Kitchen sink area lighting (C) D Friedman Guide to Kitchen Lights & Lighting Requirements

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Kitchen lighting design specifications: this article provides details about designing kitchen lighting, specifying the type and distance of lights for different kitchen areas and tasks: counters, tables, cook range top, etc. This article series details guidelines for selecting and installing interior lighting to meet the requirements for different building areas.

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Kitchen Lighting Requirements

Figure 5-24: (C) J Wiley, S BlissThis article includes excerpts or adaptations from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, by Steven Bliss, courtesy of Wiley & Sons.

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Also see LIGHTING, INTERIOR GUIDE our home page for information about all lighting topics relating to building interior

Kitchen or Dining Table Top Lighting Specifications

Choose a pendant at least 12 inches less in diameter than the table’s smallest dimension and mount the fixture 27 to 36 inches above the table.

A 120-watt incandescent or 40- to 50-watt fluorescent fixture will generally provide sufficient illumination (see Figure 5-24).

Kitchens require general ambient lighting as well as task lighting on sinks, ranges, counters, and eating areas.

Table top lighting (C) Daniel FriedmanGiven the high lighting needs of a kitchen, the energy savings from fluorescent lights can be substantial. Look for fluorescent bulbs with a CRI over 80 and a color temperature near 2800K to match standard incandescent lights, or 3500K to match halogen lights.

Our photo (left) illustrates bright halogen lighting installed over a kitchen dining table. Note that depending on how the table may be relocated away from its "design position" some seated at the table may see a shadow over their work or plate.

Ambient Kitchen Lighting Specifications

For efficient general lighting, use one or more enclosed ceiling fixtures with a white diffuser that illuminates the ceiling as well as the space below. In a very small kitchen, placing the ceiling fixture near the sink and counter can provide effective task lighting as well.

Our page top photo illustrates generous use of daytime outdoor lighting through a diffusing widow screen, providing good illumination without glare in a kitchen work area. For night time lighting, and for a softer glow in a kitchen, indirect lighting can also work nicely with lights placed in coves and above the cabinets to illuminate the ceiling.

Although not the most energy-efficient, recessed lighting has become a popular choice for kitchen lighting because of its sleek appearance and dramatic effect. For even lighting, use fixtures and lamps with wide beam spreads and spacing based on a 36-inch work plane (Figure 5-23). Also see the discussion on “Spacing,” page 202.

Figure 5-23: (C) J Wiley, S Bliss

Figure 5-23

As a rough guide, the American Lighting Association suggests the following minimum lighting levels:

  • Small kitchens of under 75 square feet: 150 watts of direct incandescent lighting from up to three bulbs, or about 60 watts of fluorescent.
  • Kitchens up to 125 square feet: 200 watts of incandescent from up to four bulbs, or about 80 watts of fluorescent.
  • Kitchens over 120 square feet: two watts of incandescent lighting or  34  watt of fluorescent per square foot of floor area.

These numbers should be increased by 50 to 100% for indirect lighting, dark surfaces, lighting placed high in cathedral ceilings, or use of recessed lights with diffusers, baffles, or other light blocking trim.

Kitchen Task Lighting Guidelines for Counters, Sinks, Cooktops

Work counters, sinks, and cooktops all need high lighting levels. Where wall cabinets are present, under cabinet lighting provides excellent illumination for counters. Place lights as close as possible to the front of the cabinets to avoid glare reflecting off the work surface (Figure 5-23 shown above).

Low-voltage xenon “festoon” lamps provide bright, even light similar to halogen but without the high temperatures and pressures, eliminating the safety concerns associated with halogen. Also, xenon lamps can be touched with bare skin and provide 10,000 hours of service.

An alternative for lighting at counters is to place a row of recessed fixtures directly over the outer edge of the counter. If used for task lighting, place fixtures about 36 inches apart for 8-foot ceilings or 48 inches apart for 10-foot ceilings (see Task Lighting in Table 5-25).

Table 5-25: Recommendations for Recessed Lights (Ceiling Lights or "Pot Lights" (C) J Wiley, S Bliss

Sinks, cooktops, islands, and counters without cabinets above can be lit by small recessed downlights or track lighting. Mini-pendants with 12-volt halogen bulbs offer an attractive and functional way to illuminate islands, peninsulas, and eating counters (Figure 5-23).

Watch out: Check with local code officials in your own jurisdiction for specific lighting and electrical safety requirements.

Industry & Trade Associations for Lighting in Buildings

  • American Lighting Association

-- Adapted with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction.

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