How Much Lighting do You Need?

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Posted: April 15, 2016 - Homebuyer's Blog

Light BulbWhen building a new home, interior lighting is an important consideration. Hartz Construction can save you money and aggravation down the road by helping you pre-plan for your lighting needs. To get started, here are some tips to illuminate your lighting choices.

Know your terms.

Lighting pros seem to have a language of their own. Here are their important terms in simple English.

Wattage: Measurement of how much electricity a bulb uses.

Lumens: The amount of light a bulb produces.  Since the new LED and CFL bulbs put out more light with less wattage, lumens is now the best indicator of lighting.

Foot-candle:  How bright the light is one foot away from the source. Rooms that require brighter lighting, such as a kitchen, need more foot-candles than, say, a living room. As a rule of thumb, here are suggested foot-candle needs for various rooms.

Room Foot Candles Needed
Living Room 10-20
Kitchen General 30-40
Kitchen Stove 70-80
Kitchen Sink 70-80
Dining Room 30-40
Bed Room 10-20
Hall Way 5-10
Bathroom 70-80

A simple equation yields lighting needs.

To determine the needed lumens in a room, simply multiply the room’s square footage by the room’s foot-candle requirement. For example, a 100 square foot living room, which needs 10-20 foot-candles, will need 1,000-2,000 lumens. A 100 square foot dining room, which needs 30-40 foot-candles, will need 3,000-4,000 lumens.

Use a mix of lighting types to achieve your goal.

Here is where the creativity kicks in. The Hartz Design Center staff as well as your new homes sales manager can show you tons of fun and interesting ways to light a room using ambient, task and accent lighting.  Here are a few insights that can help you make your selections.


To reduce shadows, place recessed lights on the sides (not centers) of ceilings.

Light kitchen islands so shadows don’t fall where you’ll be cutting vegetables or kneading dough. For a 6-foot island, that could mean placing two to three small pendants in a row directly above where you’ll be standing.

Chandeliers in the center of the room should have shades that direct light down.

Install under-cabinet lights for task lighting.

Use above-cabinet lighting for ambient and mood lighting.

Dining Rooms:

Don’t position lights above your dining chairs — it’ll cast ugly shadows on faces.

To prevent head clunks when getting up from the dining room table, size the fixture no wider than the table less 12 inches.

Adjustable recessed lights (ones you can position at different angles) are great for highlighting centerpieces, candles, or flowers.

Dimmers are a must to set the mood.

Living Room:

With ambient lighting, avoid placing lights directly over seating unless you angle them away.

Use task lighting, usually lamps, for reading and other things you do while sitting.

Install accent lighting in the form of spotlights and picture lights for the room’s focal point, fireplace, and artwork.


Ceiling fixtures aren’t good lights for applying makeup or shaving; they cast shadows on faces. Placing lights above or on the sides of a mirror is better.

Install a light above the tub and shower.

Separate water closets should have their own light and exhaust fan.


Install recessed lighting or a center fixture for general bedroom tasks, such as making the bed, dressing, and cleaning.

Use table lamps with warm lights to help set the mood for rest and relaxation.

Add dimmers to bedroom lights so you can quickly change the mood.

A word about can lights.

When determining the location of can lights, measure at least two feet off all your walls. Aim to divide the can lights around the room evenly and leave at least two feet between each fixture. Of course these are general guidelines, and you may need to do some tweaking depending on the space. Focus on balance and don’t worry if you need to remove or add a can light to get it right.