When choosing step lighting, safety should be your prime consideration. You need to be able to see each tread clearly and distinctly.
The top and bottom step are particularly important and should be clearly illuminated. Interestingly, you will find that your feet often “know” where the intermediate steps are by the regular rhythm and spacing of the treads. This is especially true where users are familiar with the staircase, such as in your own home.
However, wherever steps are used by the public, or people unfamiliar with the area, you need them to be well lit. The most comprehensive guidance I know of is in the Society of Light and Lighting Guide LG16. This guide includes both interior and exterior applications as well as emergency lighting. The Equalities Act 2010 and Health and Safety Executive also give recommendations for the lighting of stairs. Public buildings such as airports and railways may also have their own specific requirements and guidance.
Reading these guides, you might find that the recommended illumination levels seem quite high, especially so for outdoor situations where the surrounding ambient illumination is quite low. You then need to decide whether to follow the guidance or use your own professional expertise as to the appropriate level of illumination.
Steps which are used by people with poor vision need special consideration and this is not just about illumination levels. Contrasting textures and reflectance are crucially important in discerning the treads. This applies to both day and night conditions.
This review concentrates on actual step lighting rather than stairwells which have their own own lighting. The commonest form of lighting specifically for steps is where the luminaire is mounted on the side and the light shines down and across the treads. These luminaires are usually recessed but where this is not possible, use a shallow surface mounted one, typically no more than 50 – 70mm deep. You don’t want people tripping over the fittings.
Another useful technique is to use a line of light under the nosings shining downwards. IP rated LED tape in an aluminium channel is a good solution for this type of application. Lighting in the handrails is particularly useful for wide steps and we reviewed these products in an earlier Lux Recommends.
Our price ranges are: £ <£100, ££ 100 – £200, £££ >£200
Finally, most of these steplights are available in a range of shapes and sizes and the so the photos shown are just one of many we could have used.
WE-EF ST100 series
This is one of the most solidly constructed, durable units I have seen. It oozes quality engineering. Even the, unseen, rear of the fitting is nicely finished.
The basic unit comprises of a recessed body consuming 5W. The bare LEDs inside emit 690 lm. Obviously, the light emitted from the actual luminaire is less and this depends type of front cover you use. There are three options depending on the light distribution you require. One has horizontal louvres which block upward light, another has a simple opal polycarbonate diffuser with IK07 impact protection.
However, my choice would be the asymmetric one with a forward throw. This is better where you want illumination across the whole width of the steps.
This is the largest, highest output and most impact resistant of the luminaires we tested. It emits almost 1,500 lumens and is rated at 19W. You could illuminate several steps from one luminaire, maybe even a short flight of stairs.
It has the excellent build quality you would expect from Bega and their data sheet is one of the best. For example, it contains information about the inrush current for multiple luminaires and rated life at different ambient temperatures.
The beam has a beautifully sharp cut-off so it emits absolutely no upward light. You would have no hesitation in using it in a dark sky or environmentally sensitive area. Like some other quality manufacturers, the data sheet includes a scalable isolux diagram so you can easily see what illumination will be achieved.
We have included the Alzir because it can be used for emergency lighting and wayfinding. You can use it for mains only or on an emergency lighting circuit. It is only 1W and 50 lumens so you would need additional luminaires for the functional illumination.
The recessed Alzir measures 65mm square or the same diameter in the round version. It is IP66 and there is a range of finishes and trims. One of the benefits of this luminaire is that all the internal parts can be replaced, even the LED board.
What I like about this is that you get a complete, easy to install package – it is even supplied with a small spirit level to ensure the fittings are all horizontal.
The Walky follows a trend in making luminaires smaller and smaller and this range is just 45mm square or 50mm diameter. This is a brand-new product and photometric data wasn’t available but with power consumption less than 2W, and the LEDs mounted deep inside, the light output is definitely more suited to domestic applications.
The IP66 rating means you can use it outside such as in a small garden.
As you would expect, it is beautifully finished and, with these dimensions, it is totally inconspicuous.
John Cullen Sirolo
The Sirolo is an attractive recessed unit measuring just 86 mm square. The metalwork and paint are very nicely finished. The front face is open and has a frosted aluminium reflector. The IP66 rating comes from the conformal coating over the LED and circuit board.
The consumption of just 2W and 70 lumens means that it is more suited to domestic or small-scale applications. However, the combination of 2700K with a colour rendering of CRI90 means that it is ideal where you want a good looking, unobtrusive unit.
This 11W surface-mounted unit is only 38 mm deep and about 270 mm wide depending on the shape. It delivers 765 – 785 lm depending on whether it is 3000K or 4000K. There is also a smaller 7W version.
The Abacus is solidly constructed of die-cast aluminium with a sand texture powder coating and is available in five colours. I imagine that the optional bronze finish would look particularly attractive in some locations.
The lightly frosted glass lens means that it can’t be scratched and it is tucked up inside the body of the luminaire. However, the IK04 impact resistance means that you wouldn’t want to use it where there is a risk of vandalism.
The aptly named Step is a slim, vertically mounted unit approximately 200mm high and 50mm wide. This emits a 15 degree beam through a 7mm slot. The effect is to produce a good level of illumination across the whole width of the step. The 3000K version has a colour rendering of CRI90.
It is rated at, 3W, IP65 and there is a frosted, toughened glass diffuser mounted deeply behind the slot. The data sheet says the impact resistance is IK06 but since it is almost impossible to actually touch the glass, the Step is much tougher than this figure would imply.
Trilux Pareda Slim
The Pareda has obviously been designed by someone who knows about step lighting. There is a prismed lens inside and this gives a tightly controlled, asymmetric beam which puts the light where you want it. It means that the 5W is used much more effectively, in terms of illuminating the steps, than many other luminaires. You might be able to use one of these Pareda where you might have to use two from another manufacturer.
Again, it is IK09 so has greater impact resistance than most.
It has a corrosion resistant, powder coat paint finish, vandal resistant fixings and it is all you would expect from a quality manufacturer.
I see a lot of light fittings in my work but this is the first one with a 22 carat gold reflector. It looks wonderful. Strictly speaking, the reflector is sheet steel covered in gold leaf but its matt finish and fine filigree lines give the Spessorina a unique appearance.
The colour of the light is further enhanced by a CRI of 90+ and a 3W, 3000K LED light source.
It is IP20 so you can only use it indoors but that’s where you would most probably use it anyway. The beam is narrow and so the 130 lumens output provides plenty of light even for wide steps.
- See the latest LED tape at the LuxLive 2019 exhibition. The show takes place at ExCeL London on Wednesday 13 November and Thursday 14 November 2019. Entry is free if you pre-register. For more info, click HERE