6 Smarter Ways to Light Up Your Home
Don’t live in the dark! The right lighting can help you stay safer and avoid falls indoors and out
You’re not a kid anymore, but you should still be afraid of the dark. Lack of light — or the wrong kind — can cause falls or other accidents that lead to bruises, broken bones, cuts or worse.
But with just a few simple, inexpensive tweaks, you can illuminate your home more safely. Here are six smart ways to light the interior and exterior of your house.
1. Step it up. One major cause of serious falls is stumbling on the first stair at the top of a staircase, says Terry McGowan, director of engineering for the American Lighting Association. “Light that step for better visibility,” he advises.
Use a handrail light that attaches to the top of the railing and shines downward to illuminate that first stair. “That will visually connect the railing to the wall to the stair, making it easier to see,” McGowan says.
2. Use the right night-light. Night-lights cut your risk of tripping over hazards like the cat or a toy, McGowan says. Place night-lights near the floor rather than higher up. “Illumination of the floor is your first priority,” he says.Also important is using a nightlight color that won’t interfere with sleep, adds McGowan. Avoid bright white or bluish white lights and go with warmer colors like yellow or red.
3. Use lighting to show you which way is up. When you wake in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or grab a glass of water, you may be disoriented at first, McGowan says. This is especially true of older adults who may have trouble transitioning from lying down to standing. Putting a strip of dim LED lighting around a doorframe can illuminate which way is up. In fact, research shows that this type of lighting can reduce falls in elderly people.
4. Use portable task lights. Different tasks require different amounts of light, according to the Illuminating Engineering Society, an organization for lighting professionals. For example, sewing, especially on dark fabric, might require more light than reading. A portable task light can make it easier to get adequate light for the job at hand — whether it’s hemming a skirt, chopping veggies or woodworking.
It’s best to use a light that has two knobs — one to dim the light and the other to change the color of the light from cool to warm, McGowan says.
5. Light the way. Place lights along exterior pathways so people walking to and from your house can see where they’re going. Use low-level path lights or lights that stand about 30 to 36 inches off the ground, recommends the American Lighting Association.
6. Beware of glare. Controlling glare is important inside and outside your home. It’s especially crucial for older adults because eyes become more sensitive to glare with age. A mistake many homeowners make is sticking a large exterior floodlight right above the garage. “It’ll blind you as you pull up,” says McGowan. You could accidentally run over a bicycle or other object in the driveway.
To reduce glare, the Pennsylvania Outdoor Lighting Council recommends aiming garage floodlights down at least 45 degrees. You can also fit floodlights with glare visors.