Montreal Gazette


Jeanne Huber shares some tips on replacing dated fluorescen­t lights in your kitchen


The kitchen of my 1987 house has fluorescen­t tubes in the ceiling, which is dropped down five-and-a-half inches (14 centimetre­s) so acrylic panels covering the lights look like part of the ceiling. I hate the quality of the light, and I hate having the light coming from the centre of the room — it leaves the sink dark when I wash vegetables or do dishes. But probably most of all, I hate how ugly and outdated it looks. What options do I have?

A You probably need more than one solution. Kitchens work best when they have good ambient light (the general lighting that makes the space bright), as well as task lighting concentrat­ed in work areas and accent lighting to help make the room welcoming and add a bit of drama.

If the quality of the light were your only issue, one quick fix would be to replace the fluorescen­t tubes with LED tubes that produce light with a so-called “colour temperatur­e” you find more appealing. Options range from “warm,” yellowish light (a colour temperatur­e of 2,7002,800 Kelvins), similar to the light from incandesce­nt bulbs, to “daylight” (5,000- 6,500K), which is the bluish light you'd experience outdoors on a bright but overcast day. Some lighting experts suggest 3,000-4000K for kitchens; others say “daylight” is better because it makes details look more crisp.

Fluorescen­t tubes come in a range of colour temperatur­es too, but they don't render colour as well, are prone to flickering, burn out faster, require special handling when you go to toss them (because they contain mercury) and aren't as energy-efficient. So if you switch out what you have, go for LEDS.

Switching to LED tubes can be as easy as taking out the fluorescen­ts and installing the LEDS, or it might involve changing the wiring within each fixture to bypass the ballast. Viribright Lighting, a manufactur­er of LED lighting products, has a good guide on how to read the label on existing tubes to understand what you need to do to convert to LEDS.

Changing just the bulbs wouldn't get rid of the boxed-in panels that look dated, but it would save you from needing to tear out the dropped ceiling and finish the true ceiling above. You could still improve lighting over the sink, perhaps with pendants. Limitless options exist for these and they would add design flair that would divert attention from the ceiling panels. You could also add under-cabinet strip lights to illuminate countertop­s, and twinkle or other accent lights in a display cabinet or along an open shelf.

Another option would be to leave the ceiling pretty much as-is, but abandon the fluorescen­t fixtures and adapt the existing framing around the lights as a grid for track lighting. You could replace the clear acrylic panels with white panels to give the ceiling a more uniform look and help it fade into the background: The attention would be on the track lighting. Point the fixtures in different directions to give you both ambient and task lighting. For example, over the sink, avoid placing a fixture directly behind where you stand; instead, place one to the side and angle the light so it illuminate­s the sink. Track lighting, like pendant lighting, comes in all sorts of styles and would instantly give your kitchen a fresh look. One drawback, though: Especially if you do a lot of cooking, the fixtures on track lighting will probably collect grease and dust and need periodic cleaning.

If you're willing to redo the ceiling, you could get recessed can lights and install LED bulbs, or you could install modern lookalikes: canless LEDS, which are recessed but don't have replaceabl­e bulbs and are therefore much more compact, or round flush-mounted LEDS, which extend about an inch down from the ceiling but otherwise look almost the same. Either way, an electricia­n would need to bring wires to each spot where you want a fixture. Because the canless and flush-mounted styles don't need a recessed housing, there aren't any complicati­ons with insulation if attic space is above the kitchen.

With both canless and flushmount LEDS, if the fixtures stop working, you would need to replace the whole fixture, rather than just the bulb. Three 65-watt-equivalent LED floodlight­s cost a lot less than replacemen­t fixtures. However, because you'd be starting from scratch to install can lights or either kind of look-alikes, the initial cost of can lights would be considerab­ly more. It would probably be many years before the benefit of being able to replace just the bulbs would pay off, given that the non-bulb options are not that expensive and require less labour to install. A commercial electric canless LED produces light equivalent to a 65-watt incandesce­nt bulb and adjusts (at the time of installati­on) to five colour temperatur­es, from 2,700K to 5,000K. A Slochi flush-mount LED disk that's seven-and-ahalf inches (19 cm) in diameter and about one inch (2.5 cm) tall produces light equivalent to that of a 100-watt incandesce­nt bulb and can be adjusted to make light that's warm, daylight or in between.

With can lights or flushmount­ed ceiling lights, you might still want to add pendant lights, perhaps over an island or a breakfast counter. And accent lights would add the same magic that they would with other ceiling light solutions.

With all of the solutions, adding dimmers, especially for ceiling lights, can also make a huge difference, assuming you are using dimmable bulbs or fixtures. When you're busy cooking, you want bright light. When dinner is in the oven, dimming the light a bit can signal it's time to move on to the next phase: relaxing and enjoying the meal.

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Kitchens work best when they have good ambient light combined with more intense task lighting aimed at key work areas.
GETTY IMAGES Kitchens work best when they have good ambient light combined with more intense task lighting aimed at key work areas.

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