Call it the Ikea-fication of America. It seems that more and more people are getting interested in design, especially when it comes to their own home. In decades past, household furniture and decorations didn't vary a whole lot. Growing up in the twentieth century, odds are your friends' homes probably had a pretty similar couch and coffee table as your own. Thanks to new technology and an explosion of interest in retro styles, that has changed. New construction methods for residential developments over the years have ushered a new level of diversity in housing stock. There's the prewar single family home, the mid-century condo, and the newer steel-and-concrete buildings. Tastes vary more than ever, and interior designers are enjoying the array of projects.
But design is not just furniture and hanging art. A huge component to the feel of a home is the lighting, and new technology on the market is changing the way our homes look and feel. Lighting alone can change the way a home feels, or how a room can be used. New types of lighting and arrangements are giving designers and homeowners more options than ever. There have never been so many accepted options to light a living room, or even a bathroom. The changes are also economic. Emerging technology will influence maintenance costs, energy bills and even how we interact with light on a daily basis.
Ever since electricity entered residential homes in the 1910s, the American market has depended overwhelmingly on incandescent bulbs. Incandescents use a thin filament that heats up with an electrical current, and emits a very pleasant, warm yellow light. Despite their warm glow however, the incandescents are energy-suckers, working at about five percent energy efficiency and burning out quickly.
Before the advent of newer technologies, most consumers considered wattage to be synonymous with brightness. A 60-watt bulb worked well for a reading lamp, and a 100-watt bulb was typically used for overhead area lighting. But in fact, wattage only signifies the amount of power that’s used to generate light. When growing energy prices prompted more demand for efficiency, the easiest switch from incandescent was halogen. For the most part, halogen lights maintain a similar quality of warm light, and are considerably more efficient than incandescents.
For years, the most reasonable alternative to the incandescent and halogen bulbs was fluorescent light. Everyone knows fluorescent light from offices, malls, and many other commercial spaces. Today, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), which work in a typical incandescent socket, are replacing incandescents on the residential market, due to the demand for greater efficiency and new federal laws.