Ugh, lighting mess in kitchen... need help/ideas

maybeiloveyouJuly 27, 2011

We removed our huge flourescent light and replaced it with two track lights. We wanted something warm to bring out the color of the wood and paint, but now everything is a little too yellow. The yellow-ness we can live with, what we can't is the fact that there are shadows EVERYWHERE. And that the kitchen constantly looks like it's night - regardless of the time of day!

Kitchen with flourescent lighting

Kitchen with two track lights

The picture doesn't do the lighting justice - it's pretty bad! We don't know where to go from here. Should we add recessed lighting to complement the track lights? 4 or 6 cans? I think 4 would be enough as it's a small kitchen, but will it overcome the intense shadowing/darkness?

I believe recessed lighting will require us to have a new electrical box installed and a new switch because the two that work in the kitchen are being used by the two track lights.

We can also get undercabinet lighting, but don't know if that will be enough to combat the shadowing/darkness if we don't get recessed lighting installed.

Any help is appreciated! We genuinely are baffled as to where to go next.

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The quick fix would be to try higher output bulbs.

The better solution would be to estimate the total amount of light required say 35 lumens per sq ft and multiplying it by the area of the kitchen. Eg- 35 x 10 x 12 = 4200.

Assuming all recessed and a light output per lamp of 600 lumens the total required is 7.

Assuming t8 fluorescent and ~2500 lumens output per tube (down-rated), you need a 2 tube troffer/ fixture.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 10:42AM
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I don't know what kind of lights you can add, or where to put them really, but I do know that you won't need to add another switch to control them. Just tie into the existing power from the overhead lighting, allowing all the light to be controlled by just one switch.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 11:06AM
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Thanks for the advice bsspewer and davidtay! The track fixture says that it can take 50w (max) bulbs, which are already in there. They are halogen and we can switch them to LED, but I don't think that would help much, and at ~$25 per light, it might just be more economical to go the recessed lighting route.

The kitchen is roughly 9 x 10, so 3150 lumens would be required. Right now we have 8 50w halogen bulbs. I think they're flood lights. Am I correct in assuming that technically we do have enough lumens to light the space we have, it's just that the lighting source is creating weird shadows/darkness? Will 4 recessed lights combat that problem?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 11:20AM
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There might be enough lighting currently, depending on the installed lights (PAR or ?).

The decision on having a second switch depends on how you would like to control the lights.
4 recessed cans may not necessarily resolve the issue. Traditional recessed cans take PAR type lights which will produce light cones. Standard A lamp or CFL bulbs in recessed cans don't do well either as the cans trap light and produce quite a bit of glare.

The LED retrofit modules (eg - Cree LR6, CR6) are much better - no glare and less light trapped.

I would re-think the lighting plan first before putting in cans to make sure that nothing looks strange.

Possibilities (assuming that surface mounted t8 fixtures have been ruled out)
1. All recessed cans
2. Cove lighting + recessed cans
3. Suspended central fixture + some cans

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 12:27PM
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There might be enough lighting currently, depending on the installed lights (PAR or ?).

I don't understand what this means...?

We would ideally like to keep the two fixtures mounted already. The idea would be to put 4 cans (roughly in the corners, but spaced to account for lighting/cabinets/counters). Or we can remove the middle light and make it 5 cans.

I guess the cheapest option would be to go back to the fluorescent tubes we had before in the center. Aesthetically, this is our least favorite option.

Btw, thanks for all your help - I really appreciate it!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 2:46PM
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Lights come in different sizes. For halogen track they're typically PAR30, PAR20, PAR38, etc. It's the size of the bulb and can affect lighting characteristics.

Halogens, even in a flood bulb still has a fairly direct lighting characteristics. David's recommendations of switching to LED would probably help a bit. If LED's aren't in your budget you can try incandescent bulbs (California title 24 restrictions?) as they can provide less harsh shadows. It might be worth a try (and return if it doesn't work out).

If you're going to try recessed you'll probably want to make an aerial diagram. You'll also need to think about access and studs as they'll play a heavy role in where you can place them.

Under cabinet lighting can help with shadows on the counter top areas.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 3:43PM
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I think the initial suggestions of everyone are based on one assumption: that you will have more sources of light.

They will be closer to the counters and walls. You put strong light in the middle of your ceiling. Can you move it over

New fluorescent tubes can produce good light these days. Nobody knows what you had before. T12, T8, T5, etc. (Web search these terms + fluorescent, before asking what they are).

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 4:19PM
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I have no clue what kind of fluorescent we had before, unfortunately. We tossed everything when we put in the new lights. All I know is that there were two fluorescent tubes within the fixture.

We can afford LEDs, but at ~$25 x 8, it is going to be roughly $200. Is it worth it to switch out to LEDs or would it be more practical to add new lights (recessed or otherwise)?

Sorry about this, I can't figure out what kind of PAR light mine is even after googling a bit. I took pictures, hopefully it's identifiable:

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 5:56PM
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You need a lighting plan for your kitchen. Most people don't think much about lighting. I know I never did.

check out this GE website.


Here is a link that might be useful: ge lighting

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 6:36PM
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Best solution would be Recessed lighting. 4" Cans would look really nice in the space you have in your kitchen. You can use LED or standard incandescent. LED is great since the energy savings are huge, and no maintenance. I have used LED in many rebuilds, and I love brand LED recessed.

Here is a link that might be useful: 4

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 7:04PM
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Those are MR16 GU10 base lights that are more commonly used for highlighting pieces of art and not general lighting.

Before you run out to purchase something, think through the plan.

Points/ Suggestions

The internal structures in your ceiling will have an impact on the feasibility of recessed lighting.

4" cans will not produce as much light as 6" cans and potentially cost more.

For 6" cans using Sylvania RT6 or Cree LR6/ CR6, you can get by with 5 - 6.

Modern T8 type box lights/ troffers are not all that bad unless you have a requirement to not have anything on the ceiling.

If you do want to consider troffers, you might want to look at the CREE CR24 series - look different.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 8:04PM
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I know I have said this a lot, but thank you for all your help. The GE link is very helpful. I did go to the store today to look at lighting options. I definitely like the look of the Cree LED lights.

Can I swap the current lights for something that will provide more light but that is not as expensive as LEDs?

As far as internal structures, we live in a condo and other units have installed recessed lighting. I don't know much about what they have and where it's placed, but I do know that it is possible.

I agree that I need to really sit down and figure out how the lights are going to work. Blindly (har har) going into this obviously is not working!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 11:11PM
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Unfortunately, the choices are rather limited for GU10 base lights.

The cheapest option right now is to install a surface mount T8 fluorescent fixture.

However, if in the event that it is possible to fit recessed lights into the budget and still desirable to do
1. Would it be possible to copy another unit's recessed lighting layout?
2. Recessed light install costs per can run ~ $100 or so, depending on your location.
3. If you're subject to energy efficiency laws such as title 24, your options are limited to either CFL cans or cans with the GU24 base instead of the E26 (edison base). The LED module must be energy star qualified which rules out a large number of LED modules.
4. CFL can with the integrated ballast + bulb + trim costs ~ the same as a LED lamp + can.
5. Right now energy star qualified LED modules (e.g. - LR6/ CR6) outperform CFL, LED A lamps and incandescent bulbs in recessed cans.
6. The Cree modules (CR6/LR6) are dimmable.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 12:58AM
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    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 7:40AM
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davidtay - 1. Possibly. I will go and ask the other units if I can see their lighting layout.

6. If we go the recessed lighting route, most likely we are going to use the Cree lights. They had a display at the store I went to and I liked the look, light output, and dimming ability.

Thanks for all your help!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 2:01PM
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