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12 DIY Hacks for Optimizing Lighting at Home

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

Optimizing Lighting at Home is important because:

  • Our body’s 24 hour internal clock called the Circadian Rhythm physiologically responds to light whenever we are awake and asleep

  • Spending copious amounts of time in extremely low light spaces (40 to 400 lux) increases our risk of depression significantly (NCBI, 2011).

  • We are 20 times more likely to develop anxiety and panic disorders if we continuously get poor quality of sleep (Harvard Medical School, 2008)

(Source: WELL v2, 2018)

Receptors in our eyes called rods and cones allow us to see by capturing light. Additionally, ipRGCs (intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells) not only do the same, but these receptor cells channel light into our brain to facilitate a circadian rhythm response, a physiological clock in our body that regulates hormones relative to the time of day. This therefore showcases the interdependency of our body relative to environmental lighting conditions.

Too much or insufficient lighting can negatively impact a person's mood, work performance, cortisol levels, metabolism, and nutritional choices the next day, thereby throwing their entire circadian rhythm out of balance, called a phase shift.

For example, if a person consistently exposes themselves to bright light in the evening, it can cause insomnia and affect their quality of sleep at night. On the contrary, a person who experiences low-light conditions in a space for long periods of time can also develop mood disorders such as depression due to the lack of Vitamin D synthesis in their skin.

The takeaway here is that we need to ensure our spaces are adequately lit so that we can protect our well-being throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are therefore 12 DIY Hacks for Optimizing Lighting at Home (from outside to inside) within a reasonable price range:

1) Determine the Sun’s path relative to your Location and space(s)

Cost: $0

The Earth’s axial tilt throughout its orbit around the Sun creates the four seasons and the equinoxes.

In the Northern hemisphere, summers are hot because the Sun is directly above us, and thus we receive more light and heat. In the winter however, we receive less light and heat because the Sun is not directly above us as the Earth is slightly tilted away from it.

It is therefore important to consider the Sun’s path as we start to plan for our daylighting, shading and interior lighting strategy for our homes.

2) Determine the Use of your spaces

Cost: $0

Depending on the room and the activities to be held, each household space can have different lighting requirements.

Spaces such as the Living, Bedroom and Washroom are typically comfortable in moderate lighting (200 to 300 lux), whereas task-oriented spaces such as Kitchen countertops and/or Home Office spaces will require higher lighting levels (500 to 800 lux).

To determine the Lux of a space, download and use the free SMART app called Lux Meter. It is available on the Apple App store.

3) Determine the amount of Glazed elements in your spaces

Cost: $0

Windows, skylights and doors with side-lights are glazed elements that allow light into a space.

By considering point (2) above with respect to the glazed elements in each household room, an overall lighting strategy becomes easier to determine.

4) Determine the Interior Width and Height of your spaces

Cost: $50 (Laser Distance Measure)

Purchase a Laser Distance Measure and measure the Width and Height of your illuminated spaces.

A lofty space with high ceilings (10’ or more) can expect daylight to penetrate deeper into it than one with 9’ of ceiling height.

Similarly, spaces that are wider than they are tall will receive a larger spread of light into the space than a narrower one.

5) Determine the Environment outside your spaces

Cost: $0

If your home is surrounded by neighboring buildings that are made of highly reflective materials or paints (i.e. metal panels or a white-coloured building), your space will obtain extra illumination due to the bouncing of light from these outside surfaces coming in.

On the contrary, if your home is surrounded by darker, non-reflective materials of buildings (i.e. darker-coloured stones or paints), or if there are canopies, trees or terrace adjacent to space, your room will be shaded and will thus be darker instead.

6) Determine the Interior Finishes of your spaces

Cost: $0

As per (5) above, the same principles apply but for your interior spaces.

By being cognizant of material finishes and their reflective qualities, one may potentially find ways to leverage this illumination strategy when additional lux is needed deeper into a space.