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Lighting buying guide

The right lighting can make a big difference to the overall atmosphere of your room. This lighting guide will help you to get the best from every space, looking at bulbs types and brightness, as well as what type of lighting is best for each room.

Lighting safety

Bathrooms are subject to safety legislation because they are regularly exposed to moisture and water. They are split into different safety 'zones' and certain lights can only be used in each zone. Our bathroom lighting section will explain this in more detail.

With lighting for very young children, the bulb should be totally encased to prevent little fingers from getting hurt. Read our children's lighting guide to find out more.

How do I choose the right light bulb?

Before buying a new bulb you'll need to know the right size and type your light needs. There's a number of fittings and different bulb technologies available.

What's the difference between wattage and lumens?

Wattage is the amount of energy needed to power the light fitting while lumen refers to how much light is produced (the brightness). The higher the amount of lumens, the brighter the light. Around 400 lumens would be suitable for a side lamp while you would probably need 1300+ lumens (in total) to light a living room.

Previously, a higher wattage meant a brighter bulb but new technologies, like LED and energy saving bulbs, can now produce the same amount of light using far less wattage.

Light bulb technology

There are three types of light bulb currently available: LED are the most efficient, followed by CFL and then halogen.

Halogen bulbs are being phased out from September 2016, starting with directional bulbs (spotlights) and followed by non-directional bulbs in 2018.

LEDs have a much longer lifespan than other bulbs and are now more affordable, but they are less suited to dimmers. It's worth checking if the bulb is dimmable before purchasing.

Incandescent bulbs (classic round top) have been phased out.

This chart provides a comparison between the three types of bulb.

LED CFL (energy saving) Halogen bulbs
Colour rendition Warm, white light Warm, white light Bright, white light
Life span Average 20,000 hours Average 10,000 hours Average 2,000 hours
Energy efficiency Use 90% less energy than halogen bulbs Use 60% – 80% less energy than halogen bulbs Average 50W power consumption
Yearly running cost (average 3 hours use a day) £1.71 £2.04 £8.42
Most suited to: Spotlights, children's lights, nightlights Fabric shades, table and floor lamps, dimmers Dimmers, touch lamps, chandeliers and glass ceiling lights

Decorative filament bulbs

Decorative bulbs are a great way of making a vintage lighting statement. These bulbs have a traditional look with a visible filament. They can be used with a number of lights and produce a bright, yet warm glow.

Bulb cap fittings

Check your bulb fits the right type of light. Any new light should state which cap fitting or fittings are suitable. Here are some of the most common cap fittings.

Large bayonet

Large screw

Small screw

GU10

Light bulb technical specs

Colour rendering index

The CRI, colour rendering index, is measured on a scale of 0-100 and indicates how well a light source can reflect colours truly and realistically. Natural light has a CRI of 100 and is used as a comparison for other light sources. The higher the CRI, the more accurately colours are reproduced. A CRI of 80% or higher is ideal for everyday use at home.

Colour temperature

Colour temperature is measured in Kelvins and can help to create different moods around the home. Bulbs with a low Kelvin rating (around 2700K) produce a warm, yellowish light, perfect for relaxing and unwinding, while bulbs with a higher Kelvin rating (over 5000K) omit a cool, bluish colour which is ideal for task-based activities.

Energy ratings

The Energy related Products label advises consumers on the energy efficiency of a product. A++ (green) indicates a good energy efficiency while E (red) indicates a poor energy rating.

Shop all light bulbs >

What types of lighting are there?

There's a number of ways to light your home, here's a brief guide to the main lighting types available.

Ceiling lights

  • Include pendant lights, flush lights, spotlights, chandeliers, ceiling fans
  • Almost every room will have a ceiling light
  • Spread light down and around for daily activity

Wall lights

  • Include uplighters, picture lights
  • Often used as a secondary light source
  • Ideal for highlighting key features and decorative elements

Table and floor lamps

  • Provide softer lighting for a warm, homely glow
  • Wide selection of shades and bases available
  • Portable so can be placed anywhere

Desk lamps

  • Also known as task lighting
  • Light source for reading, writing, studying and hobbies
  • Adjustable arms allow you to focus the light on a specific area

Lighting room by room

When choosing the lighting for a room, think about what you'll be using that space for and base your lighting around this.

Hallways, landings and staircases lighting

The lighting here needs to be bright enough for activities like putting on shoes and opening the post, as well as welcoming guests. Landings can often be dark so think about using brighter bulbs to create a feeling of space.

Pendant lights are a good choice for these types of spaces, particularly at the top of staircases which need to be well lit to prevent accidents.

Wall lights or a table lamp can help to make these areas feel warm and inviting.

Dimmer switches are ideal for walkways as they can be turned down to a low level at night.

Living room lighting

The living room usually requires a combination of lighting because you'll be using this space for a number of activities like socialising, relaxing and potentially working.

Overhead lighting, like spotlights or a pendant light, will spread light down and around the room. Ideal for watching TV or playing games.

Table lamps, floor lamps and dimmers create a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere for lounging.

Highlight decorative features like paintings with picture lights or spotlights, these direct the light onto the feature to create a focal point in the room.

Task lighting, like table and desk lights, is ideal for reading or working.

Dining room lighting

Pendant lights shine light down onto the table, drawing attention to the main focus of the room. Lights hung in a cluster or a chandelier fitting can really make an impact in your dining area.

Additional floor lamps or wall lights are ideal for entertaining as they provide softer, atmospheric lighting.

Bedroom lighting

A ceiling light provides bright lighting for the whole room while desk lamps or positioned spotlights offer directional light for reading and studying.

Consider an illuminated mirror for applying make-up, these mimic natural light for application accuracy.

Use spotlights to illuminate the inside of a wardrobe to make it easier to see into a dark space.

Children's bedroom lighting

This lighting should be bright and functional for playing. Celling lights provide good general lighting while table lamps or night lights offer a softer glow in the evening.

A desk lamp is an ideal choice for homework and studying.

Many of our table lamps have a fully encased light bulb to prevent little fingers from touching the hot surface.

Bathroom lighting

Bathroom lights require additional protection from water and moisture, this is indicated by an IP (ingress protection) rating. All bathroom lights need a minimum IP44 rating to comply with British wiring regulations.

Bathrooms have three safety 'zones' – 0, 1 and 2. These zones are identified by their likely contact with water and determine what type of light you can use in that area.

Only light fittings with a suitable IP rating can be used in a specific zone. Argos' bathroom lights should only be used in zones 2 and 3 in the bathroom, but can also be used in other areas of the house too.

Zone 0: the inside of the bath or shower (IP67 and 12V SELV recommended)

Zone 1: the area directly around the bath or shower, up to a height of 2.25m above the floor and at a radius of 1.2m from the water outlet (IP65 recommended)

Zone 2: 60cm wide and covers areas next to and around zone 1(IP44 recommended)

The light switch should be a pull cord inside the bathroom or a regular light switch outside.

Kitchen lighting

You'll need a good level of light from ceiling lights for food preparation and cooking in the kitchen area.

Light fittings which have moveable spotlights allow you to angle light on areas which need additional illumination, such as a worktop, sink or oven. Under cabinet spotlights can also provide extra light for tasks like chopping.

Kitchen areas are also subject to lighting safety 'zone' legislation but this is only applicable to the area directly above the sink. This is classified as zone 2 and therefore an IP rating of 44 is required.

Lighting accessories

Lamp shades

Table, floor and pendant lights usually always require a lamp shade and this is where you can experiment with colour, pattern or texture. Along with traditional fabric shades, glass, metal and natural fibres like wicker are stylish choices.

Smart lighting

Smart light bulbs let you control your home's lighting from your smart phone. From switching a lamp off downstairs while you're in bed to dimming the lights for a movie. Everything including colour, brightness and shade can be automated by you.

Find out more about Smart Lighting >

Switches and dimmers

These have single, double or triple switch buttons and are usually made from metal or plastic. Switch plate finishes include chrome effect, brushed steel, nickel effect and white. Dimmer switches control the brightness of your light, either by touch, a rotating switch, or remotely through a smart phone.

Safety

Always seek professional help when installing or changing all light fittings.

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