Lighting: The Most Important Pieces of Equipment in Any Office
What you'll find in this article...
When designing your ideal in-home office, there are three elements that are the most important: Your desk, your chair, and your office lighting. All three of these must work well together in order for you to function comfortably in your home office. Which is the best type of home office lighting to use?
The type of light fixtures and lamps you choose will depend on your office space requirements, what time of day you work, how much natural light is available and how your desk is situated to take advantage of it, and probably a few other factors, not least of which is personal preference. If you choose to work after dark, you may find you need more than one of these types of lighting.
If your home is rented you will be less likely to install any permanent light fixtures, so desktop lamps, clamp on lamps or hanging lights will be more desirable for most rental properties.
Type of Bulb
Another factor is the type of bulb used. Fluorescent bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs are energy saving and long lasting, but do have an environmental and safety downside if they break, since they can expose you and your family to mercury contamination.
Good quality LED fixtures are extremely efficient and long lasting, but are still fairly expensive to purchase, though as they gain more acceptance the price is coming down.
Eyestrain and Glare
Reading in low light sends mixed signals to your brain, resulting in mixed signals being sent to your visual muscles. Your muscles are trying to relax so that the most light can be gathered, but at the same time they’re trying to contract to focus on the written word. This causes EYE STRAIN.
Avoiding eyestrain and glare is key. You want to choose lights that mimic the natural light spectrum as closely as possible, since this is the spectrum that causes the least eyestrain. How bright the light is and how it adjusts to put the light exactly where it’s needed is also important for avoiding glare and eyestrain. It’s also important to take note of any window treatments and how they are reflecting light from outside into your office as well.
Some fluorescent fixtures flicker and/or strobe, which may be very subtle, but the resulting eyestrain and headaches will be anything but subtle! If you are using a fluorescent light fixture and experiencing discomfort it is time to assess whether you need to switch it out for a newer fixture. Better quality fluorescent fixtures and bulbs don’t strobe, and LED fixtures don’t do this at all.
Let’s explore the types of office light fixtures you can choose for your work at home office.
Traditional Desk Lamps
The most common type of office lighting is the desk lamp. These come in many forms, ie; architect, banker’s, swing arm, gooseneck or flexneck, magnifier, piano, and other types of desk lighting.
Pro— Desk lamps put the light exactly where you need it– on the surface where you’re working. Most are adjustable to at least some degree, allowing you to position both the light and the lamp so that you can work comfortably with little to no glare.
Con— If your office and/or desktop is very small, the lampbase may take up valuable desktop space. Also, they use an outlet, and sometimes adding one more wire is one too many!
Swag Lamp, Pendant Lamp or Hanging Lamps
One way to get your lighting up off your desktop to conserve desktop space is to use a swag lamp, a pendant lamp, or hanging lamp.
Swags are made to plug into an outlet, with the long wire laced through a chain that then hangs from a hook or bracket. These work well if you rent your property and wish to minimize damage to the walls or ceiling. They also work well if you plan to move and don’t wish to make permanent changes to your existing property.
Pendant type lamps or hanging type lamps are permanently installed into the ceiling and then wired to a wall switch. These work well if you own your own home and don’t plan to move for a good long while.
Though in most cases your lighting will be fixed in position with a hanging light, some versatility can be achieved if you pair your swag lighting with a swivelling bracket for hanging it, and an extra long chain and cord.
You can also buy a swag kit and pair it with your choice of shade, giving you more decorating versatility!
Pros— These allow you to put the lighting exactly where you want it without sacrificing desktop space.
Cons— Because they require either a ceiling hook and/or a wall bracket for the plug-in type, or to be wired directly into the ceiling for the wired in type, they can’t as easily be moved if you decide to move your desk. There are few LED options for hanging swags or fixtures at this time, though that will change as LED lighting becomes more cost effective.
Adjustable Floor Lamps
Pros— No permanent installation needed, and can be moved easily. Adjustable lamp arms allow you to move the light where you wish, which can be more versatile in certain cases.These work especially well when the desk is not against and facing a wall.
Cons— Requires floor space, which can be a challenge in cases where the office is in a very small space. Requires an outlet, which can be a challenge in cases where one more wire and plug will cause issues. Cheaper floor lamps are often less stable and may create a toxic hazard when used with carbon fluorescent bulbs.
Clip Lamps and Clamp Lamps
If space in your office is at a premium, then clip on lamps or clamp on lamps are one of the most versatile options for you. They can be fastened to the edge of the desk or table, to a shelf above your desk or to any other nearby surface of the right thickness ie a window sill. This frees up valuable desktop space.
Pros– These lamps take up very little space, and most are very adjustable so that you can focus the light exactly where it’s needed, and move it if you need to. Clip-ons are more easily movable. Clamp-ons are usually much more durable and don’t have a tendency to shift if clamped properly.
Cons– These lamps require an outlet and sometimes one more cord is one too many. The cheaper clip on lamps can be unstable and the clips will eventually lose their tension. Clamp on lamps are not as easily movable, and the cheaper swing arm lamps will lose tension and become unstable. Pairing a cheaper and less stable clip on lamp or clamp on lamp with a carbon fluorescent bulb may create a toxic hazard. Halogen lamps of this type may, if the lamp becomes unstable, cause a fire hazard because of their high heat output.
Under Cabinet Light Fixtures
For situations where both desktop space and floor space are at a premium, you might choose to mount light fixtures to the bottom of your hanging shelves or hanging cupboards above your desktop.
In most cases you’ll choose low profile or flush mounted lights for this purpose, but in some cases you may have the room to use short profile track lighting, which gives much more versatility, allowing you to aim the light exactly where you wish.
Pros— This type of fixture takes up the least amount of room in any office and is great for small office spaces. You can find these types of fixtures that can be either plugged in or permanently wired in. This type of lighting comes in both fluorescent and LED options.
Cons— This type of lighting isn’t as versatile and is harder to move if you move your desk or office. There is no way to use most of these in situations where the desk isn’t under a hanging cupboard or shelf.
Battery Operated Office Lights
If there’s a space in your office where you need some extra light and it’s just plain inconvenient to either run another wire or unwise to plug another plug into an already crowded wall outlet, then you’ll need to consider alternatives. Battery powered lamps and lights are available. There are also solar charging lights that can be useful if you have a window with natural light where a solar light can easily be charged. These come in different types. Some are lamps, others can be fastened to a wall, clipped to a table or shelf, or stuck to the underside of a cupboard or hanging shelf.
These lights will not completely replace good electrical lighting. They are not as bright. But they will add some light in a place where you need it.
You could also look for solar powered ones as well. If there is enough sunlight getting through, then you have an office where you don’t even need to pay for electricity for your lighting.