Lighting Buying Guide

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Lighting Buying Guide

Not only a practical consideration, lighting makes a big difference to the way you use your home and goes a long way to influence the mood in the room.
Using a mixture of fittings to create different lighting effects can give your living space fantastic versatility, so don't be afraid to experiment.

From light bulb types and brightness to light fittings, shades and lighting safety, our expert guide to lighting your home will help you narrow down your options.


Cap types

Bulb types

Bulb compatibility

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Wattage vs. lumens

Wattage and Lumens are both units of measurement. Wattage is the amount of energy required to produce light, while the lumen rating reveals how much light is produced. The higher the lumen rating, the more light you can expect.

The recommended Wattage provided with your light fitting should always be your first consideration when buying light bulbs as heat is created when the two are connected. If a bulb has a wattage that is too high for the fitting, too much heat will be created which can make the fitting unsafe.

All Dunelm fittings are tested for heat and light generation and clearly display a maximum Wattage recommendation.

Safety in bathrooms and kitchens

Due to the high levels of moisture present, bathrooms and kitchens require light fittings that have been created for safe use in these environments. Areas in bathrooms and kitchens are classified into safety zones, with each zone defined by the risk of water making contact with the light fitting.

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Each zone requires a fitting which guarantees a specific rating of Ingress Protection (IP). IP ratings give an indication of how waterproof a light fitting is, thereby indicating where it can be used within the kitchen or bathroom. The higher the rating (0-9), the more moisture the light fitting can be exposed to.

A pair of digits follow the initials 'IP' identifying two numeric ratings for particulates and water, respectively. When one criteria is not applicable to the fitting, that value is marked with an 'x' value instead. Bathroom and kitchen lighting do not require dust protection so any rating for the first digit is fine.

The zones are as follows, with their required IP ratings:

Zone 0 Inside the bath or shower tray itself. Any light here must be low voltage and rated IPx7. Lights rated IPx7 will provide total protection when immersed in water.
Zone 1 Above the bath or shower to a height of 2.25 metres above floor level. A light fitting with a minimum of IPx4 is needed.
Zone 2 An area stretching to 0.6 metres outside and above the bath or shower, if over 2.25 metres. Zone 2 also includes the area above the sink in a radius of 0.6 metres from the taps. A light fitting of at least IPx4 is needed.
Zone 3 Anywhere outside zones 0, 1 and 2 (subject to specific limits) and where no water jet is likely to be used. There is no specific IP number for this area and any light fitting can be used unless specifically marked as not for use in bathrooms.

For kitchens and utility rooms, the same guidance should be applied to sinks, or any appliance that requires a water supply, i.e. washing machines, dishwashers, etc.

If you have any doubts about the suitability of lighting in your Kitchen or Bathroom, consult a qualified electrician.

Lighting effects


Ambient light mimics the effect of natural light. Commonly used in living and dining rooms as well as bedrooms, ambient lighting creates a soothing soft focus illumination that aids relaxation.


Task lighting provides a bright light focused on one area to provide excellent visibility. Frequently seen in the form of desk lamps to aid reading, or recessed ceiling down-lighters in the kitchen, localised light sources allow precision work to be conducted without eye strain.


Accent lighting is the most creative of lighting effects. Not intended for functional use, accent lights create drama in a room by highlighting key features like an alcove, or a wall-hung picture. Accent light is ideal for use in conjunction with ambient light in the living room to give greater flexibility.

Switches, dimmers and timers

Wall switch

Designed to operate wall or ceiling lights, wall switches are placed approximately 15cm from the door to give easy access when entering or leaving a room. Usually made from plastic or metal with a single or double mechanism for controlling lights, the wall plate keeps any wiring hidden in a recess behind.


As the name suggests, dimmer switches alter the brightness of your light to change the mood of your room. Three types of dimmer exist: touch, switch and remote. Touch dimmers have preset light levels that can be activated when touched. Switch dimmers have a sliding or rotating switch to provide full flexibility of brightness. A remote dimmer provide the same range of brightness and is often programmable to provide preset lighting effects at the touch of a button.


Either digitally or mechanically operated, these turn lights on or off over a 24-hour or 7-day period. Such changes in light can make an empty building appear occupied, so light timers are often seen as a valuable security measure.

All switches and dimmers have maximum wattage ratings. This is the maximum total wattage of all the lights wired to it, rather than the wattage for each individual light.Also note that some mains halogen lights require dimmers that run at double their total wattage. Read product instructions fully before installing and consult an electrician if in any doubt.

Lights and shades


Designed to diffuse the glare of a naked light bulb, light shades are available in a wide range of colours, fabrics and styles to become a key element of your decor. While often chosen for their decorative qualities, the level of transparency is also important as this dictates how the light disperses through the room.

The most common types of light shade shapes include:

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Cylinder shaped and usually open at the top and bottom, drum light shades throw light upwards and downwards to offer the brightest option for ceiling lighting.

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Similar to drum shades but with a tapered shape. Cone shades become 'uplighters' when inverted, casting light towards the ceiling to reduce shadow and glare. Uplighters should be avoided in rooms with low ceilings, or exposed beams.

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Multi Shade

Used when ceiling lights have more than one bulb, multiple shades are mounted upon a single frame to create a cluster or row. The shades are usually made from the same material and are included with the fitting.

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Featuring a more sculpted body and designed to create specific lighting effects through their shape, pendants fit onto ceiling fittings to deliver a more focussed light source.

Indoor Lights

Fixed and recessed lights

Most frequently used as spotlights, they can be used individually to highlight, or as a series to create a feature. Fixed lights can be recessed into an object, ceiling, wall or floor or be mounted onto fixtures which can provide variable tilt, or reflection. Fixed lights have a variety of uses:

  • Drawing attention to a decorative element or design feature
  • To 'wash' walls with light, creating the illusion of a larger and more open living space
  • Providing focussed light for conducting activities like reading or food preparation
LED bulbs are best for recessed floor lighting as they stay cool during use. Halogen bulbs produce too much heat and should not be used for this purpose.

Flexible lights

Mounted to a movable arm to deliver a versatile beam of light, flexible lights are a practical addition by focussing light on a particular area. Commonly used as desk lamps, adjustable lights can also be used in wall and ceiling fittings to create the perception of a larger space.

Outdoor Lights

Outdoor lights fall into two categories:


Commonly used in outdoor novelty lighting using LED bulbs, battery powered lights and solar lights are cheap and easy to maintain. Valued for creating mood lighting rather than illuminating large spaces, the gentle glow of garden lights provides a delicate illumination. To get the best from your solar lighting, position the solar panel to receive the maximum amount of direct sunlight during the daytime.


Connected to mains electricity as the power source, halogen bulbs are more suited to these garden lights. A variety of styles are available and are perfect for illuminating walkways, highlighting landscape features or providing security. Some mains outdoor lights are fitted with a Passive Infrared Sensor (PIR), which detect motion and activate the light.

Whichever type of outdoor lighting is used, safety must always be the primary consideration. All light fittings, plugs and sockets should be waterproof, with a minimum Ingress Protection (IP) Rating of 68. Wiring should be well insulated and weatherproof. If you have any concerns about the safety of your outdoor lighting, we advise consulting a qualified electrician.

Frequently asked questions

Can I fit energy saving bulbs to a dimmer switch?

Most energy saving bulbs aren't fully compatible with dimmer switch circuits, though a growing range of dimmable CFLs is available. There are a few energy saving bulbs that can be used with 'staged dimming', but this requires a special kind of dimmer switch.

Should I choose a flush ceiling light or one with a chain?

Consider the height of your ceiling. Many new houses have slightly lower ceiling heights and may require flush or semi-flush lights to avoid the inconvenience of constant ducking. Always check the maximum height of light that you can accommodate before choosing your lights and check the dimensions on the light fittings for their height. Lights that hang from chains are adjustable by removing links to reduce the hanging height.

What size shade should I buy for my floor or table lamp?

Floor lamps or standard lamps normally require a much larger shade, 18", 20" or 22" in diameter are the usual sizes.

Your shade also needs to sit at the correct height on your floor lamp. As a rule of thumb the bottom of the shade should just cover the light bulb or lamp holder, when looking at eye level. If the shade needs to be raised up this can be done by using an inexpensive shade carrier, available in various heights.

Dunelm's floor lamps usually come complete as matching base and shade, so we will already have taken care of the sizing and compatibility for you.

Can I do my own electrical work?

According to UK law, electrical work should only be undertaken by a 'competent person'. This is normally a qualified and insured electrical contractor, though the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) runs a registration scheme for keen DIYers who want to get approved.

Enlisting the services of a qualified (e.g. NICEIC registered) electrician does not have to be expensive, and will give you peace of mind, therefore we recommend you budget for professional advice and service.

What are 'Class 1' and 'Class 2' products?

Class 1 products come with 3 wires in the power cabling; Live, Neutral and Earth (green and yellow). Class 2 appliances have only the Live and Neutral wires. This is because Class 2 products are double insulated and do not need an Earth wire. Class 1 products are not marked, but Class 2 products carry the Double box logo:

In general, most Dunelm Floor and Table lamps are Class 2, whereas most of our Wall and Ceiling Fittings are Class 1.