Lighting a house from scratch is an interesting process, in part because of the California building code, which requires that half the wattage in the kitchen be from fluorescent light.
What we have learned is that this is a rule that everyone ignores. What you do is install fluorescent fixtures for the inspection and then switch them out after everything’s been finaled. The challenge is to make it look plausible. According to our electrician, there are certain shelves at Home Depot and Lowe’s where you cannot find a fixture that has not already been opened, because they are essentially pieces in this revolving door game that has evolved. Person A buys three of them, installs them, gets the inspection done, takes them out and returns them, where they await Person B who is going through the same thing. I asked him how many times a fixture could be installed, removed, and re-installed before it got damaged but he didn’t know. If the inspectors were smart, they’d microchip these fixtures, but thankfully they haven’t yet, so we’re going to give it a shot.
The back of the house is pretty straightforward – ceiling fans with lights and four-inch cans in the bedrooms, cans in the stairwell and basement. The bathroom and hallway are a bit more complicated, with pendants down the hall and in the alcove outside the bathroom, a fluorescent can in the shower (required), an antique chandelier (originally in the main room) and vanity lights, along with a heater/light/fan.
The main room, appropriately enough, is the main challenge. In the living room and dining room areas, we’re combining pendant lights with a ceiling fan. We had a bit of discussion about placement (where is the dining room table going to go, exactly, so that we can make the hole for the chandelier right over it) but it wasn’t too difficult.
In the kitchen area, however, we want small porcelain fixtures on a grid – something I’d seen in a couple of magazines and also at a local restaurant called Boon, which we love. If they were can fixtures the switch would be easy (put in 15 fluorescent cans; after the inspection switch them out for incandescent), but they’re not, and we don’t want to cut and patch 15 holes in the ceiling.
Our electrician originally told us he would put in three fixtures, but Doug, our main guy, says if we don’t want the wiring to be a nightmare later we need to have it wired for 15 fixtures now. He also says that there are fixtures that will make this look plausible. Once again, I hope he knows what he’s talking about.
Outside fixtures are complicated as well. If they are not on a motion sensor, they have to be fluorescent (and not screw-in-a-bulb fluorescent either, the plug in kind with pins). In front, on the porch, this is not a problem because we want a motion sensor, but in back, on the deck, we don’t, so we’re going to have to do a post-inspection switch there too.
I am a dyed-in-the-wool liberal from way back, but I find myself having libertarian thoughts: my property, my money, leave me alone.