The right lighting can make a world of difference, especially if you spend long hours in front of a computer. But there's more to choosing the best lights for your home office than you might think.
The Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has launched the first interactive website to help people choose the right light bulbs, fixtures and controls for every room in the house, including ones with computers. Lighting Patterns for Homes uses realistic photos created from 3D modeling software that show several lighting options from simple bulb replacement to new fixtures for those interested in a bigger project.
The site also includes an interactive economic calculator to determine how much money you can save with a new lighting design, along with initial costs and how long it will take for your investment to pay for itself.
The researchers recognize that not everyone has their computer stashed away in a room of its own, and therefore suggests visitors also look at other rooms that may be more similar to the room where the family does most of its computing. [Read also: 5 Computer Spring-Cleaning Tips You Haven't Heard ]
Here's how to get started:
- Go to the site and select "Rooms." Start with Home Office to understand how lighting around a computer is different from that of other rooms. For instance, ambient lighting, such as light from overhead fixtures, should be less bright than elsewhere and should be augmented with a task light near the computer, positioned to the left of a right-handed person and vice versa.
- The site offers five lighting scenarios for the home office , ordered from left to right by the amount of effort required for each. Start on the left with the base case and work your way up to more elaborate lighting projects.
- Understand lighting lingo. Relamp means replacing light bulbs or replacing a plug-in fixture, such as a desk lamp. Rewiring requires an electrician to replace or remove a hardwired lighting fixture and install an alternate one. Remodel refers to an installation that will require both a carpenter and an electrician, such as installing recessed lighting.
- Use the calculator to estimate the cost of your project, savings and payback period. Most of the values contain a default figure, such as the cost per kilowatt of electricity and the hours the light will be lit, which you can adjust. Labor must be filled in by you.
- If you just want a quick estimate, check the listing under each option, which will tell you the lumens (measured brightness in the room) each plan will provide and the rough cost of electricity for a year. If you added the task lighting shown in the fourth option, you'd gain 4.5 times the lumens and save a few dollars each year.
While you're mulling your options, you can save energy today, simply by replacing standard bulbs with LED or CFL bulbs, which are compact fluorescent bulbs that are spiral-shaped tubes about the same size as a regular bulb.
"Start by replacing the lights that are on for long periods of time and use the most power. In most homes," LRC said. "This means first replacing the primary lights in the kitchen, living room, and dining room, which are on for an average of three hours each day." However, heavy computer users may want to start in the office.
Lighting Patterns for Homes can be accessed from any computer or Web-enabled mobile device at http://www.lrc.rpi.edu/patternbook. No registration is necessary to use the site.