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Last edited 24 Jan 2019
Natural light emanates either from the sun, from the sky or from the moon. The intensity of these sources will vary according to the time of day and the location. Buildings are often designed to optimise the capture of natural daylight.
In contrast, artificial light is human-made and can emanate from sources including fire, candlelight, gaslight, electric lamps and so on. Today however, the term 'artificial lighting' generally refers to lighting that emanates from electric lamps. The term ‘lamp’ refers specifically to a light source, typically comprising a light-emitting element contained within an outer container (bulb or tube) which emits radiation within the visible spectrum.
Artificial light is generally easily manipulated to achieve the required lighting outcome. The light can be increased or decreased, directed, focused and coloured. This allows lighting to create a range of effects according to the requirements of a space.
The type of artificial light source chosen will depend on the type of space the lighting is for (office, living room, bathroom etc); the quality and type of light required for the space, and the energy consumption of the light fitting.
The traditional bulb-type lamp with a glowing filament, once commonly used in residential applications. They are generally considered to be the least energy-efficient choice of electric lamp but are inexpensive, turn on instantly and come in a range of sizes and shapes.
Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are available in various sizes and fittings and can be used in place of incandescent lamps without changing light fixtures. They are generally more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs. Some are dimmable and are compatible with other lighting controls. CFLs come in globe, spiral, floodlight and reflector variants.
LEDs are a rapidly developing lighting technology and one of the most energy-efficient lamps available. Compared to incandescent lamps, they can use around 75% less energy and can last 25 times longer although they can be more expensive. They are generally highly regarded for their comparable or better-quality light output compared to other lighting types.
For more information see: Types of lamp.
 Types of artificial lighting
This is the general artificial lighting and overall illumination in a room. It can provide an even spread of light to give a comfortable level of brightness for most people to be able to see reasonably well and navigate safely around the room. Typically, it can be provided by a pendant fitting or ceiling downlights.
This allows the completion of tasks such as reading, studying and way-finding. It is used where ambient light levels are insufficient for the task in hand. A reading lamp is an example, as are under-cabinet lights.
This type of lighting imparts drama and character and allows certain features regarded of interest to be highlighted. The idea is to draw the viewer’s attention to the item that is lit, whether a feature wall, an ornamental pool or an expensive vase.
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