by Dan Derkum
Bathroom lighting is critical. This is usually the first room we enter in the morning, setting the mood for the remainder of the day. It’s also the room we enter when we are half asleep in the middle of the night..
Washing, putting on make-up, shaving, grooming, and taking medications are but a few of the daily routines in the bathroom. There is no other room in the home where optimizing both daylighting (natural outdoor light) and lighting (light bulbs) is more critical.
Daylighting is important for our overall health and emotions as it sets our circadian rhythms (how natural light affects and resets our biological clock and consciousness). Lighting is critical for our safety (80% of all falls for older adults occur in the bathroom) and personal grooming.
Nothing comes close to beating the warmth, beauty, and emotional value of windows and skylights. These brighten your mood helping you feel more refreshed and energized. They make a smaller bathroom look much bigger. They also have the added value of fresh air and help reduce moisture levels (high levels of moisture can create harmful levels of mold and bacteria and destroy your walls and ceilings).
Windows provide free, energy efficient, cost effective lighting and ventilation. They are actually good for you. It has been shown in several prominent studies that daily exposure to natural light can enhance mental and physical well-being, boost concentration and energy levels, and offer a variety of other unexpected perks.
Multiple windows allow for balancing the natural light, cross ventilation, and “opening” the bathroom to the outside. Larger windows can have bottom-up / top-down shades for privacy. Windows can also open in various combinations. Skylights, especially the tube type, offer tremendous opportunities for natural light in small spaces where a traditional window is not practical. A 10” tube type skylight lets in at least 5-10 times more light than a typical 2x3 sliding bathroom window.
Recess lights, especially LED, are terrific for adding task lighting in the general space, including the water closet. For most bathrooms, LED recess lighting on a dimmer is best. It’s always better to “over light” and use dimmers to adjust. Never use fluorescent lights – the bathroom is not a warehouse.
A light over the tub and shower is ideal for providing both mood and grooming lighting. Shaving legs is so much easier when you have overhead lighting.
For vanity areas, wall sconces mounted either overhead or on the sides of the mirror are best. This removes shadowing on the face which makes applying makeup much easier and gives definition when applying lines. Combining both wall sconces and recess lights within the vanity area solves both the shadow and task concerns. Putting on makeup and doing your hair is much easier when combining the two.
Always use multiple switches and dimmers for lighting. This permits a vast array of possibilities for everyone who uses the bathroom. Everyone has different needs and the value of doing this cannot be over stressed.
An LED receptacle type photocell nightlight is perfect in the water closet. It’s ideal when using the facility at night without having to turn on the bedroom lights – blinding you and waking your partner.
For LED lighting, the color temperature and lumens are very important. Temperature does not refer to degrees. Rather, it refers to the color – reddish to blue sky (Figures 1 and 3). Lumens refer to the amount of visible light or brightness (Figure 2). Compared to incandescent bulbs, LED lighting uses 70-90% less energy, saves an enormous amount of money over their life span, last up to 25 times longer (23 years or more), and helps to protect the environment.
Dan A. Derkum is the owner of DAD's Construction, a leading South Orange County, California design-and-build remodeling and renovation contractor.