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Spotlighting Exactly Where You Need It

Author: Glenn Harper
Published: October 13, 2014

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Bulbs like the GLS, golf ball, or candle are popular in households. They have an omnidirectional light that illuminates whole rooms. Conversely, a spotlight emits a directional beam of light, but this narrower output widens its versatility.

The commonest spotlights are GU10 and MR16 reflectors. Both measuring 50mm across, the first is a mains powered bulb and the second low voltage. This article illustrates the value of spotlights for general, accent, and task lighting purposes.

General lighting

Spotlighting image 1

General lighting encompasses all ambient light, including window light. It enables everyday activity. After dark, it is often provided by a central pendant and maybe supplemented by wall lights.

An alternative way of casting broad light into a room is by aiming a flood-beamed 40° or 45° spotlight at a nearby pale wall or surface. This softens the light, removes glare, and creates a greater feeling of space in smaller rooms.

Surface-mounted spotlights or recessed fittings suit this type of general lighting. The Astro Taro Single Downlight has a 35° tilt adjustment that is ideal for bouncing light off a wall. A suitable bulb for this application is the 40° Philips 5.5W Master LEDspot GU10.

Accent lighting

Accent lighting can be used to display artworks, highlight architectural features, or show off furnishings and décor. Sometimes it is used solely for decorative effect, picking out texture or creating an attractive pattern on bare walls.

Spotlighting image 2

When lighting pictures, you’ll need a bulb with a suitable beam angle. A bulb with a 50° wide flood beam like the Sylvania Energy Saving Halogen GU10 is ideal for large pictures. A small to medium-sized picture needs a finer beam, as found in Lyco’s narrow flood 25° Energy Saving Halogen GU10.

Halogen lighting offers superb colour rendering, but is typically poor for energy efficiency. However, the best MR16 halogen spotlights boast a ‘B’ energy rating, matching many fluorescent lights. The Osram Decostar Energy Saving Halogen MR16 51S is an example. Low-voltage halogen bulbs deliver a perceptibly crisper light than 240V equivalents. They also last longer.

Spotlighting image 3

Task lighting

Task lighting is for a specific activity and is often directed at surfaces like kitchen worktops or office desktops. Spotlights are perfect for this, as they deliver a focused, bright light exactly where needed.

Indirect spotlighting is effective with a bathroom mirror. Light aimed at the mirror from the ceiling reflects onto the face, giving good visibility for shaving or makeup application. A bulb with a narrow spot beam is useful here, as it will emit a more intense light (measured in candelas) than a flood-beam bulb. The Searchlight Aries 3 Light Plate has three adjustable spotlights and is IP44-rated for bathroom use.

Spotlighting image 4

For discreet kitchen lighting, a recessed fitting like the JCC Fireguard LED6 Spotlight is suitable. The Fireguard doesn’t house a spotlight, as such, but uses six non-replaceable LEDs to create a 38° flood beam. One benefit of dedicated LED fittings is that their components work in perfect harmony, without the unknown quantity of a separate bulb. This is reflected in the 75,000-hour lifespan of Fireguard LED6 fittings.

Spotlight bars, track lighting or wire lights are good for task lighting applications in kitchens. Wire lights can be installed across any ceiling, irrespective of how even it is, and have an understated appearance. The Searchlight Thunder Wire Light System includes five halogen MR16 spotlights, which deliver a pleasing quality of light.

One benefit of LED spotlights is their availability in warm or cool white colours. Thus, if you wanted cool white light from the above-mentioned Thunder Wire Light System, you could replace the existing halogen bulbs with cooler LED MR16 retrofit bulbs.

Putting it all together

Spotlights are a versatile part of any lighting scheme, though care should be taken not to overuse them. Too much light looks flat and kills atmosphere, whereas a few well-chosen lamps and fittings improve visibility and enhance mood.

For extra inspiration, check out our diverse collection of spotlight fittings and track lighting systems.

For more useful information check out our Lighting Advice section.