Electricity tips

To stop terminal screws working loose, put a small spot of oil-based gloss paint on the threads. The stickier the paint the better; emulsion paint will not work.

Power tools are aged faster by neglect, dust and damp than by use, so when they are not being used, wrap them in absorbent material and store them in a dry cupboard.

When changing attachments to a power drill, always disconnect it from the power supply; however careful you are, there is always the chance of accidentally switching the drill on.

When working with power tools out of doors wear rubber boots to give some protection against accidental cutting of the power supply cable, failure of the tool insulation and so on.


The cheapest way of lighting a room is to replace single light bulbs from the ceiling point with down-lighters, spot lights, free standing lamps or wall lamps.

The shades could be cheap paper lanterns, or wire frames which you can cover with raffia. Make sure they are hanging over a piece of furniture, like a coffee table, or someone will bang into them. Cheap bulbs, and shades in attractive designs are always available at chain stores.

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Our electricians cover South Kensington and Chelsea, London. House rewiring, flat rewiring,electrical works,electrical repairs,electrical fireplaces, electrical underfloor heating, consumer units, etc.

All electricians are fully qualified and NICEIC registered.

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Lighting dark rooms

Well-planned lighting can transform a dark room, and there are several tricks to remember if you want to make the most of it. One is to put table or standard lights near the window, even on either side .of it. Placed in this way, they will increase the feeling of light coming through the window. Hidden lighting behind a curtain pelmet is another useful trick.
This gives a good background light, helps to frame the window, reflects a light-coloured ceiling, and again will help to increase the feeling of daylight in a room. strip lights used in this way, or fitted behind a false cornice, should be tungsten tubes, which give a more natural light than fluorescent tubes.

Main lighting over the rest of the room can come from table lamps. One or two spotlights reflected on to the ceiling will help brighten up a dark room. Highlight a dark corner with an eyeball spot let into the ceiling (expensive to install, but worth it) and add to the effect with a huge jug of pale grasses or cheerful flowers. In a dark hall, living room or kitchen, use lighting hidden above a suspended ceiling. Hidden strip lights above a work surface help in a dark kitchen, but more light will be needed at ceiling level for general illumination.


Unless you are building a new house or having your home completely rewired when you can merely give the electrician your instructions-you may find that efficient, effective lighting involves some rewiring. However, do not be too ambitious. It takes an expert and NICEIC qualified electrician to rewire a house, especially the complicated rewiring you may need to achieve your best planned lighting.

Use your own ideas but, unless you a qualified London based electrician, leave the actual rewiring to a professional. Many useful improvements can be made very simply by adapting your existing circuits-preferably with the minimum of damage to your decor. For example, a lounge which is fitted with one central pendant light and a single power point has very severe lighting limitations.

But a few simple changes can work wonders. Rid yourself of the centre light and replace it with three ceiling mounted spots in the darker end of the room, away from the window, These could be served by a dimmer switch, and supplemented by a table lamp, and/or a fluorescent tube concealed behind a pelmet or in a shelf recess. Or try splitting one lighting outlet, such as the wiring for a wall light, to provide wiring for two mounted spotlights. These could be served by the same switch.

If you decide to mount the cables on the surface, look for unobtrusive routes. (Burying them behind skirting boards and plaster tends to upset your decor.) You could run them behind curtains, along the top of a skirting board, or down the corners of the room. Securing clips with hardened steel pins-such as Dylon clips-are small, easy to use and make a neat job of fixing cables to walls but the wiring itself must not be exposed. When you plan the lighting of any room, aim for variety of effect. Daylight is always interesting because it is constantly changing in intensity. Artificial light should try to be just as interesting, just as adaptable. With a little care, your lighting will add greatly to the efficiency, mood and atmosphere of your home.


How much light do you need?

The various activities carried out in the average home require not only different types of lighting, but also different amounts of light. In technical terms the requirements are expressed in lumens per square metre. (To convert them to lumens per square foot, divide by 10.) For general use a living room should have a light intensity of 100 lumens per square metre (10 per square foot). Light reading requires 200, prolonged reading (or studying) 400. Sewing or close work calls for 600 lumens per square metre.

You could achieve this necessary versatility by having a ceiling light fitting which provides sufficient light for general purposes, supplemented by spots or table lamps. Additional light will be needed near or above chairs or work surfaces. The average requirements for other rooms are kitchens-200 lumens per square metre (particularly over work surfaces); bedrooms about 50 lumens per square metre with provision for a 200 lumens headboard light for the late night reader.

Most other rooms including landings and halls need about 100 lumens. Stairs, at their treads, ought to have 50-100 lumens to be absolutely sale with control switches at both the top and bottom of the staircase. It is simple to calculate the wattage required to provide these standards of lighting as long as you know the efficiency with which the lamp converts electrical energy into light-in other words, the number of lumens per watt. A fluorescent tube provides about 50 lumens per watt. So, for example, if the light intensity needed in a kitchen is 20 lumens per square foot the wattage required using a fluorescent tube will be 20 + 50 =0.4 watts per square foot. Thus, one 40 watt fluorescent lamp will provide the equivalent of 20 lumens per square foot over an area of 100 square feet (0.4 x 100). Metallic filament bulbs are far less efficient than fluorescent lamps, producing approximately 12 lumens per watt. Daylight has hundreds of lumens per square foot but it is generally easy on the eye because it is so evenly distributed.

Ceiling lights

Fittings that are mounted on the surface of the ceiling, or even recessed into it are a comparatively modern development. They can be spotlights, or more conventional fittings with diffusing glass or louvres which are excellent for general lighting. Spots are ideal for reading because they provide beamed, concentrated light; the light shines directly onto the book and the reader is not sitting in his own shadow. These lights can be grouped to provide high light intensity where it is needed, giving reflected light throughout the rest of the room. Not many people will want to start cutting holes in their ceilings to accommodate recessed light fittings.

A less messy and inconvenient alternative would be the installation of a false ceiling beneath the existing one. This may be worth considering if your present ceiling is either badly cracked or very high (more than 2.5m). Tackling a whole ceiling can be an ambitious project, but you may be able to fit a false ceiling across part of a room. This is particularly easy in a house that has a reinforcing beam in some of its ground floor ceilings, supporting a bay or ground floor extension. This would enable you to fit a false ceiling to the depth of the beam. With two or three concealed lights built into your new ceiling, there would be no ugly cables showing and there would be the effect of softly diffused light. Try to forget about the traditional habit of placing a light in the centre of the ceiling. Several lights dotted all over the room are more interesting than a single fitting, although an off centre ceiling light can only be really efficient if other lights are available to illuminate the rest of the room. Greater flexibility can also be achieved with ceiling lights if they are fitted with a dimmer switch. These simply replace your present switch and enable you to raise or lower the level of lighting by simply turning a dial. In this way, you can, for example, tone down powerful reading lights for relaxing.

New ideas

Even in the more conventional lighting fields such as ceiling mounted or suspended fittings, there is a wide range of choice and something to suit every taste. The bayonet-type fitting, remains the most popular. Designs are available to suit the mood of every room and they have the advantage of being extremely diverse.

Rise and fall units ceiling suspended lights which are height adjustable-are also useful and versatile. When used in the ‘up’ position they provide general lighting. In the ‘down’ position they throw a pool of light into a limited area, creating an intimate atmosphere. They are most commonly used for dining table fittings and are particularly suitable for this, although they could also be used over a desk top or sewing machine, for example. Many people choose a standard lamp for a reading light or to cut down glare when watching television. These will be more efficient if fitted with a large shade, which gives a wide pool of light. Small shades also tend to make bulbs overheat, thus shortening their lives, because they prevent the free circulation of air around the bulb.

Flourescent lights

Fluorescent tubes are often considered boring, dazzling and useful only for garages. This need not necessarily be the case. They can have many effective and efficient uses in the home and are always worth considering because of their cheapness to run. The slightly chilling effect they sometimes have can be eliminated by using one of the warmer shades such as ‘De luxe warm white’. ‘Warm white’ provides a high light output (measured in lumens per 305mm and is very efficient in large kitchens. It is ‘sharp’ enough for work surfaces where efficiency is important, and yet warm enough to be comfortable to work in. ‘Natural’ is closest to day-light but is probably the least acceptable for domestic use since it gives a cool, blue-white appearance. Daylight itself reflects ‘true’ colours because it contains all the colours in the spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Artificial light, in general, contains a much narrower range of colour, which is why fabric shades, for example, look so different under department store lights. Artificial light gives either a cold or a warm effect and you must know what is best for your needs. Candlelight or firelight contains more natural red/orange and gives people a healthy, flattering glow. Fluorescent blues tend to have bluey tones which give a colder effect. This is why they are often recommended for use in purely service rooms where you need a good light rather than an intimate atmosphere. Despite its occasional chilliness, fluorescent light has much to recommend it. Because the length of tube eliminates light shadows, a 40 watt tube gives approximately the same amount of light as a 150 watt metallic filament bulb and spreads the light over a wider area. And with an estimated life of 7,500 hours, a tube lasts at least seven times longer than a bulb.

Another advantage is that the tube never gets overheated; you can even fix one behind a pelmet with no danger of your curtains catching fire. Fluorescent tubes are available in a range of lengths from 30cm to 244cm and your choice of length depends on the output needed. For example, a 15 watt l5in. tube would be ideal for lighting a bathroom mirror, and a 40 watt, 1.2m tube would be fine for a small kitchen. The installation of fluorescent fittings presents no particular difficulties. The body of the unit is screwed to the wall or ceiling through distance pieces, designed to provide a space of about 6mm between the back of the unit and the surface to which it is fitted.

This is to allow some circulation of air round the tube. The wiring is equally straightforward, being clearly marked on the terminal block fitted inside the unit. Some fittings have push-button switches so that they need not have a switched electrical supply and these are particularly useful for fitting over a bedhead. While unshielded tubes are ugly, they have a stark, utilitarian air, and you may prefer to use them only in less sophisticated areas, such as a workshop or kitchen. The tubes can be made more attractive, however, by fitting them with diffusers, although some output efficiency may be lost as a result. There is a wide range to choose from: extruded reeded plastic, natural raffia, and various fabric finished diffusers. They are designed to give a soft upward light, with a stronger downward light to illuminate areas of special interest. Diffusers usually clip to the tube itself, or to the fitting, and are easily removed for cleaning.


Although a new lighting scheme has ultimately to be planned for the whole house, it can be tackled gradually. One of the easiest, cheapest and most effective experiments you can try is to purchase and place a spotlight. Theatrical designers and shop window dressers have realized-and exploited- the dramatic potential of spots for many years. A figure on the stage, or a garment in a shop window, can be made arresting and dominating by the simple expedient of focusing spotlight on to it. Spotlights are now supplied specifically for the home and, used with a little imagination, they can do much to enliven a room. Because they are fully adjustable, both vertically and horizontally, even one lamp, carefully placed, can be used to illuminate a favourite painting, for example, and then turned to throw intense local light on a work surface such as a desk.

Apart from wall fittings, they can be placed on the floor as elegant uplighters, flitted to standing frames or ceiling tracks, or clamped to a bedside fitment for a reading lamp. Domestic spotlights are mostly small, neat and unobtrusive. The light and not the lamp catches the eye or should if it is properly placed. As well as ensuring that they do not give a blinding light, spots must also be positioned away from fabrics or any inflammable materials as they produce a considerable heat.

Normally, spotlights are fitted with special, internally silvered reflector lamps, but you can also buy general service lamps adapted with clip-on auxiliary reflectors. Versatility is the great merit of spotlights. Installation is simple: they screw into place, and are wired like any other wall or pendant light. Some have push button switches, so they can be wired into an unswitched circuit, without the need to run new cables back into the switch for other lights in the room. If you want to flt them to the ceiling, spotlights should be sited one to two feet from the wall. Placing them depends on what you want to illuminate. Spotlights should ‘spot’ something-be planned to pick out one area or object. Installed at random, much of their effect is lost.

Lighting design

Lighting can be fun, formal, and flattering. Experimenting with it is fun, too, but the secret often lies in simplicity. A single spotlight focused on a favourite picture is a simple idea, but can be more effective than a dozen badly placed standard lamps. Planning lighting carefully can give your home a new dimension. Because of the technicalities involved, many people tend to fight shy of making drastic changes to the lighting in their homes, preferring to leave it to the experts.

But traditional lighting in the home is usually conservative, and often inadequate. By exploiting the potential of the many different fitments that are readily available, you will be able to achieve both effect and efficiency in your lighting system-and without completely rewiring your home. Unless you are lucky enough to be in on the planning stage of building a new house, you will probably find that your home has been wired unimaginatively. Builders tend to be conventional and provide only the standard lighting points in the traditional positions-a centre ceiling light, two wall plugs per room, and perhaps a couple of wall light outlets on either side of a fireplace or in an alcove. It is all too easy to allow your choice of lighting to be moulded by what is there-and obvious rather than plan out exactly what each individual room needs.

After all, planning takes time and energy. But if you can find enough of these to bother, the rewards will be considerable. When choosing your lighting fitments, try to decide what you want before you go shopping. Department stores tend to be discouraging to new ideas. Their lighting departments are usually a blaze of fittings, all switched on at once, with tittle attempt to demonstrate individual effects. It is hard to visualize what a specific fitment will look like away from all the others in the shop and hanging in your home. Confused and unsure, one can so often end up with buying the same style fitment or lights as before, with the feeling that it is better to be sale than sorry.