Recently a client called to ask about in ground uplighting. Her own project had a space that called for more than uniform illumination from ceiling lights, and liked the idea of using in ground uplighters. Floor uplights create an opportunity to send light upwards so rather than light the floor, the ceiling is lit and the adjacent surfaces. This introduces contrast and an accent lighting technique is used for overall illumination to great effect.
This project was near completion but the floor was not finished yet, which left the possibility of burying some lights into the floor as a reality.
📌 Looking at a Link Porch that connected 2 buildings – would uplighting work better than downlighting?
This corridor like space is small and follows a path, so the client liked the idea of a gentle light that created interest rather than flatted the space with even illumination. It deserves accent lighting rather than spoiling the drama of the space with heavy overlighting from downlights.
Downlighters could be dimmed which would reduce their output and introduce a mood, but the light would still be going down and the floor would be the most lit surface. Yes it would light at an accent level and with the downlight spaced at bigger distances, it could create contrast too with lights and darks, yet it’s still about more of wash of light than celebrating the architecture.
Uplighters can be very small and pick out details that downlighters just cannot do with the same accuracy. They are best used as accent lights used in groups, so more of them would be needed than the downlight choice and therefore be more expensive to install and buy.
So which one is best for this project?
Uplighting as a low level main source of light can be beautiful, especially with repetition creating contrast rhythm.
📌 Tip is to ensure you plot what the spill of light will look like on the ceiling and allow for some darks to be left between each patch of light.
You can see from the images of the space and the floor plan, that we had beautiful solid oak posts with glazing between each one at distances of approximately 750mm which is the width of a door.
By burying an uplighter in the ground, the light from the LED source could be located near the ones of choice and let one of the brightest surfaces in the space be the oak frame as the light washes up it. This celebrates the architecture the part with the most money spent on, rather than yet another floor surface.
Less light is needed sending it upwards, as the white ceiling becomes an efficient reflector of the light – where downlights send light onto the floor in most cases and the reflectivity is dependant on the flooring colour.
That’s one reason why in ground uplighters are generally lower in lumen output (brightness) than a downlight. We choose to send just enough light upwards, to wash the oak frame with light but not too much that a glare point is created, but enough to reach the ceiling, gently light it and use this white surface to reflect a calming ambient light back across the space.
We have a full article on How to Use Ground Uplighting, but here are some tips we offered on this particular project of a short corridor like space.
📌 Under floor heating is fine as long as we leave approx 100mm of unheated space around each position.
📌The bezel (front plate) finish choice is open to a wide variety of choices, with a brushed stainless steel as the standard default.
📌The degree of waterproof protection, or IP rating, was considered. Where areas are only subjected to levels of moisture from floor washing or the odd spilt drink, then IP54 is acceptable as this is classed as splashproof. IP67 is usually the next step up for ground uplighters installed in wet areas, often outdoors or in poolside applications.
📌 Client understood that the power supply (driver) has to be remote to the uplights, so finding a remote location can be annoying but is better than burying a driver under the light itself for size and maintenance reasons. Once a floor light is siliconed in, it’s best left alone.
📌 Be sure to wire in series – meaning there is a daisy chain of cable from the power supply, in and out of each fitting and then back to where it began. Plan this at first fix if you can.
Our choice of product was the Toto Mini In Ground Uplight, for the following reasons:
Discussing the pros and cons of sending light up instead of down – the client favoured uplighting as did we.
📌Uplights offer a subtle and interesting solution for an accent light and scene set, whereas a downlight unless tamed with careful positioning, quantity and dimming, will create a flat scheme of uniform illumination.
📌Downlighting creates less glare so can easily safely pump out more light compared to an in ground uplight you will walk near and look down into the light source.
In conclusion, downlights are best for ambient layers of general lighting and use uplighting for accent layers to introduce a lighting design technique that adds a layer of beauty by accentuating the architectural details and points of interest in a space.