Tommy’s Tips: Let there be Light!

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I’m sitting in my study looking out of the window on this very wet autumn morning.  Its 8.15am, but looks as though daylight is struggling to make itself seen, and all you can hear is the relentless heavy pounding of the rain, with the temperature down a good 10 degrees Celsius from last week, a reminder (if one was needed) as to what’s looming just around the corner! I’m sorry to harp on about the weather, but miserable weather makes me miserable, it must be the change in the light. 

Light and the quality of light affects all of us, and has a major effect on our behaviour, so I’ve decided to create more light, both “indoors and out”! Let’s deal with the outside first.  The simplest way to provide exterior lighting is to install exterior solar powered light fittings.  These are available at most buildering suppliers from the D.I.Y sheds to supermarkets, and of course, electrical suppliers!  The great thing about solar fittings is there’s no wiring to contend with, and they’re so simple to install, whether the simple stick in the ground, wall mounted, or even the mini lamppost type, once installed you can forget about them!  When they stop working, it’s normally because they need a battery change, these batteries are re-chargeable, and so when ordering replacements take an original along as a sample to show the supplier exactly what you want. 

External solar lighting is quite subtle, and if you want more pronounced lighting, you will have to install a power supply, but you will need professional help!  I asked my electrician what I needed to do, and in order to save some money I fixed the external lights where I wanted them, and dug out and buried the armoured cable, in a loop (just like a ring main), and got the electrician to make all the connections, check and approve the installation with it’s own dedicated R.C.D. and sign it all off.  Having a mixed installation of solar and mains lighting, means I have more control over my garden lighting, and allows me to increase the use of the mains lighting in the shorter darker days, when the solar lighting is not so strong!

Light inside the home is hugely important!  In fact the legal size of a room is governed by the amount of natural light, the glass area must be min 10% of floor space.  Be aware of a common mistake when installing replacement windows.  Plastic double glazed replacement windows generally have much bigger frames and glazing bars than wooden or metal, to give them the required strength, which in turn may have a considerable negative effect of reducing the natural light into your house!  So bear that in mind, when selecting replacement windows because “natural light is king”!

Where natural light is often restricted like converted basement and lofts, we try to compensate with artificial lighting, often in the shape of down lighters, which give good uniform lighting if installed in a wall planned grid pattern! At this time of year although I have a good natural light source for our semi-basement we bolster the natural light with our artificial lighting, and they were all 50watt mains lamps!  I was fed up constantly having to change the lamps, (the intense heat created would make them blow prematurely) and slightly concerned at the amount of heat created, as a potential fire hazard.  I made a simple calculation that if all the semi-basement lights were on, I was using 1300watts (26×50) equivalent to 13×100 watt bulbs in one room, no wonder my electric bills were high!  So I changed the lamps to 5 watt LED lamps, which provide great light, no heat, and collectively only use 130 watts, making an instant energy saving of 1170 watts. The lamps are more expensive, (shop around) at about £7.00 each as opposed to £1.50-£2.00 for the 50watt mains version, but they last much longer and I don’t have the fire hazard worry I had with the old lamps, and my energy bill has been slashed!

I’m glad I woke up and “saw the light”

Tommy Walsh

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