For most of us, our daily lives are centered between two worlds – work and home. In fact, the average American spends 90 percent of his/her time inside. We can debate work/life balance and the health effects of fresh air, but the bottom line is this: there is an increasing need to make our interior spaces as comfortable, productive and efficient as possible. And lighting is one of the most powerful solutions for doing just that.
Advances in lighting are as plentiful as they are promising, and LED innovation is arguably the most rapidly evolving segment. In its relatively young history in the general lighting marketplace, LED technology has mainly been positioned as an energy-saving, mercury-free alternative to compact or linear fluorescent for interior lighting applications. As such, most recessed products introduced into the marketplace have focused on general illumination, task lighting, and more recently, wall wash applications. It is recessed LED accent lighting, however, that presents the most untapped potential.
Providing an emotional layer of lighting, recessed accents create drama within in a space, transforming the look and feel of any interior. In recessed LED applications to date, accent lighting has been sometimes marginalized or even eliminated altogether, due to limited ability of LED products to provide appropriate levels of contrast with the general lighting in the space. Only recently has the directional source capability of LEDs been harnessed to produce an optimal effect for accent lighting – producing a uniform, crisp beam that provides a significant amount of punch and very closely mimics the qualities of traditional incandescent point sources, such as MR-16s.
Accent on Performance and Style
Until now, the replication of point sources with LED has been accomplished primarily with LED replacement lamp technology and there are without question a number of reputable products on the market. However, reality is that integral LED fixture solutions significantly outperform replacement lamps – particularly because they are designed to address specific thermal and environmental conditions within the intended application, thus maximizing quality and performance. Integral LED fixture solutions offer up to 3 times the lumen output of average LED replacement lamps today and guarantee a full 50,000 hour rated-life among other performance benefits.
As a general rule, accent lighting should be a minimum of 4 to 5 times the general lighting level to provide appropriate contrast. There are new recessed adjustable accent LED products on the market today, such as USAI’s BeveLED, that deliver from 700 to 900 lumens into the space with center beam candlepower (CBCP) ranging from 5,000 to 14,000, depending on the beam distribution desired. The optical elements incorporated into these designs allow for the blending of multiple LED beams into a single beam to create a single shadow – similar to that of incandescent and low voltage halogen sources – while also ensuring optimal color consistency, not only within the beam itself, but also from fixture to fixture. Additionally, these optical systems eliminate all striations for even light distribution on the desired surface, and also mask the light source to further enhance the aesthetics of a space, particularly when the fixture is off.
Often overlooked, the aesthetic appearance of an LED recessed product in its off state takes on particular significance when the product is combined with occupancy sensors, lighting controls, or a building automation system.
Advances in accent lighting fixture design present a bright future for the LED market and for the plethora of interior spaces that will benefit from the technology. With new LED accent lights, designers have the opportunity to harness a complete portfolio of LED options for holistic recessed lighting applications – from museum and art gallery displays, office lobbies, elevator cabs, hospitality interiors, retail stores, residences, and healthcare facilities. Combined with an architectural family of companion recessed downlights and wall washes, LED recessed adjustable accents can now be seamlessly integrated into a designed interior space without sacrificing quality or performance while also saving costly resources – time, money and energy.