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Lighting up a bathroom overhaul 

LED bulbs are your best choice for general bathroom lighting. Recommended lighting levels for various rooms and tasks are often listed in foot-candles. Most lightbulbs and integral light fixtures (built-in bulb) are rated in lumens of light output. Generally, a bathroom needs 70 to 80 foot-candles of brightness, compared with 30 to 40 for a dining room. A 5-by-10-foot (50 square feet) bathroom, for example, would require 3,500 to 4,000 lumens. 

Be sure to install a new ENERGY STAR-qualified vent fan with an efficient lighting system. 

The layered look 

Use layered lighting in your bathroom. There are two basic lighting layers: specific task and ambient. 

Ambient lighting can be as low as 40 foot-candles or 2,000 lumens for a 50-square-foot area. For this, a single overhead LED fixture or vent fan should be adequate. A model with a motion sensor that automatically dims to a night light level is a convenient feature. 

For tasks like shaving and applying makeup, the lighting level should be a minimum of 80 foot-candles or 4,000 lumens. Three-direction lighting from above and eye-level at the sides helps eliminate shadows when shaving and applying makeup. Fluorescent bulbs also offer more options for better color rendition, which is helpful when applying makeup. 

The most common task lighting for the bath/shower area is recessed canister lighting. Although it is not the most efficient type of fixture, it protects the bulb and fixture. If recessed lights will be under the attic floor, make sure to install special fixtures that are sealed from the attic above.

JAMES DULLEY is a nationally syndicated columnist who writes on energy efficiency and do-it-yourself energy topics. 

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