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Lighting Terms

Accent Lighting

Directional light used to focus attention on features such as paintings, special spaces or landscape. The intention is to add visual drame and interest and create contrast. Accent lighting is usually provided by recessed, tracked or wall-mounted spotlights.

Alternating Current (AC)

Normal home electricity is called Alternating Current because it changes direction 50 times a second.

Ambient Lighting

Also known as general lighting, ambient lighting provides an overall illumination without a specific direction, giving a comfortable level of brightness. Pendants lights are often used for ambience.

Amperes or amps

The unit of measurement of electrical current.

Architectural Lighting

Inbuilt lighting fixtures such as downlights that improves the architectural appearance of a place.

Average Rated Life

The number of hours in which half of a large group of lamps will burn out.


A device that directs light downward and upward to reduce glare. Often used on shades with large top diameters.


An electronic component used by fluorescent lamps to start.


The end part of a lamp that has an electrical connection.

Brushed Finish

A textured finish, usually on metal, produced by brushing or buffing.

Built-In Lighting

Lighting fixtures integrated into furniture and the architecture.

Candelabra Socket

Smaller size screw in socket typically found in chandeliers and lanterns.


Path for electricity.

Circuit Breaker

Safety device to prevent excess current flow. A circuit breaker can normally be reset.

Color Temperature

How warm or cool the light is.

Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs)

Small fluorescent bulbs that use 20-40% less electricity than incandescent bulbs.

Cove Lighting

Light built into a space at the upper part of a wall, used to illuminate the ceiling.

Damp Location

Moist areas, such as a bathroom or outside in the rain.

Deck Lighting

Lights on the outside normally on the railing of a wooden decking.


Device that spreads light by scattering it. Opal glass, etched glass, fabric and paper shades act as diffusers.


Electronic device that varies the output of a light.

Drum-style Shade

The diameter of a drum lamp shade is the same at its top and bottom.

Direct Lighting

Lighting that casts nearly all of its light in one specific direction. Using intense beams, direct lighting can be very dramatic.

Empire-style Shade

A lamp shade that is narrow on top and wider at the bottom.

Extended Life Lamp

An incandescent lamp with 2500+ hours of rated average life.


A tightly coiled tungsten wire inside an incandescent light bulb which glows when electricity flows through it.

Fill Gas

The gas inside incandescent lamps. Usually it is argon, krypton or halogen.


A decoration that fastens the lamp shade to the fixture.


A prong in a ring where the lamp shade connects to the fixture. Also known as a spider.

Floor lamp

A lamp that stands on the floor.

Fluorescent Lamp

A lamp which proviudes light by using an electric arc inside a gas filled tube.


The unit of illunimation.


A decorative band around the perimeter of a lamp.<

General Lighting

See ambient lighting.


Bright lighting which causes discomfort and bad visibility.


Connecting electrical components to earthed circuit for safety.

Halogen Light

An incandescent lamp filled with halogen and a quartz glass capsule. They operate at high internal temperatures and produce more brightness per watt than ordinary incandescent lamps.


The mechanism used to secure a lamp shade to its base.

Heat Ratings

Rating to ensure that lighting such as downlights do not affect combustible ceiling materials.


Light produced by heating material such as filaments so it glows.

Incandescent Lamp

Lamps that produce light with electricity passing through a wire filament.

Indirect Lighting

Lighting that directs most of the light upward for ambient or general illumination.


Plug-in stem used for low voltage fixtures.


Scientific unit of temperature. 1 degree Kelvin is the same as 1 degree Centigrade.

Kilowatt Hour

Unit of measurement for electrical energy.

Lamp Holder

A socket which holds the lamp in place.


LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. It is a small electronic device which emits lights.

Light Distribution

The pattern of light produced by a light.

Low Voltage Fixtures

A fixture for low voltage lamps.

Low Voltage Lamps

Incandescent lamps that operate at low (6, 12 or 24) volts.


A scientific unit of lighting output.

Motion Detector

A control using infrared or ultrasonic waves to sense whether someone is moving in the vicinity of the sensor. Often used to turn a light on or off.

Nominal Watts

The power rating of a lamp published by its manufacturer.

Outdoor Lighting

A lighting system that is used in an exterior space.


A light-sensitive device used to electrical and solar lights on and off at dusk and dawn.

Quartz Lamp

The quartz glass on the outside of the halogen lamp that transmits UV radiation.


A surface that reflects light in a desired direction to increase illumination to that space.


The arch or scallop-shaped pattern from a light.


Accent lighting technique that creates a very interesting and dramatic effect by back lighting.

Specular Finish

Polished and mirror-like.

Step Lights

Lights ecessed into stairs to illuminate the treads of the stairs.

Task Lighting

Lighting that provides illumination for tasks such as reading and cooking.


A programmed device that turns lights on and off at specific times.


A floor lamp that sends most of its light upward.


A device used to raise or lower the electric voltage.


The edge of a recessed downlight or other lighting fixture.


A recessed fluorescent light used in suspended ceilings.

Tungsten-Halogen Lamp

A gas filled tungsten incandescent lamp. Commonly referred to as Halogen lighting.

Undercabinet Lighting

A fixtures placed under a cabinet to provide task and accent lighting.

Valance Lighting

A light installed behind a horizontal shield over a window or a wall which sends the light up and down.


A unit of electrical force. In Australia household voltage is 240V.


A unit of electrical power.


The quantity of electricity consumed by a light bulb.