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Everything You Need To know About Bathroom Lighting

By Andrew Fraser on 02.05.2019 in Bathroom Lighting, Scotlight Direct , , , , , , , ,

Appropriate lighting is important in every room of the house, but it’s particularly vital in the bathroom. Choose the colour temperature of lamp bulb and you’ll get your skin tone all wrong when applying makeup. Place your fixtures in the wrong place and you’ll be shaving your beard in the dark. 

Vanity aside, bathrooms are becoming increasingly larger, more elaborate and stylish. Often, a variety of bathroom fixtures are needed to light the room properly: recessed downlights for the bathroom provide overhead illumination, mirror sconces for shaving and lit makeup mirrors for applying cosmetics.

Clearly, there’s more to consider than most people think when it comes to bathroom lights. So where do you start?

Various Types of Lighting For The Bathroom

Types of Bathroom Lighting

Before we delve into the specifics of where and how to place your fixtures, let’s take a look at the different types and functions of bathroom light fittings.

Task Lighting

Task lighting is the name given to lights designed to increase illuminance in order to enable people to better achieve a particular task – like shaving. Many different styles of task lighting can be found in the bathroom, including:

Vanity Lighting

Bathrooms are, let’s face it, a place for vanity. With large mirrors, razor-charging sockets and sinks, the bathroom is the go-to room in the house when it comes to making ourselves look good. It only makes sense that we start by talking about vanity lighting.

Vanity lighting is most commonly used to light the head and face for grooming and also known as bathroom wall lights

Such fixtures are often seen on or around mirrors – but should not be fitted above a mirror. 

Overhead lights installed above mirrors or as recessed fixtures in the ceiling cast shadows on the face, making tasks like applying makeup and shaving very difficult.

Your best bet is to opt for vertical fixtures or sconces, which cast light evenly across the head. These can be fitted either side of a mirror and placed around 36-40 inches apart, approximately 66 inches up at eye level.

Wattage for Task Lighting in Master Bathrooms

When it comes to choosing the right wattage or lumen output for task lighting in master rooms, your best bet is to ‘opt for fixtures that provide 75-100 watts’ worth of illumination’, according to lighting designer Randall Whitehead. This is equivalent to 1125lm – 1500lm.

Wattage for Task Lighting in the Powder Room

In powder rooms, wattage or lumens can be much lower. Whitehead says that 45-watts or 600 lumens should suffice, providing softer and more relaxed lighting for guests 

A Summary Guide Of Bathroom Lighting Advice

Shower/Bath Lighting

The next area in which you may find task lighting is in the shower/bathtub. This isn’t always necessary, as shower units with glass doors will usually receive adequate lighting from the rest of the room. In larger bathrooms, however, light often doesn’t reach these areas.

If you do need to use shower lighting, we recommend sticking with a recessed fixture that has a glass lens and is IP67 rated. You can read more regarding IP ratings later on in this blog post. 

Your shower/tub lights should also be ‘wet’ or ‘shower location’ rated, meaning that they’re designed to protect electrical components from water damage. Such lights are usually fitted with a rubber gasket and glass diffuser, which work to keep water out. 

For wider beams, opt for fixtures with dome diffusers.

Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting serves as a substitute for natural light and is usually placed in the center of a ceiling. Examples of ambient lighting fixtures suitable for the bathroom include recessed lighting, pendant lamps, flush fittings, and cove lighting which is a great way to create a lovely ambience in your bathroom.

Accent Lighting

Accent lights can be implemented in a bathroom to accentuate particular features, like artwork. 

Recessed directional lighting fixtures, for example, can be angled to focus illumination on specific areas of the room and draw attention to them.

Decorative Lighting

Incorporating pendant bathroom fittings and sconces can bring style to your bathroom, adding a sense of luxury and grandeur. This is known as decorative lighting.

Nighttime Lighting

As the bathroom is often used late at night, it’s critical that you provide some light – but not too much. Excessive light exposure in the evening can impact the sleep-wake cycle, making it difficult to fall back to sleep.

A 5-watt or similar LED nightlight can be perfect for lighting a bathroom at night. LED strip lights, motion sensing lights and even fixtures fitted behind toilet seats can be perfect for lighting your bathroom softly at night. 

Putting it All Together

There’s a lot to take in, and it can be pretty difficult to know which lights to use and where. Your best bet is to put several different lighting styles together to create a diverse, attractive look and feel in your bathroom.

Incorporating lights like bathroom wall lights on large mirrors and mixing these with recessed downlights or bathroom spotlights can provide evenly-spread, ambient lighting suitable for all moods. Be sure to incorporate night lighting, too, to avoid causing disturbances late at night.

Try planning out the lighting arrangements in your bathroom, mixing and matching a variety of lights, fixtures, and styles to suit your preferences.

Selecting The Best Lamp Bulbs

Choosing Your Lamp Bulbs

After deciding on where in your bathroom you’d like to install fixtures, the next step is to choose your bulbs. 

LED Bulbs

Crisp, white light is the most popular choice when it comes to bathroom lighting as it renders skin tones with the highest accuracy. Popular colour temperature for bathrooms are between 4000k – 6500k. When purchasing your LED lamp bulbs you will have the choice to choose what colour temperature you prefer. 

Previously, halogen bulbs were widely used to achieve this. It has since been found, however, that other bulbs like LEDs are much more efficient. Halogen bulbs may last for an average of 2 years, while LEDs can last for 15-20 years

For this reason, halogen bulbs are being phased out of distribution due to new EU regulations

Though some halogen bulbs can still be purchased, we highly recommend opting for LEDs. These provide adequate illumination and last much longer than other bulb varieties. LEDs can also be purchased in a variety of colors and tones and also come with warranties from 3-5 years depending on the manufacturer. 

Some lighting fixtures come fitted with LED lamp bulbs already, making them a convenient choice. If yours don’t, simply purchase the fixtures that suit your preferences and add the most suitable LEDs for you. 

Dimmable LED Lamp Bulbs  

Next on the list are dimmable lamps. These are the most flexible variety of lamp bulb, providing complete control over the intensity of each light. 

Dimmable LEDs are ideal for bathrooms as they can be adjusted to suit all moods – bright lights for vanity purposes, softer hues for night time, and anything in-between. Dimmable LED lamp bulbs are especially good for bathroom spotlights or flush bathroom fittings

Not only that, but dimmable lights are great at conserving energy, allowing you to use only as much light as is required. A bulb kept just 10% dimmer can last for twice as long as a bulb used at full intensity. 

Today, dimmer switches can work for all kinds of light sources and lamp bulbs, though it’s important that you know what you’re looking for. Research your particular fixtures and lamp bulbs to find out exactly which type of dimmer switch you’ll need to work with your chosen lights. 

A Note On Safety

Whichever bulb type you opt for, the most important factor to consider is safety. Bathrooms are very wet environments, and water and electricity don’t mix well. 

Before making any changes to the circuitry in your bathroom, it’s vital that you consult with a licensed electrician to ensure that your choices are safe. 

A Guide to LED Lamp Bulb Choices Available for Your Bathroom
A Guide To IP Ratings

IP Ratings: 

As bathrooms are very wet environments, it’s important to ensure that your bulbs are appropriately IP-Rated in order to protect them from water damage. 

IP ratings measure the degree of protection provided against water intrusion with electrical enclosures.

The specific rating required will vary between different areas in the bathroom, which can be split into zones.

Zone 0: This is inside the bath/shower itself. Fixtures in this zone must be low voltage (no more than 12v) and rated at least IP67, which is total immersion proof.

Zone 1: Above the bath or shower (to a height of 2.25m), fixtures should have a minimum IP rating of IP45 –  IP65 is also suitable and widely used instead of IP45

Zone 2: At least 0.6m outside of the perimeter of the bath and to a height of 2.25m, fixtures must have an IP rating of IP44

Outside zones: Although there are no specific requirements for this zone, it is advised that your fixtures have a minimum IP rating of IP20+.

A Guide To IP Ratings
Expert Tips On How To Light Your Bathroom In A Stylish Way

 How to Light Your Bathroom: Tips for a Stylish Design

Next up – tips, tricks and best practices for lighting your bathroom as stylishly as possible. 

Start With the Ceiling and Vanity Lights 

When fitting your lights, it’s a good idea, to begin with ceiling and wall lights before working your way down. Both of these provide general overhead illumination. Once they’re in, you can evaluate which other areas need lighting before adding extra fixtures.

You may wish to illuminate your bathtub, shower, incorporate strip lighting underneath cabinets and wall-washing recessed fixtures. By implementing full-room lights first, you’ll better be able to gauge where else to add lamp bulbs and avoid over-lighting the room.

Use Layers of Light

Multiple layers of light from a range of different sources can make a bathroom appear far more attractive. Just as artists use a variety of colors and textures to create a theme, so, too, should you experiment with various lights to improve the look and feel in your bathroom.

Using combinations of ambient, task and accent lighting will create an artistic effect, making your bathroom look stylish and modern. 

Think of a Spa 

 Accent lighting can help to add a spa-like feeling to your bathroom. As Ben Rousseau of Rousseau Design writes, “It helps you relax and sets the tone for winding down, or getting ready to dress up.”

Accent lighting can mean a range of things. Wall niches can be fitted with artistic recessed downlights, low-level lights can be installed in series at skirting level, and light sources can be hidden underneath or behind vanity mirrors to add an elegant look to your bathroom.

To add a real magical spa-like quality to your bathroom, you can add 1-watt uplights or also known as a mini LED ground light. These make the perfect nightlights creating a warm and relaxing atmosphere. 

Ground Lights That Wash Bathrooms
Mini LED Ground Lighting In Bathroom

Not Too Much, Not Too Little

It’s very easy to over-do bathroom lighting, popping in a tonne of can lights in an attempt to make sure the room is bright enough. Equally, under-lighting a bathroom can provide the opposite effect, making tasks like grooming and washing incredibly difficult. 

It’s important to strike a balance between these two extremes, incorporating just enough lights to suit your preferences. Dimmer lights are a great way to provide both intense and soft lighting, allowing you to make the best of both. 

Avoid Down-Lighting

In many cases, light that points directly down on the head from above can appear harsh and unflattering. Instead, it’s better to position your lights so that they’ll provide illumination from behind. If you do decide to use downlights we highly recommend using these with other light sources as mentioned before. 

Asymmetrical lighting is another common mistake. Placing a fixture on just one side of a vanity mirror, for example, will make tasks like grooming very difficult as light spread will be uneven. Be sure to balance out your lights to provide symmetrical illumination throughout your bathroom.

Finally, opt for opaque or frosted bulbs over clear ones with filaments, which can cast shadows over objects. 

Go for LEDs

LEDs are energy-saving bulbs that can last for many years. Not only that, but they also provide an attractive, minimalistic appearance perfect for modern bathrooms. 

Whereas old-style LEDs were quite cool and harsh, today’s varieties offer warmer tones which blend well with incandescent bulbs. 

Consider Motion-Sensing Switches

Motion-sensing switches are a great way to save money in rarely-used bathrooms like powder rooms. If a person leaves a light on, they’ll switch off automatically, significantly increasing their efficiency and longevity.

3 Top Tips On How to Choose The Right Bathroom Fittings

3 Expert Tips on Choosing the Right Fixtures

Anne Seed of Del Mar, California, recommends three key tips when it comes to lighting your bathroom the right way.

Maximize Natural Light

Sneed claims that ‘the best thing you can do is bring in lots of natural light.’ Natural light is the way that most people see us in the world when out in the open. It’s the most representative reflection of the way we look.

Natural light is also a great way to brighten your mood and keep your circadian rhythm in check. Artificial lighting can impact this negatively, making it difficult for you and guests to sleep properly. 

A bathroom with as plenty of natural light is ideal. Skylights, extra windows, and open spaces can all help to make the most of the natural light available. 

In addition, be sure that window treatments as much light to pour in as possible. When designing or renovating a new home, it’s always a good idea to face the bathroom north in order to maximize soft, diffused light from the sun. 

If you’re adding new lighting fixtures to your bathroom, try to make the most of natural light where possible. Daylight bulbs can also help to reduce harsh light exposure and mimic natural hues. 

Place Your Fixtures Wisely

When deciding on which ceiling fixtures to place in a bathroom, Sneed advises opting for recessed overhead can lights. These provide a sleek, clean and minimal look, perfect for modern homes. 

In terms of functionality, she says that  ‘you really must have an overhead light.’ These can be paired with sconces alongside or above mirrors in order to make the reflection as flattering as possible.

Placing some light between your face and the mirror is better than being backlit. Otherwise, your face will be in the shadows, making it difficult to execute tasks light grooming and applying makeup.

Select the Right Bulb Types

Sneed suggests going for the warmest lights you can find, usually choosing 2700K LEDs in the bathroom. ‘It’s the closest you get to natural daylight,’ she says.

She opts for bright bulbs, around 150 watts (2250 Lumens), also adding overhead fixtures on a dimmer switch. 

Dim lights are calming and romantic, she says, while tasks require stronger light. A bathroom should have both.