Step lighting has become an affordable reality thanks to LED, both indoors and outside. As lighting designers we include them in the majority of our projects, so let us show you how to choose the best step lighting for your home and the products we like to use.
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A Step light is a small fixture designed to light up a tread or wash a floor with light. The smallest type provides a tight illumination narrow enough for an individual step or tread and look great in groups. There are wider versions of step lights that more broadly wash the floor with light which can also be used effectively on landings for a useful nighttime low light level.
There are lots of interior and exterior step lights that can do this and wherever installed can only enhance the design of a space.
Step lighting for stairs, landings and hallways can look incredible.
The single point source of light is a light fixture that delivers it’s illumination from a definitive point. This type of step light has a single LED light source that shines light down or across the floor or stairs with a small spread of light. This is ideal for the repetition of these fittings along a staircase or along a corridor to introduce the contrasts of highs and lows of light, the lights and darks that the eye is always attracted to. They are particularly useful to demark the physical changing of levels too which is why they are used along passageways and flights of stairs so often.
LED Strips hidden within stair nosings or aluminium extrusions covered by a frosted diffuser, create uniform delivery of light to your defined length, usually across the width of the whole step.
Exterior step lighting is a must have for any lit outdoor space and it does not need to have an expensive installation. They can be both single point and linear sources as we use inside, but they need to be protected from the ingress of moisture. The power source to these lights can be divided between renewable energy and the usual power from the grid.
The energy efficient renewable solar charge harvested through a small PV Cell on top of a surface mounted step light is sufficient enough to light your outdoor steps for an entire evening without the need of electricity and therefore no external cabling.
For the ultimate control of light, switching and dimming, a cabled system delivers a professional design through a discrete fitting. Energy efficient LED step lights usually require a power supply (driver) to provide a constant current to them so good planning and installation is required.
The advancement of LED into a useful and powerful light source has seen lighting integrated into the smallest of fixtures to illuminate places within the home that were once deemed as unsuitable. They go way beyond simply providing light and introduce a sophisticated rhythm of illumination that always looks incredible. Step lighting has become an affordable reality thanks to LED.
Exterior lighting always looks amazing at night surrounded by the backdrop of darkness with modern step lighting now a visual necessity for residential and commercial spaces both inside and out. Step lights add safety by waymarking routes of passage as well as adding style and sophistication to walkways, patio areas and around the poolside.
Begin your choice of step light by choosing what you want it to do. They can add a subtle accent layer of light onto a floor or stairs or be the brightest source of light on a deck or patio area. This also helps you choose how many of them you will need. Compare models by their lumen output not the wattage.
You have some limited choices of the color of white each LED delivers. From warm white hues of 2700K for a welcoming general illumination to cool whites of 4000K for the sense of a brighter illumination.
Step lights come in all shapes and sizes, round, square, rectangular, domed and flat to name a few. Your choice of size depends on how many you intend to use. If you want to try and light every stair tread then each one needs to be small and throw out a tight beam whereas illuminating every third step you can opt for a wider choice as it has more space around it to look intentional.
Can you recess your choice into the surface it is being installed into? For the most discrete choice a recessed step light will only have the front decorative face (bezel) showing so the depth of the fixture will need adequate space to be installed into.
Recessing step lighting into a surface may need a mounting sleeve to ensure a tight fit. Plasterboarded stud walls can be easier to install into compared to solid brickwork that can benefit from a mounting cage or sleeve to be installed into the recess first.
Some step lights push light directly out at 90 degrees to the wall and as light spreads wider the further it travels, it will wash the floor with light but some will go up too. In some circumstances the light going upwards can meet the eye and cause some uncomfort through glare.
Staircase lighting can be prone to glare in hallways where the lit higher treads are at head height to the standing person at ground level. Open plan living areas with an open stair balustrade need to ensure the illumination does not travel deeper into the room and spoil the overall lighting.
Step and stair lighting glare can be overcome by choosing fixtures that embed the LED source within the fixture and direct the light downwards, shielding the source from direct vision. You can recognise a fitting that has this as you cannot see the source directly without looking up into the fitting.
There is an abundance of choice to suit most spaces and even trimless recessed stair lighting for the fully integrated solution that is plastered into the wall.
Interior choices in dry areas have no particular stipulation but bathrooms and showers require step lights to be resistant to corrosion from humid conditions. A solid brass or powder coated finish alongside stainless steel are the best choice.
Exterior choices need to be a solid brass or 316 grade stainless steel for peace of mind and any polycarbonate material is durable against the rigors of the weather.
Lastly if you are adding stair lights to external areas you need a fixture that carries a UL rating of wet or damp to ensure it is safe for outdoor use.
For those areas that other lighting just cannot reach, step lights are the answer for restricted places.
Staircases have always been difficult to illuminate without protruding surface mounted wall lights, step lights are the perfect solution. They look great and give an added level of safety.
Step lights are the subtle compact source of lighting that skims light across the floor and helps lead the eye onwards as it sees the repetition of contrasts between the lit and unlit areas.
Used in the same way as a hallway but with the added benefit of being a circuit of lighting that can be left on sometimes as a night light for young children or anyone who could benefit from moving across the space in the night.
The kitchen floor is a difficult surface to light without overlighting the whole area. The step light style fixture allows for the defined short throws of light across the floor that bring in interest and add a gentle layer of lighting that can sometimes be the only source of light left on for the late evening time.
Choosing step lights for the deck or patio introduce little sources of light that provide enough light to see the space in the late evening hours. An LED step light on patio and deck stairs provide a safety light by highlighting the danger of a change in level.
Steps outside benefit from every tread being lit to ensure the user understands where each change of level is. This can be done generally with board wash of light probably across approximately 3 treads or every one individually.
Interior stairs are usually lit on every third tread depending on how many in total there are and what pitch suits the overall spacing.
Stair lighting is installed after careful consideration as interior staircases will group the chain of step lights and power them all from a single driver. For constant current LEDs this chain of light fixtures is wired in series to a remote power supply hidden under the stairs or anywhere near. The power is brought to the power supply first and then off around the series of fittings and then back to the starting point.
The higher the lighting fitting is away from the stairs, the broader the light will spread, so experiment first with how high you want to position them before drilling any holes.
The average lumen level for an internal LED step light is approximately 80 lumens. This level is enough to adequately light up to three treads.
The exterior solar light will be less but that is sufficient as lighting outside at night accentuates even a small amount.
Best Brick Step Light
Best LED Step Light
Best Horizontal Step Light
Best Deck LED Step Light
Best Solar Step Light
Best Outdoor Step Light
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