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Touch lamps – how they work & where they shine

Author: Glenn Harper
Published: March 13, 2014

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Touch lamps are generally found by most people who have purchased them to be more convenient than conventional lamps. This is because you don’t have to feel your way along a cable or clutch at the lamp-holder when you need light. Touch lamps usually offer a much more generous target than a discreet on/off toggle switch. You simply need to touch the base or another metal part.

In addition to sheer practicality, touch control also offers aesthetic potential. Lighting designers can make modern lights simpler, more minimalistic, with clean, imaginative designs. They don’t have to ponder the position of the switch, and you don’t have to fumble for it. The same is true of traditional lamps, where the emphasis is often on elegant lines. All styles of table or desk lamp can benefit.

How touch lamps work

Once past the novelty factor, a touch switch is an intuitive way of operating things—not unlike the touch screen on most smart phones. In fact, the technology in a touch lamp is akin to a capacitive touch screen, relying on electricity stored in the human body for operation.

On/off

With a touch lamp, the base and other metal parts act almost like an antenna, loaded with a feeble electric charge that is harmless to humans. When the lamp is touched the human body effectively adds to the capacitance (electrical storage capacity) of the lamp, and the memory circuit that detects this change toggles the light on or off.

Dimming control

Many touch lamps allow dimming control as well as simple on/off functionality. This works in a similar way, with memory circuitry altering the power reaching the bulb in increments. Touching the lamp base switches the light on, and brightness alters with each subsequent touch. The final touch switches the light off again.

In touch with the right light

For practical reasons, touch technology is most used in lamps within arm’s reach, and tends not to be found in floor lamps. Most touch lamps are either desk or table lamps.

There are different types of lamps to suited to different locations. Here we take a look at some touch lamps and where they would look best:

Bedrooms

Colliers Touch Lamp with Cream ShadeA bedside table lamp is useful for complementary lighting, and doubles as a handy reading light. For the traditional bedroom, the set of two Gloucester Touch Lamps are ideal. These lamps offer dimming control and have an antique brass finish with Alabaster glass shades.

For the modern bedroom a set of two Colliers Touch Lamps blend easily with many styles of décor and offer 3-stage touch control dimming.

Offices

Hugo Desk Lamp in Antique Brass finishAlthough regular table lamps can be used in an office, a more specific office light is the desk lamp. This is usually defined by it possessing an adjustable head.

The Endon Alpha Desk Lamp has a style that suits either a contemporary or traditional office. It has touch-dimming control, and comes in satin chrome, satin brass, and antique brass versions. A more contemporary luminaire is the Endon Hugo Desk Lamp, available in antique brass or satin chrome finishes. Its sleek design capitalises on the compactness of the G9 halogen capsule it uses. As with the Alpha, this model includes touch-dimming.

Living rooms, dining rooms, and hallways

In a living room, dining room, or hallway, a table lamp usually provides complementary lighting. It brightens corners or alcoves, maximises space and creates mood. In a hallway it has a welcoming role to play. Multi-layered lighting is one of the key components in successful interior design.Tyso Table Lamp in Antique Brass

Convenient to operate is the decorative Tyso Table Lamp, in an antique brass finish. With a gold-coloured shade, warm brass finish and touch control dimming it can certainly help create a welcoming, relaxing ambience. The Hadley Touch Table Lamp on the other hand is perfect for adding sparkle to a room, with its patterned clear glass shade. This elegant lamp, which also features touch-dimming, will blend into either a traditional or modern setting. However, for simple elegance, the Suzie Touch Lamp is difficult to beat. Its satin chrome base is complemented by a faux-suede cream shade. This classy touch-dimmable lamp is ideal for a contemporary home or hospitality premises.

Touch and go

Often, the simplest inventions are the ones we appreciate most. They make life just that little bit easier. With a touch lamp, light is only ever an instant away.

Still not found exactly what you're looking for? Take a look at our full range of touch lamps

Looking for more inspiration and information? Try our Lighting Advice section.