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Lighting Buying Guide – Glossary

The right lighting plays a key role in creating relaxed, romantic or welcoming looks.



Light Bulb Types

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs)

A CFL is a fluorescent bulb designed to perform in the same way as an incandescent bulb. Purchasing a CFL is initially more costly a traditional bulb, but CFLs are highly efficient, producing much less heat and using 67 percent less energy than standard bulbs. This energy savings means that using a CFL bulb can save you over five times its purchase price in electricity costs over its lifetime. For more information on CFLs click here.

Fluorescent Bulbs

Excellent energy efficiency and a long lifespan have contributed to the increasing popularity of these bulbs. They stay cooler to the touch than incandescent bulbs, which is an important consideration when working close to the bulb. Fluorescent bulbs are available in a wide variety of options to enhance spaces in numerous ways.

Halogen Bulbs

These bulbs produce a very bright, white light and are excellent for directional and task lighting. Halogen bulbs closely reproduce the sun's colour spectrum for a natural illuminated effect, and produce more light per watt than other types of bulbs. Halogen bulbs can be 10 percent to 20 percent more efficient than incandescent lamps and can burn two to three times longer. Halogen bulbs are often used as flood lights for driveways and yards.

Incandescent (Traditional)

Incandescent bulbs are inexpensive and can vary from approximately 15 to 150 watts and produce a soft yellow/white light. These bulbs may be available in frosted, coloured or clear varieties. In recent years compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) have been promoted as a more cost effective and environmentally friendlier alternative to incandescent bulbs.


LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs are often more effective than incandescent or fluorescent bulbs when light is required in a single direction. LED strip lights can be installed under counters, kitchen cabinets, hallways and in staircases, while concentrated groupings can be used for room lighting. LEDs are also used in task, reading and traditional lamps, recessed lighting/ceiling cans, decorative fixtures like Christmas lights, and in pendant and overhead fixtures. LED lights are more durable than CFL and incandescent bulbs and do not flicker, but can be heat sensitive.

Common Terms

Ambient Lighting

Provides a room with overall lighting so you can move around. It is also referred to as general lighting.


An opaque shield of metal, wood or plastic used to cover the view of the light source.


The body of the lamp. It may be decorative or functional and is often constructed from metal, brass, porcelain, crystal or other materials.

Cornice Lighting

A system in which a number of light sources are shielded by a panel that is parallel to the wall and attached to the ceiling. Cornice lighting distributes light over the wall.

Desk Lamp

A task light positioned on a desk or table, designed to aid work or study.


A device in the electrical circuit that allows a varying flow of light from a source, gradually increasing or decreasing the amount of light. In addition to overhead use, dimmer switches are helpful for general overhead, accent or table lamps as adjusting light level can create a variety of moods.

Directional Lighting

A system in which a surface or object is lit mainly from a specific, preferred direction. Often used as accent lighting.


A hidden source that directs the light downward towards the surface immediately below.


Imitation surfaces that resemble specific materials, such as marble or gold.


In a light bulb, a thin wire (made of metal tungsten) that emits light when heated until glowing hot (incandescent) by an electric current.


The finished ornament at the top of a lamp or, in some cases, at the bottom of a fixture.

Floor Lamp

A standing lamp, most often used for ambient or general lighting.

General Lighting

The uniform lighting of an area, without specific local or task lighting. Also referred to as ambient lighting.


A condition that occurs when light is poorly distributed or has an unsuitable range. Glare can cause discomfort and reduce your ability to see significant objects. Direct glare is caused by light coming directly to the eye from a source or bright surface. Reflected glare is light reflected from a surface in the direction of the eye.


A rounded lamp cover, it may be transparent or made from a light-diffusing material. It is intended to diffuse and redirect the light or to change the colour of the light.

Localized Lighting

Lighting for a specific visual task. This type of lighting is in addition to and is controlled separately from the general (or ambient) lighting.


Thin layers of material fused together to create a translucent shade that creates a warm glow.

Pendant Light

A light source suspended from a ceiling or other support by a cord, chain or tube.


A bracket for lights, often decorative, that is placed on a wall or mirror.


An opaque or translucent covering added to fixtures and lamps to enhance the decoration, shield the light source and direct the light.


The electrical connector into which the bulb is screwed. Never use a bulb that exceeds the maximum wattage indicated on the socket.


Generally, a glass-shaded lamp made from a mosaic of panels.


A standing lamp that directs light upwards. May be used as accent or ambient lighting.


A length of metal rod, affixed to the ceiling that has special light fixtures which can be moved and snapped in place.


A hidden source that directs the light upward towards the surface immediately above it.

Valance Lighting

A system of light sources shielded by a panel parallel to the wall above a window. This system allows for both uplight and downlight.


The standard unit of power in North America.