How Much Lighting Do I Need?

modern living roomMany who are designing and decorating their interior spaces wonder just how much lighting they’ll need to fill a room sufficiently. And many rooms are significantly lacking in proper lighting. So how do you know how much lighting is enough? Here is a quick guide to making sure the interior spaces in your home are sufficiently lit.

Do some calculations.

Yes, you’ll need to do some math here to ensure you’re filling the room with the proper wattage. One quick rule of thumb to go by is to calculate the area of your room in feet (multiply length by width) and then to multiply that number by 1.5 to get the wattage that you need to light that room. A 12 foot by 12 foot room, for example, would need 144 x 1.5 watts of lighting, so 216 watts of light total. If you happen to have recessed lighting involving three light bulbs of 60 watts each, you’ll need to supplement with another lighting unit of about 40 watts in order to reach 216 watts.

One thing to remember about light bulbs, especially as more and more light bulbs on the market today are energy efficient: energy efficient CFLI or LED light bulbs are a great option for saving energy and extending the lifespan of your light bulbs, but you will need to search the packaging in order to see what the incandescent equivalent in wattage of these bulbs are. Use that number with the area x 1.5 rule of thumb to ensure that you’re getting the proper wattage.

Keep in mind as you go for sufficient wattage that you don’t add light bulbs with high wattages to any lighting units that are not made to support that high of a wattage. Many ceiling fans, for example, allow only three light bulbs of 60 watts each—so don’t fill them with 80 watt light bulbs.

Layer your lighting.

It’s important to introduce dimension into an interior space by involving multiple types of lighting into the space. Involve the different types of lighting for a well balanced, well-lit space: ambient, accent, and task lighting. Some of your lighting, such as ceiling lighting, will simply fill the space overall; some lighting will supplement and accent, such as that light from a decorative floor lamp; and some lighting will come in handy for certain tasks, such as a well placed table lamp near a cozy chair for reading. Our post titled “Bringing Multiple Layers of Lighting into a Room” can give you a more comprehensive look at dimensional lighting.

Take the details of your space into account.

These rules of thumb are great to go by, but there are some situations that might cause you to need more than the expected amount of lighting. If you have shades or dark walls or furniture, for example, you’ll want to up the lighting in the room, as these things tend to make a room look less lit than it actually is. The same is true for high ceilings.