One of the success stories resulting from the pandemic has been the garden room or home office. With most of us in lockdown during the early days of the pandemic, we were forced to work from home, often using a spare room or dining table as a work area. This proved impossible for many, as family life distracted workers and interfered with progress. A garden room was the perfect solution, situated away from any distractions, yet still within the grounds of the property so there was no breaking of lockdown rules.
For a garden room to be successful as a work space, it will require a work station – a desk and chair, computer system, internet access, an electricity supply, heating and lighting, these are the most basic requirements that most people would need. This article will concentrate upon lighting, specifically fluorescent lighting, how it works, the pros and cons, etc. Click here for further information about garden room lighting.
What is Fluorescent Light?
Fluorescent light is a form of light that is created within a glass tube or bulb, also known as a fluorescent lamp. Fluorescence is a form of luminescence and it is the emission of light from a substance that has absorbed light or electromagnetic radiation.
The word fluoresce means to glow brightly due to fluorescence and the word fluorescent comes from the Latin word, fluere, which means to flow, fluorescent is related to fluorite, which is a mineral that glows.
You may have come across fluorescent lights at school or in a supermarket, or even in your office, some people prefer to have fluorescent lighting in their loft, garage or workshop at home as it provides a very bright light. This form of lighting was once only available as long thin tubes, these are known as linear fluorescent tubes, there are now many more types available and these include fluorescent circline tubes, fluorescent bent tubes and compact fluorescent lamps – also known as CFL’s and, more commonly, energy saving light bulbs. Fluorescent lighting is a common form of lighting in large buildings as it is energy efficient when compared to incandescent and halogen lighting.
How does Fluorescent Light Work?
This type of light is produced by a chemical reaction that occurs when an electrical current is passed through the glass tube or bulb and it reacts with mercury vapour, creating an invisible UV light. This invisible UV light is absorbed by phosphor powder which coats the inside of the glass tube or bulb, illuminating it and creating fluorescent light. Fluorescent light tubes or bulbs require a ballast, this regulates the flow of electrical current, keeping it low enough to ensure the light output remains stable.
How to Install Fluorescent Lighting
Replacing an incandescent light fitting with a fluorescent tube fitting is a relatively straightforward task, however, it is still something that should only be carried out by a competent person or electrician.
The power supply will need to be isolated at the distribution board and the breaker removed from the lighting circuit that is being worked on.
Remove the existing light fitting, making note of connections within the terminal blocks of the ceiling rose. These connections need to be reproduced within a four terminal 20A junction box.
If, as in the majority of cases, your garden room is single storey and has a plaster ceiling then a hole will need to be formed to mount the new junction box to a joist above the ceiling line.
The flex cables that feed from the ceiling rose to the old incandescent bulb holder need to be replaced with 1.5mm twin and earth cable, feeding from the appropriate connection points in the new junction box to the fluorescent fitting position, leaving sufficient length to make a connection.
If a hole was required in the ceiling, this can be made good using plasterboard or self-hardening filler, once the twin and earth cable has been positioned.
The fluorescent fitting can then be fixed onto the ceiling over the cable, ensuring that good fixings are achieved into the ceiling joists across its length.
Electrical connections can then be made to the block within the new fitting, ensuring the earth connection is made.
The fluorescent bulb can be inserted and the diffuser fitted.
Replacing the circuit breaker in the distribution board and switching it on will allow the new installation to be tested using the original switch position.
If you do not fully understand the wiring required during the installation of a fluorescent light fitting, or you do not feel confident about any part of the process, it is crucial that you do not attempt it yourself. ALWAYS use a competent person who is skilled and experienced in working with electricity or use a qualified electrician to undertake the work.
Plug-in Fluorescent Lighting
Compact fluorescent lamps, also known as CFL or energy saving light bulbs, can be used as a replacement for conventional incandescent light bulbs that are used in lamps that plug in to the mains electricity supply, they are available in a range of shapes and sizes with screw and bayonet fittings. You will need to purchase special dimming type of CFL if you wish to use a dimmer switch.
Fluorescent Light Benefits
There are many advantages to using fluorescent lighting in your garden room, we have listed some of those benefits below:
Fluorescent lighting gives a 25-35% saving in energy use compared to a conventional light bulb. A Compact Fluorescent Lamp saves you 75% in energy use compared to a traditional light bulb.
Good lumen maintenance
Fluorescent lighting has good lumen maintenance, this means that the light they emit does not depreciate greatly over time
Fluorescent lighting has a longer life span than conventional lighting, on average about six times longer than an incandescent light bulb
Less heat radiation
Fluorescent lighting radiates around 75% less heat than an incandescent bulb, this helps save on energy costs and helps to keep rooms cool during heat waves
CFL bulbs are compact in size
Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs are only 4 – 5 inches tall, this makes them highly versatile
Fluorescent Light Negatives
Higher initial cost
Fluorescent lighting can be more expensive to buy, with the initial outlay sometimes three times more than conventional lighting
Fluorescent lighting contains a small amount of mercury liquid, this is converted to mercury vapour when it is turned on. It is important that you carefully recycle fluorescent lighting after use as it is considered to be hazardous waste.
Broken fluorescent lights should be dealt with extreme care as they contain mercury or mercury vapour, this is toxic and hazardous.
- Evacuate all people and pets, cover fish tanks/aquariums
- Avoid creating dust or inhaling dust
- Turn off heating or air conditioning
- Open windows and doors to fully ventilate area
- Wear gloves, do not allow fragments to touch naked skin
- Do not sweep up or vacuum broken fragments on hard surfaces
- After vacuuming carpet, place filter into airtight container for disposal
- Using paper, card or disposable wet wipes, collect fragments and other residue and place in airtight container
- Use sticky tape to collect smaller fragments and place this in the airtight container
- Thoroughly wash your hands after clean up
- Do not dispose of airtight container along with your general household rubbish, do not place into your roadside collection recycling bin
- Airtight containers should be considered as hazardous waste and only disposed of at a recycling centre
Ambient temperature issues
Fluorescent lighting does not operate well in cold temperatures, it will produce less light as the temperature drops, if it drops below freezing the light may not work at all
The flickering that is often found in fluorescent lighting can cause headaches, blurred vision and migraines, sometimes this can only be resolved by replacing the tube
Fluorescent lighting, particularly the linear tube type, are rather commercial or industrial in appearance
Fluorescent Light Problems
All types of garden room lighting can suffer problems and fluorescent lighting is no exception.
Fluorescent Light Starter Problems
One issue that older versions of fluorescent lighting suffer with is starter problems. A fluorescent starter is a small metallic cylinder that plugs into a socket within the frame of the light, when these become problematic the light may flicker on and off, or stay off completely. This can often be resolved by removing the starter and replacing it, ensuring it is correctly fitted, if this does not fix the issue then you will need to purchase a replacement starter. If you cannot see a starter, don’t forget to check under the tube, then you probably have a self-starting version of fluorescent light.
Flickering Fluorescent Light
Another problem that often affects fluorescent lights is that they begin to flicker, this can be caused by the starter, as previously mentioned, or it could be that the tube is reaching the end of its life and requires replacement. If neither of these solutions resolve the issue then you may need to replace the ballast, we recommend that you seek advice from your electrical supplier or a qualified electrician regarding this, as it may be simpler and cheaper to replace the whole unit.
How to Change a Fluorescent Light Bulb
Changing a fluorescent light tube may seem a rather daunting task but it is actually quite simple, here is how you do it:
- Turn off the light at the light switch
- Remove the light unit cover to expose the tube
- Remove the defective tube by gently twisting it
- Fit a replacement tube by twisting gently into place
- Replace the light unit cover
Fluorescent Lighting in a Bathroom
Fluorescent lighting is suitable if you are using your garden room as a kitchen, bathroom or office. It must be noted that if you intend fitting a fluorescent light in a bathroom you will be required to strictly adhere to building regulations that cover the use of electricity in these areas, this is due to the presence of water. Bathrooms have four zoned areas where lighting is concerned, this is based upon how much water is present, you will need to purchase lighting with the correct IP (Ingress Protection) rating, depending upon the zone.
Bathroom Electrical Zones and IP Ratings
- Zone 0 – Anywhere in a bathroom that can hold water, such as inside a bath, basin or shower – Lights with a rating of IP67 must be used here
- Zone 1 – This is known as a splash area, for example over your bath or shower – Lights with a rating of IP67 are also recommended here
- Zone 2 – This is the area that is not likely to get wet, although some splashing is possible – Lights with a rating of IP44 should be used here
- Zone 3 – This area is anywhere beyond the previous zones, it is where there is no chance of getting wet, specially rated lighting is not necessary here, although Lights with a minimum rating of IP20 is generally recommended
If you are unsure about the zones in your bathroom or the IP rating required, we recommend that you seek advice from your electrical supplier or a qualified electrician.
Fluorescent Lighting in a Kitchen
Many people use their garden room as an extra kitchen area, this can be extremely useful when having a barbeque in the garden. Fluorescent lighting in a kitchen is a great choice as it is so energy efficient, it also does not add to the heat in the room either, as with incandescent lighting. Fluorescent lighting provides great illumination, which makes it ideal for cooking.
Fluorescent Lighting in an Office
For anyone who uses their garden room as an office, fluorescent lighting is a great solution to those high energy costs associated with the use of incandescent lighting. Office work requires good illumination, which makes fluorescent lighting a great choice here too, another reason for choosing this type of lighting is that it does not radiate heat in the same way that incandescent light does, a real boon for anyone suffering during the recent heat waves.
When is Fluorescent Lighting not suitable for use in a Garden Room?
Although fluorescent lighting is used in garden rooms throughout the UK with no issues at all, there are instances when opting for another type of light source is advisable.
Fluorescent lights contain mercury, this is toxic and considered as hazardous to our health. If your garden room is used for any purpose where fluorescent lights can be accidentally broken, or if they are at risk of breakage for any reason at all, then we advise that you use another type of lighting.
If your garden room is used as an office, studio or any other purpose in which anyone will be working for long periods of time, you should be aware that fluorescent lighting can sometimes cause health issues, particularly if a person is sensitive to this kind of lighting or if your lights have problems with flickering. Sufferers may experience eye strain, headaches, migraines, dizziness, nausea, etc.
What is a Fluorescent Light Diffuser?
A Fluorescent light diffuser is a cover over the fluorescent tube or bulb that spreads the concentration of light, these covers are generally made of opaque acrylic, often with a variety of patterns that also help to diffuse the light. Fluorescent light diffusers can reduce the discomfort that some people experience with fluorescent lighting, helping to alleviate eye strain and headaches. Replacement of old diffusers can help to cut down on the glare of very bright fluorescent lighting.
Can I grow plants under Fluorescent Lighting?
Plants can indeed be grown very successfully under fluorescent lights, however, do not expect your plants to flower under this type of lighting. This is because fluorescent light provides mostly blue light waves, to be able to flower a plant also requires red light waves. Fluorescent lighting is perfect for growing foliage plants and to start seedlings, the plants will be safe from suffering burnt leaves as this lighting does not radiate much heat.
Are weatherproof Fluorescent Lights available?
Yes, weatherproof fluorescent lighting can be found at most of the well-known DIY stores. Weatherproof fluorescent lighting fixtures have non-corrosive properties, this makes them ideal for outdoor use. We recommend that you seek health and safety advice from your supplier or a qualified electrician when installing outdoor lighting.
Whether you love it or hate it, fluorescent lighting is a highly popular way of illuminating a garden room, it provides bright light with very little radiant heat, making it the ideal choice for summer heat waves. Another benefit of course, are the savings in your energy costs, particularly with Compact Fluorescent Lamps, otherwise known as energy saving light bulbs.
It is recommended that you seek advice from your supplier or a qualified electrician before the purchase or installation of any form of lighting fixtures and fittings, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter and contact them if there is anything at all that you are unsure of or do not understand.
As previously mentioned, broken fluorescent lights contain mercury or mercury vapour, this means it should be treated as hazardous waste and disposed of with great care. Please refer to our step by step advice for dealing with broken fluorescent lights and their safe and responsible disposal.
Fluorescent lights that are broken, damaged or have stopped working are considered to be hazardous waste and should be disposed of carefully and responsibly. Do not dispose of fluorescent lights along with your general household rubbish or place into your roadside collection recycling bin. Fluorescent lights should always be taken to a recycling centre for disposal, your local council will have details of your nearest recycling centre. To find your local council, click here