What are the Different Types of Lighting Systems?

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Proper lighting can have a vital influence on how you feel in a space, and each space may call for different lighting demands. A good lighting setup blends different kinds of lighting to create an ambient space where you can easily work or relax.

There are three basic types of lighting you should layer in your space:

  • Ambient lighting
  • Accent lighting
  • Task lighting

Let’s take a look at these three types:

Ambient/General Lighting:

types of lighting-ambient lighting

Ambient or general lighting is a fundamental part of a good lighting plan because it provides an overall luminosity to a room. Apart from setting the tone for space, ambient lighting creates enough light for you to see and move around comfortably and safely. In a few cases, ambient lighting can also be switched into task lighting.

Ambient lighting is usually designed using overhead fixtures such as recessed pot lights, track lights, chandeliers and other ceiling lamps, or stand-alone fixtures like floor and table lamps.

Also read: The Complete Guide to Photography Lighting

Accent Lighting:

types of lighting-accent lighting

By design, accent lighting creates a focal point/forms a major attraction in your space. It builds upon the ambient lighting of a room by adding dimension and can be used to draw attention, say, for instance, to highlight a piece of artwork or a plant, or to highlight a unique design elements such as a wall texture or decorative coving.

To add drama and effectively draw the attention of a viewer, accent lighting should direct at least three times the light when compared to the rest of the room or your living space towards the focal point. Accent lighting, when designed well, draws your attention to the object or feature without having to worry/think about how it’s being lit. Accent lighting is usually designed through the track and recessed lighting or wall-mounted fixtures, like picture lights and wall sconces, which can be angled and directed to create a spotlight.

When lighting your favourite artwork, it’s better to go with LEDs. They don’t emit UV light and emit minimal heat, ensuring your painting or photograph doesn’t get damaged over time. 

Task Lighting:

task lighting

Task lighting by its name, is meant to help you accomplish your tasks. Task lighting provides you with different light bulbs to choose from, allowing you the opportunity to adjust the lighting for a workspace or chosen area and brighten or dim it to suit your needs. Effective task lighting needs to diminish glare and should be bright enough to prevent eye strain, making it ideal for activities like, reading, cooking, crafts and hobbies, studying and work.

There are a variety of factors that go into choosing the right task lighting, including what activity or work you need it for, and even your age factor plays an important role while choosing. For instance, as people grow old, they need more light to perform their daily tasks and they become more sensitive to glare. So, choosing proper task lighting is crucial. Depending on the mentioned factors, a beneficial task light should provide about 269 to 1076 lumens, or 40 to 100 watts, to a workspace.

Task lighting can be designed using a variety of light sources, including overhead sources such as recessed lighting or track lighting, as well as a desk or task lamps. Having said that, task lamps should be adjustable or angled down to keep the light on the task and away from your eyes. They should also be placed beside your workspace to reduce glare and limit shadows.

Also read: 25 Attractive LED Ceiling Lights to Enhance Your Living Room!

Different Types of Lights of a Lighting system:

  • Incandescent lamps
  • Compact fluorescent lamps
  • Halogen lamps
  • Metal Halide Lamps
  • Light Emitting Diode
  • Fluorescent tube
  • Neon lamps
  • High-intensity discharge lamps
  • Low-pressure sodium lamps

Types of Lights:

Incandescent Lights:

incandescent light

Incandescent bulbs are standard bulbs and many people are quite familiar with these bulbs. These incandescent bulbs are available in a broad range of sizes and voltages. An incandescent bulb glows and produces heat when electricity passes through the tungsten filament present inside the bulb. The filament of this bulb is placed either in a mixture of nitrogen gas or in a vacuum. These bulbs are being gradually replaced by LEDs, fluorescent lamps, and other service-based new technologies.

The reason for this is that when this bulb is switched on, the sudden flow of current, energy and heat penetrate the thin areas, which in turn heat up the filament; once the filament heats up, it tends to break and burns out the bulb. Incandescent bulbs can last for 700 – 1000 hours and can also be used with a dimmer. Incandescent bulbs generate steady heat, which is quite good for household applications. The luminous efficiency of the incandescent lamp is about 15 lumens per watt.

Compact Fluorescent Lights(CFLs):


A compact fluorescent lamp is a modern type of light bulb that works as a fluorescent lamp. It contains mercury, which causes difficulties to its disposal. A CFL is designed to replace an Incandescent lamp. Generally, CFLs use less power, produce the same amount of light and have a long lifespan. Most of the compact fluorescent lamps consist of two or three tubular loops. Sometimes they even look quite similar to incandescent bulbs. These lamps cannot be used with dimmers, and usually, they can last for 10,000 hours. The luminous efficiency of a compact fluorescent lamp is about 60 lumens per watt.

Halogen lights:

Halogen light

A halogen lamp consists of a tungsten filament, which is sealed with a compact transparent envelop and filled with inert gas and a small amount of halogen (bromine or iodine). These lamps are smaller than conventional lamps. Halogen increases the lifetime and brightness of the lamps. The luminous efficiency of a halogen lamp is about 25 lumens per watt.


Metal Halide Lights:

metal halide light

Metal halide lamps consist of a discharge tube or arc tube within a bulb. This tube can be made from either ceramic or quartz and contains mercury, MH salts and a starting gas. Metal halide lamps produce a great amount of light for their size, and these lamps are one of the most efficient lamps. These lamps are most commonly used in halls, traffic lights, on stages and in outdoor lighting systems for commercial purposes.

Light Emitting Diode(LED):


An LED lamp is an electrical component that emits light through the movement of electrons in a semiconductor device. It lacks a filament, uses less power and has a long lifespan. LEDs produce more light than incandescent lamps and help save energy in energy-conserving devices. LEDs are usually assembled into a light bulb to be used as a LED lighting system. These diodes can emit light of an intended color without the use of color filters. The initial cost of a LED is generally high and these are used to build electronic projects.

Fluorescent Tube:

fluorescent light

A fluorescent tube is a gas discharge tube that uses fluorescence to produce visible light. The luminous efficiency of a fluorescent tube is about 45 to 100 lumens per watt. Compared with the incandescent bulbs, fluorescent tubes use less power for the same amount of light and are usually more complex and expensive than the incandescent lamps. Fluorescent lamps do not have good color representation ability, but these tubes are cool in appearance and color. Fluorescent tubes can be used in many places around a home, but cannot be used with dimmers.


Neon Lights:

neon lights

A neon lamp is a gas-discharge lamp that contains gas at low pressure. It is assembled by mounting two electrodes within a small glass envelope. Standard brightness bulbs are filled with an argon or neon gas mixture, and high-brightness lamps are filled with pure neon gas. When a voltage is applied, then the gas ionizes and starts to glow allowing a very small current to travel from one electrode to the other electrode. Once the gas ionizes, the operation of the lamp can be maintained at a lower voltage, and the maintaining voltage may vary between 10-20 volts depending on the lamp and operating current.

High-Intensity Discharge Lights:

discharge lights

Metal halide, mercury vapour, self-ballasted-mercury lamps and high-pressure-sodium lamps all are high intensity discharge lamps. These lamps are specially designed with inner glass tubes that include tungsten electrodes with an electrical arc. This inner glass tube is filled with both metals and gas. With the immunity of the self-ballasted lamps, auxiliary equipment (starters and ballasts) must be provided for proper operation of each bulb. These lamps produce a large quantity of light compared to the fluorescent and incandescent lamps. High-intensity-discharge lamps are normally used when high levels of light are required over large areas which include outdoor activity areas, gymnasiums, large public areas, pathways, roadways and parking lots.

Low-Pressure Sodium Lights:

sodium lights

Low-pressure-sodium lamp is the first sodium lamp which has the maximum efficiency than all the other lighting systems. These lamps operate much like a fluorescent lamp and there is a brief heat-up period for the lamp to reach full brightness. Low-pressure sodium lamps are commonly used in places like roads, pathways, outdoor areas and parking lot wherein color is not important as such.


How to Choose the Right Lighting?

With so many options and styles to choose from, selecting the right lighting system for your home requires research to determine exactly what you need. These FAQs will help you choose the best system for your application/requisites.

What’s the right size?

First, assess the size to know how big of a counter lighting system you will need. Most lighting styles can be blended to accommodate various shapes and sizes of spaces. Appropriately measure the amount of space available, as well as any standalone space you plan to illuminate.

What components do you need?

Depending on the space you want to light up, you’ll find there are a variety of different components to do so. Say, for example, if you’re lighting the cabinet, puck lights will be ideal to cast a rounded, centralized amount of light on your countertop lights, as well as elongated light bars that will cover a much larger area. Most lighting fixtures are adjustable to fit within the layouts. The right combination of light fixtures is up to the layout of your space and your own personal aesthetics. You can choose fluorescent fixtures if you can’t afford LED’s, but, LED fixtures are the best choice over the fluorescent fixtures in the long run. Including Xenon bulbs in your set up may also help. Complete kits are available as well so you can get everything set up in one fell swoop. If you have the limitations such as low voltage or want the color rendering and color temperature to be optimal and better, then you can go with halogen bulbs & xenon bulbs.

Why LED’s are the Best Choice for Lighting?

Yes, of course, LED’s are the best choice for all types of lighting. Why because using a light system with LED light sources will guarantee you the brightness you want in task areas like the kitchen and you’ll likely never have to replace the fixtures (most LEDs have a 25+ year life expectancy). However, other lighting systems can be used with light sources including incandescent bulbs and xenon bulbs.

How bright lighting fixtures should be?

This brightness of light fixtures is measured in lumens and the Kelvin temperature of the light. The higher the Kelvin (typically expressed in K), the whiter the light and the higher the lumen output, the brighter it will be. You can choose LED lights as they have high light intensity with low heat output. They are better than the Incandescent bulbs, halogen and xenon bulbs.

Can you dim light fixtures?

Absolutely yes! Place your new light fixtures on a dimmer switch to effectively control the mood of your space. When combined with overhead lighting in the space, you’ll have no trouble creating the perfect ambience you want. As an add on, you can use the fluorescent strip lights and go with the xenon lighting too. For the lower heat output and better dimming, use of LED lights will be more appropriate than traditional incandescent lighting and halogen lighting.

Installation: Which to Install – Hardwired or Plugged In?

Once you know the different fixtures you want to fit your system with, you need to decide how the system will receive power. In most cases, you will need to hardwire the fixtures into your existing electrical output. However, some button lights and light bars can simply plug into the nearest power outlet. 

Counter illumination from accent lights should only be one element of your overall lighting design. Look to additional fixtures to light up your space with. Ambient lighting can be comprised of pendants, island lighting, wall sconces and a ceiling fan if you need to keep air moving around the room. And as another form of accent lighting, consider picture lights for the living room and dining room. Picture and display lights are great ways of drawing attention to works of art and creating new layers of illumination in the home.

Also read: 20 Best Dining Room Light Fixtures – Chandeliers & Pendant Lights

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