What's wrong with fluorescent lighting?

eleenaMarch 8, 2013

I know that recessed lighting is commonly used for general lighting in kitchens. We have recessed lighting in the living room and the master bedroom and I dislike it. IMO, it may work with 8' ceiling but it is just not *enough* with 9' or higher ceiling. Well, yes, I can see what's around but I cannot read anything with that light and have to turn a floor lamp on or go to another room.

The kitchen "came" with two long fluorescent lights sitting under the ceiling, another fluorescent light (hidden behind a semi-transparent plastic panel) over the sink, and a pathetic light bulb over the cooktop. The breakfast room had a chandelier that I replaced with a pendant.

I have never felt light-deprived in the kitchen. I am one of those people who do NOT dislike fluorescent lighting.

IDK why I have thought all this time that I could take care of lighting later. My remodel is happening very fast right now (knock on wood) and I need to tell the electrician what to do on Monday.

*Everyone* is telling me I need can lighting for my new remodel. I think I am going to have 2 cans over the cooktop and one over the "recessed" pantry. The pendant over the breakfast table stays. Would it be terrible if I left fluorescent lights in the middle of the kitchen and just replaced the ugly shades with nicer ones?


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My guess is fluorescent lighting will go away in time. They contain heavy metals and hard to dispose of properly.
That being said - our closet has fluorescent tubes as does our basement. I will leave in place until I need to swap those out. Florescent lights have a habit of getting into resonance with other 60cpm items and can have a flicker which is not visible to all. They can also cause things to flicker - I had a computer monitor at work and it had the flicker problem - not all could see it, but I could and it drove me crazy. They finally admitted a problem and replaced all of the monitors with flat screen versions(obviously, years ago)
The new LED can lights are nice. They are bright and should not buzz (unless you have a defective switch - which we had one).

This is your chance to upgrade - I would do it now while the work is in progress. Definitely put dimmers on your new lights if you decide to upgrade.

Good luck in your decision.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 8:52AM
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Oh, my!

I think I am in trouble now, LOL.

If I need to get the lights before Monday, I am not sure it is doable.

However, these lights are in the middle of the room and probably can be left for after cabinet install.

Related question.

How much does it cost to install an LED can?

One of the reasons I did not want to do was the cost somebody quoted me. However, a KD told me it was unreasonable and I should get another quote.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 10:27AM
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I personally don't like fluorescents because the color is "cold" and because they hum sometimes, plus they can take a while to warm up. We ended up using fluorescents as our undercabinet light in the DR because we didn't want to invest in LEDs for that space, and it's been fine. In the kitchen we put regular 6" cans in the ceiling - these will take either incandescent bulbs or fluorescent bulbs. The neat thing is that there are LED cans that can be installed in place of the bulb you're using.

In 2010 when we were remodeling LEDs were not available as recessed lighting for the ceiling. I'm happy with my incandescents for now and hope to be able to afford the LED replacement cans in the future (they were about $80/can in 2010).

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 10:34AM
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You can get LED lamps at Home Depot that fit in (most) standard 6" cans. They're self trimming so you don't have to buy the "finishing piece" for the can. Or, you can use flourescents with the Edison base. Or regular incandescents.

I love my LED cans and they weren't expensive - the cans at HD are made in China now :-( and cost $30ish/each but they are just as good as the American made ones that used to cost $90/each.

I paid the going rate for my cans and then installed the bulbs myself. I will say that my electrician quoted me $1500 to install undercabinet LED lights. Umm, no. I bought the bar (hafele bali) for $250 and the transformer for $80. Then I installed the clips, drilled a hole in the bottom of the cabinets and plugged the transformer in. All I ended up paying for was the install of a standard outlet inside an upper cabinet. The bar didn't work when I first put it in place, and I did have the electrician troubleshoot it, but it turned out that the bar was damaged in shipping. The company replaced it.

They will try to take advantage when they hear LED - I'm not sure why. But get multiple quotes.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 10:49AM
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Thank you!

Yes, I understand why people dislike fluorescents. I don't like the ones at work either.

But - for some strange reason - those in the kitchen don't bother me, even the humming and the flickering. Perhaps, because they are so high above. And they do not project that "cold" feeling. I guess I really like how much light they provide - compared to my useless cans.

There is another reason I don't like cans. I cannot explain it but I just don't like seeing any "holes" in the ceiling.

It was not the price of the can that put me off, it was the installation. Yes, I know it depends on the area, but knowing what it costs in different areas would help me get a "feel" for it.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 10:56AM
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"My guess is fluorescent lighting will go away in time. They contain heavy metals and hard to dispose of properly. "

You should see what comes out of a semiconductor factory (like the ones making LEDs).

They ALL rely on ultra pure water.

Guess what happens to everything they remove from the water? Down the drain.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 10:57AM
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Put a ceiling mounted fixture in the center. A combination of lighting is best. With cans make sure the baffles are white and you will notice them less.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 11:07AM
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What I mean by "cold" lighting became really important when our designer pointed out how much $$ we were spending on surface treatments - countertop, backsplash, cabinet finish - and how the bluish light from a fluorescent changes the way the colors of your kitchen appears. I like the full spectrum of the incandescents and LEDs much more because I enjoy the colors I chose for my kitchen.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 11:33AM
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Our undercabinet lights are currently fluorescent in forty year old cabinets. No hmm, but do not find the light easy to work from, not sharp enough, so am thinking led.

gwlwplrs- "I paid the going rate for my cans and then installed the bulbs myself. I will say that my electrician quoted me $1500 to install undercabinet LED lights. Umm, no. I bought the bar (hafele bali) for $250 and the transformer for $80. Then I installed the clips, drilled a hole in the bottom of the cabinets and plugged the transformer in. All I ended up paying for was the install of a standard outlet inside an upper cabinet"

Recently, I was told EACH cabinet had to have it's own standard outlet per code by a GC for leds. I'm going to have to call our town code and followup on this.

Where about did you drill the cabinet hole for the transformer, and was it on each cabinet?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 12:53PM
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For our UCL lights, the transformer is in the basement and they are all on one outlet. Our town codes are strict, so don't know why they would require an outlet per cabinet - that seems extreme - have fun hunting.

Eleena - good luck on your decision. We put in cans and decorative lighting. I never really liked cans until we had the LEDs - the fluorescent and incandescents just bugged me.

I don't know what it is about the LEDs that make me feel good.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 1:06PM
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SparklingWater, I have one long, single LED bar. It spans two uppers and the driver is inside the solid door cabinet. The "plug" for the LED bar itself is tiny - I don't remember which drill bit I used...maybe 3/8"?. I wish I had drilled it closer to the back of the cabinet, but I just hide the wire with canned goods :-) You can't see anything about the lights at all from the outside.

I can't imagine why you would have to have an outlet in every cabinet. They use almost no power at all.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 1:16PM
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Eleena - look at plllog's kitchen reveal. She used fluorescents with theatrical gels in the covers to warm the light.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 9:58PM
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There are a number of sizes, (ie. output), of transformers which enables you to power several fixtures.
I use conductors close to the color of the inside of the cabinets and using a cold glue gun attach them to a rear corner so they do not interfere with the shelf placement.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 10:14PM
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There are different colors of fluorescent bulbs, too, which will make a big difference in the effect of the light. We have fluorescents in our kitchen because it is required by code where we live; with the right color, it's fine (and most people think the fixtures incandescent, which I find funny--we have period fixtures with special bulb bases). I didn't want cans because we have an old house and I wanted to keep the kitchen vaguely period appropriate. The main thing, in my view, is to balance the light (be it different types of fixtures or natural vs. artificial light).

Our fluorescents don't hum, though some do take a few seconds to warm up. We actually are in the middle of rewiring other rooms, and discovered one of the fixtures that the PO had put up that I assumed was incandescent was fluorescent--who knew! So it really just depends on the bulb and fixture, in my experience.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 12:03AM
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eleena, debrak is right. Use a well-designed and appropriate (for your room) surface mounted fixture to augment the cans to provide ambient light. Despite their growing popularity, cans are really and ideally meant to be task lighting - not ambient lighting - and people who really like good lighting don't tend to like relying on cans for general illumination.

Recessed/cans fixtures became popular as a builders choice borrowed from the shops because - compared to really good fixtures - they are extremely inexpensive. They are really effective used the way you're talking about - to provide down lighting in specific task areas. They're not good for general illumination of the room the way natural daylight provides and simply will never be because they can not illuminate the surfaces that are most impactful to you for perceiving a room to be well-lit - the ceilings and walls. They can't do that because the light-source is recessed so when you look into a room illuminated with recessed fixtures, you see super-bright pin-pricks of light in a dark surface - the ceiling. And you see uber-lit floors to boot with those dark ceilings and often dark walls. If you play much with cameras, you know that NONE of the above is good for providing good all-over illumination when you want to comfortably look at a scene - not just focus on a surface below the light source.

You seem to have the same yen for illumination that I do and have the same agitation with the absence of general illumination that I do. Do you have the time to speak to a good lighting designer to help you choose good ambient sources to augment your cans? They can help you loads with choosing fixtures for your room shape that can get you good ceiling illumination and the wall-wash for the geometry of your room. Won't be inexpensive but you'll have good lighting and will probably be one of the most effective changes you will make in regards comfort level in your room. I know it did for me!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 6:57AM
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I can't live with fluorescent lighting. The flicker is visible and always looks like a stobe light to me with very unpleasant sensations. Since CA now requires kitchen lights to be LED or fluorescent, the lighting store suggested I have my doctor verify that I was in that 15% who cannot tolerate working with fluorescents.
My doctor explained to me that the fluorescent flickering can trigger migraines and even seizures in some people.
So for resale, you might consider something other than fluorescents.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 9:59AM
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Fluorescent lighting with modern electronic ballast does not flicker. I am super-sensitive to flicker; we have a 4-tube fitting in our kitchen that is no problem at all. It also switches on instantly.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 3:22PM
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Modern electronic fluorescent lights are not the same as those old-fashioned fat tubes you had in elementary school. High quality fluorecent bulbs make a nice, diffuse light without flickering or buzzing. Look for one that has a "color" that is 2700K and you will have a hard time distinguishing fluorescent from incandescent. I had the opposite experience from several posters above. I was surprised when one of my "CFL" bulbs burned out shortly after I installed it. I opened the fixture and discovered that I still had an incandescent bulb in it. The color was identical.

That being said, I'm switching over to LEDs in the new house. Right now I'm looking at a row of the Cree retrofit cans that are not far from an incandescent that I can't reach. The LEDs use 9.5W and are brighter than the dingy 65W incandescent. The seven cans in my kitchen use as much power as one of the old bulbs. Why should I give my hard earned money to the power company?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 10:58PM
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Thank you so much everyone!

Talked to KD on Friday who suggested can placement. That is 12 cans! IDK about you, but I wouldn't call it "inexpensive".

Again, I hate fluorescents in many other places as they make my eyes very tired but not in my kitchen. These either do not hum or I don't here it.

I need more help from you. (Ever heard of a good deed not going unpunished? LOL)

Could you please suggest a few good ceiling mounted fixtures?

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 4:23PM
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Pallet & Palette

To start with, the existing cans in your other rooms that you don't like can most likely be dramatically improved with different bulbs. When a ceiling gets that high, I recommend using narrow spot lights. Not flood lights, which at that height are pretty useless. Make sure it says Narrow Spot on the little box.
For you kitchen the same holds true. It matters which bulb you use. The good ones all seem to be about $8 each at Home Depot and Lowes doesn't seem to carry them. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 6:31PM
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Thank you, Trentsteff!

I'll be stopping by HD soon!

That would definitely help with the existing lights.

I still want to consider fluorescent fixtures if I can find some that are nice and modern looking.

So, any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 5:18PM
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You can try the major lighting sites--you can sort by type of light (or, where it's an option, you can check "Title 24 compliant" and you'll get fixtures that meet California's efficiency standards, which are often fluorescent).

There are also companies like Rejuvenation and Schoolhouse Electric that will fit any fixture with a fluorescent base--they do not tend to be modern in style, but they have some that might work. We have used both companies and like both a lot. We also have 9' ceilings and used semi-flush mount fluorescent fixtures for general lighting with incandescent pendants for task lighting; it worked out really nicely. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 6:23PM
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Lithonia makes a lot of fluorescent fixtures. I have two of their ceiling fixtures with four 4' T8 tubes each providing the bulk of kitchen light.

Modern fluorescent lighting really is completely unlike the older tubes, with no flicker, instant-on, and a range of color temperatures. It's still the most cost-effective and efficient way to get a lot of lumens into a room.

Can lighting is good for additional over-counter task lighting, but it's not a good way to fill space with duffuse light.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 8:47PM
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Look for fluorescent tubes with a high CRI (Color Rendering Index) - those give the most pleasing light in my experience.

Here is a link that might be useful: Color Rendering Index

    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 3:25PM
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