Low voltage halogen lighting brightens up many houses in San Francisco, both inside and outside. Low voltage systems are popular because they have many applications, typically have a long life span, and require less energy to operate than standard lighting fixtures.
There are new types of lighting that are coming onto the market, especially light-emitting diode technology that is known as LED. At the moment, LED technology remains quite expensive, and the devices have yet to prove that they can last for the extremely long periods that are promised.
For the homeowner, low voltage halogen remains a popular and cost effective option that reduces energy use in and around the home. The initial cost may be slightly higher than with standard incandescent fixtures, but the energy savings add up over the lifespan. Let's see how low voltage halogen may be used.
Finding out What Low Voltage Halogen Lighting Means in San Francisco
"Lamp" means light bulb – the lighting industry generally refers to a light bulb as a lamp. Halogen lamps are incandescent lights, like the standard light bulb or lamp. Standard incandescent lamps include a filament of tungsten. As the lamp burns, the tungsten gets burned off the filament and usually deposited on the bulb. The bulb is the glass enclosure that surrounds the filament.
By contrast, in a halogen bulb, the tungsten is burnt off the filament, but gases in the bulb cause the tungsten to re-deposit on the filament, increasing the lifespan. The glass bulb, or envelope, also remains cleaner. Halogen lights offer better luminous efficiency, meaning they produce more light for less energy than standard incandescent lamps. Halogen lamps also offer better color temperature than standard incandescent lamps. Color temperature refers to whether light seems warm or cool. Warm light is often more desirable and attractive in the home and has reddish undertones. Cool light has bluish tones and is generally thought to be a starker, more clinical light.
The halogen lamp filament has an envelope, or bulb, made out of quartz or any other glass with a very high melting point. This envelope is very strong, which allows for greater gas pressure within the bulb, which in turn slows the rate at which the tungsten evaporates off the filament, which increases the light output, or efficacy, for the lamp. Halogen lamp manufacturers generally recommend that envelope of the halogen bulb not be touched. Doing so can create a hot spot that heats quickly when the lamp is on. The hot spot then transforms from strong quartz to a weaker form that allows gas to escape. The hot spot also has the potential to become a bubble that results in the bursting of the bulb. If you do handle the halogen lamp's envelope and leave marks, it's recommended that you wash the marks off with alcohol, then allow to dry completely before using the lamp.
Lighting Up San Francisco With Low Voltage Halogen Lighting
Low voltage lighting serves many purposes in San Francisco homes. Within the house, you may be creating your own lighting design. Typical lighting designs address three kinds of lighting. First, there is general lighting, also called ambient lighting. This lighting is what allows you to see your way around your home. The American Lighting Association recommends that each room in the house have at least one central source of general lighting. Then, there is task lighting. You may not need separate task light. For example, in the laundry room, general lighting may be perfectly adequate for doing the task, with no additional light needed. But in some cases, you may want specific lighting for tasks like cooking, reading, sewing, paying the bills, or doing homework. This task lighting should make it easier for you to perform the task but should not strain your eyes or cast unhelpful shadows. The third kind of lighting in a lighting design is accent lighting. Accent lighting allows you to bring attention to some special object or space – you may have art you want to show off, or you may have a particularly attractive wall covering, or a special plant. Advice varies, but accent lighting is typically designed to be three to five times brighter than standard lighting so that it effectively spotlights the chosen object.
Low voltage halogen lamps suit general, task, and accent lighting in San Francisco homes, whether in the Tenderloin, the Sunset District, the Richmond District, Bernal Heights, the Mission District, Pacific Heights, the Excelsior, or the Bayview District. Low voltage halogen light fixtures often appear as "cans" recessed into the ceiling. Or low voltage halogen light fixtures may be placed on tracks, cables, or other devices that allow you to add light fixtures or move the light fixtures easily. Low voltage halogen lamps are often small in size. In fact, low voltage halogen lamps were originally used in projectors, in part thanks to their small size. Halogens remain popular for theater floodlights and other stage lighting. In part thanks to this history, halogen lamps are very good at creating directed light that can be focused on a specific object, making halogen lamps ideal for accent lighting. The MR16 halogen lamp is particularly good at when used in task lighting because the lamp's mirrored reflective surface helps direct the light forward.
Low voltage halogen lighting finds its place in many rooms. As mentioned, cans recessed in the ceiling are popular, as are track or cable lighting. In track or cable lighting, the cans are placed on a track or a cable that sends power to the cans. You can easily add or remove cans from the track or cable. You can also change the positioning of the cans. Part of your lighting design will focus on how the light fixtures will be placed around the house. As you shop for low voltage halogen lights, you will find many places to use them. In cabinets, low voltage halogen lights are often used for lighting special objects or simply to light the interior of the cabinet. No matter where you add low voltage halogen lighting in your house, you'll find it casts a useful glow.
Shopping San Francisco for Low Voltage Halogen Lighting
As you plan the lighting design for your house in San Francisco, you'll have a lot to keep in mind. You'll not only be deciding where you want the lights to go so that they serve the appropriate tasks, you'll also be considering the lamps themselves. Halogen lamps, including low voltage halogen lamps, are prized because they have a warm color. Other lamps, such as fluorescent lamps, tend to provide a cool color. Fluorescent lamps are often coated on the inside so that they initially give off a warmer light, but over time, this coating wears off. Halogen lamps are also very good at directing light. You may end up considering the beam width of the lamps and lighting fixtures that you are considering. You can think of beam width in terms of spotlights or floodlights. A spotlight has a narrow beam width and focuses on only one place, while a floodlight cast light over a broad area, thanks to a broad beam width. You may decide on a narrow beam width for task lighting, while a broad beam width may suit for general lighting purposes.
The electricity that enters your house comes in at 120 volts. Low voltage halogen systems operate at around 12 volts, typically. Low voltage halogen lighting systems include transformers that convert the 120 volts to the 12 volts the low voltage halogen lighting system needs. For most interior applications, the transformers are included as part of the low voltage halogen fixture itself.
The dimmer has an important role in a low voltage halogen system. Low voltage halogen lighting systems need dimmers designed especially for them. These may be electronic dimmers or the older, heavier dimmers. In either case, you need to be sure that the dimmer you select will operate with a low voltage system. Dimmers have come to play an important part in lighting design. As you know, a dimmer allows you to increase or decrease the amount of light coming from the light fixtures. Using a dimmer may reduce energy costs and may also extend the life of the lamps, since a reduced amount of energy passes through them.
Dimmers are also useful for increasing flexibility in a single room. The same room in a home may be used by many people for many different tasks, at many different times. It can be difficult to know how to light such a space. One person may need lots of general light, while another will just need specific task lighting. One person may prefer a brighter room, while another person prefers less light. One solution to resolve such a lighting dilemma is to make the room as bright as the most demanding task and person require, then use a dimmer so that lights can be dimmed or brightened by others on demand.
In California, dimmers are basically required for many lighting designs. The California Title 24 outlines energy use in the residence – as well as other places. The latest set of guidelines was written in 2008 and is now in effect. The guidelines highlight different areas of the house, like the kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms. For each identified area, the guidelines offer specific requirements. For example, in the kitchen, at least 50% of the lighting must be from high-efficiency sources. If you are mixing high-efficiency and low efficiency sources, they must be on different switches. In addition, dimmers that recognize when there is no movement are required in some areas, so that lights will dim if no one is present. All the details appear in Title 24 of California's energy laws.
San Francisco Lights Up Outdoors Using Low Voltage Halogen Systems
In addition to indoor uses, low voltage halogen systems are very popular in San Francisco yards and gardens. Low voltage halogen lighting in the garden has many of the same benefits as in the house, including lower energy costs over time and flexible installation. Again, the energy available for use in a residential yard or garden is going to arrive at 120 volts. This line energy, also called mains energy, has to be treated very carefully. If you use the line energy to power your outdoor lighting, the cables carrying the electricity must be buried deeply, probably around 18 inches, or sealed into special conduits. The lines must be absolutely waterproof to avoid shock, and severe damage and harm are possible if the electric line is cut or damaged. In contrast, low voltage halogen lighting in the garden uses a cable that can be lightly buried. It can get damp, and if it is ever damaged or split, there is little potential for harm, since it only carries twelve volts.
If you decide to install low voltage halogen lighting to light your landscaping, deck, or patio, it may take just a bit more than using low voltage halogen lighting indoors. Often, for outdoor lighting, you need to purchase a separate transformer. Remember that for indoor lighting, the transformer is often integrated into the light fixture itself. You must buy a transformer that can support all the wattage you plan to run off it. Examine all the fixtures you plan to run off a specific transformer, add up their wattages, and make sure the transformer is rated to support that much wattage. Some also buy transformers that are slightly more powerful, to allow for growth. You can also use multiple transformers, placed appropriately so that they supply full power to all fixtures.
As you situate lights around your outdoor space, you may notice that some lights are dimmer than others. The dimness is a result of voltage drop. Voltage drop occurs when not enough power is getting to a specific light fixture. If you don't mind some fixtures being dim, all is good. If you do want uniform brightness, you can try reducing the number of light fixtures that one transformer supports. You could also reduce the distance between the transformer and the light fixture, or you could try using a thicker cable between the light fixtures. Another option is to add a more powerful transformer or simply have multiple transformers.
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