Cove and rope lighting systems are designed to provide ambient alcove lighting via an indirect light source. The light is cast upwards and distributed over the ceiling of a space. These systems require less energy than more conventional lighting methods, and avoids direct lamp glare by reflecting light from behind ledges, valances, or other horizontal recesses in the upper portions of a room. Cove and rope lighting systems are either hardwired directly to a source or “soft-wired” via an outlet plug. When used as alcove lighting, the light source should be installed at least 10-14 inches from the ceiling in order maximize light wash.
The most common type of rope lighting consists of a series of lights contained within a transparent resin or PVC tube. It is flexible and can be configured to fit a wide variety of spaces. This form of rope lighting is popular as a holiday decoration because of its flexibility to bend into almost any shape. It can even be set to blink on and off or chase with the addition of a controller. There are several points to note about this type of lighting:
- • It is cost effective and very easy to install, usually without professional assistance. All you need is a power cord, power connector, and an end cap to protect the bare end of the run.
- • The system may be mounted via clips that screw directly into the wall, or may run along a mounting track that is attached to the wall with adhesive.
- • Rope light is usually field-cuttable, and often features marks indicating where a run can be cut (about every six inches). Commonly packaged in 30 foot lengths, connectors can be added to extend the length of a run up to 150 feet per power source.
- • 10 feet of rope light uses about the same energy as one 60 watt bulb. It is energy efficient with approximately 25,000 hours of expected life.
- • Rope lights are wired in series, meaning a single light failure will cause the entire string to fail.
- • Inferior plastic extrusion can turn brown over time from ultra-violet heat exposure.
Linear lighting systems use xenon bulbs in snap-in lamp holders that can be attached anywhere along a line of flexible track or cable. These systems are low voltage and require the use of a step down transformer. They are fully configurable and appropriate for inside or under cabinet lighting and toe space lighting in addition to cove lighting applications.
LED rope lighting is quickly gaining in popularity. LED rope lights use approximately 90% less energy than other systems with an expected life of more than 100,000 hours or 11 years for some models. LED systems may also include innovative features such as color-changing filters, allowing a variety of color options within a single system.
Cove and rope lights can be used for accent, display, and other task lighting purposes. They can provide a glow over kitchen counters when used under tall wall cabinets. They can be used as safety lighting along hand rails, stairs and pathways. Possible outdoor applications include lining gazebos, porches or patios. (Be sure to use a system that is rated for exterior use when lighting outdoors.)
Cove and rope lighting systems offer dynamic alternatives to the purchase of multiple fixtures to address lighting needs. They are energy efficient, inexpensive, and easy to install just about anywhere. Remember that the best results come from concealing the system, so that reflected light is produced. Effective placement will provide just the right lighting effect for your home or yard.