“Two Areas Where Product Advances Have Served Universal Design Well – Part II”

As we talked about last time, there have been many areas of home decor, features, components, and design that have witnessed major changes in the past few years, and the two topping the list, in my estimation, as the most significant are flooring and lighting.

We already discussed flooring, so now let’s look at lighting. For many years, incandescent lighting was our major lighting choices – coming in brightness (and heat) sizes of a few watts all the way up to a few hundred. The typical size bulb in a lamp or fixture ranged from 60-100 watts.

They remained virtually unchanged since originally invented by Thomas Edison, but now they largely have been replaced by other types of bulbs.

For brightness and output, the halogen bulb has been used for track lighting, accents, cans (also referred to as recessed or pot lights) and floodlights. While it still is widely available and even offered in smaller and more varied sizes than before, it produces a lot of heat.

Fluorescent lighting has been widely used along with incandescent lighting for decades. First, it was used in businesses and manufacturing facilities and then in ceiling fixtures found in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages, and basements, as well as hanging shoplights. Then, smaller florescent fixtures, often in rings, were used in closets. Eventually, they were manufactured as replacement bulbs for lamps and then the CFL (compact fluorescent light) was introduced rather recently. Fluorescent lighting has also been popular as under cabinet lighting (in kitchens, baths, and other workspaces), inside cabinets, and for toe kick strip lighting.

The most recent advance in lighting is the LED (light emitting diode). While other lighting types are still in use, the LED shows the most promise for its versatility and durability. Depending on the size and location of where the bulbs are used, LEDs have been rated for some 20 years duration before needing to be replaced.

LED bulbs originally were quite pricey – somewhere in the $150 range per bulb and not dimmable or suitable for lamps. They were introduced as floodlamps primarily. However, it didn’t take long for them to be widely available in a variety of color temperatures and wattage-equivalent sizes – and for the price to drop dramatically. Bulbs in a 60-watt equivalency routinely can be obtained for $5 and less.

LED bulbs have allowed installation in toe kick areas as strip, tape, or rope lighting, inside and under cabinets as strips or disks, in solar-powered outdoor fixtures of various sizes and configurations, and motion activated lights or various shapes and light output.

LEDs truly have revolutionized aging-in-place and universal design residential lighting in the amount that can be installed, the locations, the variety or sizes and shapes, and the fact they produce virtually no ambient heat to warm the surrounding surfaces.

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