As mentioned earlier, the sun works on its own schedule, not yours, so you will need to make some decisions regarding artificial light sources. At its most successful, artificial lighting should replicate natural light’s full color spectrum (and its warm tone) as much as possible. Fortunately, you have several viable options:

video Overview of Lighting Video

Fluorescent Lighting

If you attended public school or spent time waiting in line at a government agency, then you may harbor a negative impression of fluorescent lighting. For a long time fluorescent bulbs were dull, flickery things emphasizing the darker end of the color spectrum (green, blue, violet).

Fluorescent lighting under a kitchen cupboard.

lighting underneath cabinets shines on countertop

Well, fluorescent lighting has come a long way. Full spectrum or warm fluorescents are now available in several wattages (10, 14, 20, and 25) and are used in ceiling fixtures and other areas, such as under kitchen cabinets. Newer, compact fluorescent bulbs fit into regular lamp sockets and provide illumination that is comparable to incandescent light without the heat.

Pros: Provides cool, evenly spread illumination—better than incandescent for general room lighting; does not create shadows; inexpensive and energy efficient, provides cool lighting.

Cons: Science hasn’t completely licked the flickering problem, which can produce a “strobe” effect; eye strain and headache are possible if bulbs aren’t properly covered; cannot be dimmed as easily as incandescent light.

video Use of Fluorescent Lighting Video

Incandescent Light

Probably the most common and familiar lighting choice for the home, incandescent bulbs generally produce a “hot” light that emphasizes the red/orange/yellow end of the light spectrum, although full spectrum incandescent lights are now available (see info below). Bulbs are available in clear and “soft white” finishes and are used primarily in table and floor lamps and ceiling fixtures

Pros: Produces a highly concentrated light that is best for “spot” lighting for close work tasks such as reading and sewing. Light is very stable (no fluorescent “flicker”) and can be easily controlled with a rheostat or dimmer switch.

Cons: Not recommended for general room lighting—it creates shadows and glare spots. As wattage increases, so does the amount of heat, making prolonged close work problematic. Also, bulbs create areas of bright light within a relatively dark room—an issue if your eyes can’t easily adjust to abrupt light changes.


  • Position several incandescent fixtures in a room to create a more even light throughout.

  • Use shades to reduce pinpoints of light.

video Use of Incandescent Lighting Video

About “Full Spectrum” Bulbs

Full spectrum bulbs simulate natural sunlight by emitting fewer ultraviolet and infrared rays than conventional bulbs, which reduce the emission of yellow light. The effect is a more vivid “true” color with increased contrast. Full spectrum bulbs are now available in supermarkets, but a type called chromalux can be ordered through specialty catalogs. Full spectrum bulbs are also available in several different wattages.

video Use of Full Spectrum Lamps Video

Halogen Light

Halogen bulbs emphasize the red/yellow/green end of the light spectrum and create an even more concentrated light than regular incandescent bulbs. This type of light can be found in floor lamps, track lights, and recessed ceiling fixtures. In general, halogen light is not recommended for people with vision loss.

Shelf lighting is attached to tops of shelves in cabinet

Halogen lighting in a kitchen cupboard.

Pros: Brighter than incandescent light; gives more illumination with a lower wattage; more energy-efficient than incandescent light bulbs.

Cons: Very hot; not recommended for prolonged close work. Bulbs need to be replaced frequently and are more expensive than comparable incandescent light bulbs. Bulbs produce more blue light than other options, which studies suggest can be harmful to the eye. Can be a fire hazard.

video Use of Halogen Lighting Video