmart, but you will not necessarily be able to get advice. So, if you have little knowledge of such matters, keep in mind the use to which the lighting will be put — for general or decorative illumination, for reading, sitting, eating, or watching television, or for the preparation of food and doing jobs in the workshop — and go to the best electrical shop in your district or consult a professional electrician. You will then be able to assess the relative merits of direct and indirect illumination, filament or fluorescent sources of light, spot or general lighting, and dolly, rocker or dimmer switches.
For the uninitiated, dolly switches are pressed down and the bottom of rocker switches pressed in to turn them on — that is, if they are fitted the right way round in the first place. As the name implies, dimmer switches give only half light when required.
As with everything else, fashion plays a large part in the choice of fittings. The old-time single pendant lamp or cluster of lamps made up as one unit and hanging from the ceiling has been discarded as the single source of light because it provides illumination in the centre of a room, leaving parts near the walls in semi-darkness. This applies particularly when double
glazing and central heating have been installed and every corner of a room can be utilized for work or for sitting in with equal comfort.
So, unless you are the proud possessor of a valuable chandelier you wish to show off, you will no doubt long ago have replaced the central unit by diffused or wall lighting.
Whatever the fashion, don’t forget the functional use of artificial lighting. For instance, having provided general illumination overhead in the kitchen, why not have individual spotlights trained on to the cooking stove and sink? As both these items of equipment are in constant use and are placed against wall or window space, a housewife working at them will be in partial shadow if she relies solely upon an overhead light. In large kitchens, spotlights can also illuminate dark cupboards, or fittings may be had that light up automatically immediately the cupboard door is opened.
Spotlights, which have largely supplanted standard lamps in living-rooms, are also useful for supplying extra light on to a desk or sewing machine, and for reading when others in the room require subdued lighting for watching television; that is, if it is possible to compete!
A fluorescent tube behind a hardboard pelmet fixed at the top of the alcove in figs. 38 and 39 would be attractive and so illuminate whatever is in the alcove. For reading, the spotlight should not be of such high intensity that a glare is reflected from white paper, resulting in eye strain. It should also not be too near.
To get the best out of television, place the lamp so that it does not reflect as a spot on the screen. Put it at the side or, better still, behind the plane of the screen. A fluorescent tube behind a hardboard window pelmet can be used to illuminate the curtains and pick out their design. Such a light would provide adequate illumination on its own for television viewing without any danger of screen reflection.
Though pelmets are regarded as ‘old hat’ they can perform this very useful function. They can be painted in the same colour as the trim of the room or covered with material to match the curtains, and can be fitted following the same principle as that for movable shelves.
Glasspaper down the bottom rough edge of the hardboard, or use duo-faced hardboard, so that it will not fray the curtain material when it is drawn back and forward. If the window frames of your house do not jut out (A) you will have to fix a horizontal batten on to the wall above the window frame to take the headless nails (B), or follow the inverted keyhole idea and use a thin piece of board as a pelmet (C).
Retractable table lights
At one time, single bulbs with shades were provided with vertical adjustment by means of a pulley and counterbalanced weight. They were really only suitable for workshop or study and their fault was that, if not carefully adjusted, they produced glare. Then again, the old-type fabric-covered flexes were in danger of becoming frayed by the pulley.
The modern counterpart, with retractable coiled plastic flex used in conjunction with the correct type of shade to provide diffused lighting can very well be used in a dining-room. Lower the light when the table is in use and have it nearer the ceiling when the meal is over — to provide more general room lighting.
You can alter the apparent colour of wall and ceiling decoration by the use of different types of lamp and tinted bulbs which may be changed from time to time for the sake of variety.
How much illumination?
Too much illumination wastes money, though admittedly not much, and too little has a bad effect on the eyes. It is wise to err on the generous side and at the same time ensure that the lighting is in the right place — particularly when elderly people are about. Don’t rely on a 25 watt bulb on a stairway. The difference in expenditure in current between that and 100 watts is very small, even in the course of a long evening.
Positioning of switches and sockets
If your house is being rewired, see that switches are placed handy to a doorway and at a level at which they can readily be located. Stairways should have two-way switches, one at the top and one at the bottom, so that the light can be switched on as you are about to ascend and off on reaching the top, and vice versa. Where there is only one lamp on a stairway place it at the bottom of the stairs rather than at the top so that treads and risers are equally illuminated and accidents avoided. Again, take care to avoid glare.
Consider, too, the position of socket outlets. Some which are in constant use, as in a kitchen, are better fitted at about a metre (3 or 4 ft) from the floor and not at floor level.