Have you noticed how some light bulbs appear more yellow or orange and others a bright white? This can be explained by what’s known in the lighting industry as color temperature. Color temperature refers to how warm or cool a bulb’s color appears. Try not to get caught up on the word “temperature” since this has nothing to do with the actual heat the bulb produces. Color temperature is measured in Kelvin (k) – a thermodynamic temperature. The lower the Kelvin rating, the warmer the bulb will appear; the higher the rating, the cooler, and seemingly brighter, the bulb.
Color temperatures range from warm white to daylight; and even full spectrum beyond that. When you imagine your typical household incandescent bulb, you’ll think of the warm glow it emits. Incandescent bulbs have a color temperature of around 2700K, or warm white. When most people think of LED bulbs, they picture a bright white; or daylight (5000K). However, it’s a common misconception that LED bulbs are only offered in this bright white, which most people find too harsh or blue for use in common areas of homes. CFL and LED bulbs can actually come very close to the warm color of incandescent bulbs, while still offering a wide range of other color temperature options.
Let’s take a look at the different color temperatures and their best uses.
Warm white bulbs will have a Kelvin temperature of 2700K; again, picture any incandescent bulb in your home. These bulbs promote a warm and cozy environment and are best utilized in restaurants, hotel lobbies and homes. Quickly growing in popularity, LED Edison bulbs mimic the look and warmth of vintage incandescent bulbs with unique filament designs. Try them in your living room or bedroom!
Soft white bulbs have a Kelvin temperature of 3000K. They will have a slightly more white appearance than its warm white counterpart. Use these in libraries, office areas and retail stores to create an intimate and personal space. This color temperature is also great for homes and is interchangeable with warm white color tones.
Neutral white bulbs have a Kelvin temperature of 3500K. They have a mostly white appearance with a subtle yellow tint. This color temperature is ideal for public reception areas, showrooms, bookstores and office areas where you want it to feel friendly, inviting and non-threatening.
Cool white bulbs have a Kelvin temperature of 4000K-4200K. Cool white bulbs have the appearance of pure white and make a room feel neat, clean and efficient. They are commonly used in conference rooms, classrooms and hospitals. Cool white bulbs are known to help with concentration in classrooms and productivity at the work place. Studies show it reduces the brain’s production of melatonin, a hormone that plays a role in our sleep, reducing daytime sleepiness.
Daylight bulbs have a Kelvin temperature of 5000K and higher. Museums, jewelry stores and print shops commonly use daylight bulbs because they are great for exacting coloration. They are also very bright and promote alertness, making them great for use in medical exam rooms. You can also use them in warehouses because, similarly to cool white bulbs, they also encourage higher productivity and ensure your employees can see well – cutting back on workplace injuries.
Full spectrum bulbs have a color temperature of 5700K and higher. Full spectrum light most closely simulates the light we receive from the sun. Humans rely on sunlight for not only Vitamin D, but it’s also thought to produce serotonin, a hormone associated with happiness and focus. For those who aren’t exposed to the sun very often, it can often leave us feeling down in the dumps – especially in the wintertime. Full spectrum lighting helps alleviate these feelings and has shown to boost moods and a feeling of calmness.
When deciding which color temperature is best for you, consider what feeling you are trying to evoke in each room. Do you want all of your rooms to have the same lighting, or are you going to base the lighting in each room on a preferred ambiance and tasks completed in those rooms? Many people prefer a brighter light in the bathroom or at a vanity where make-up is applied, whereas they may want a warmer light in their living room or bedroom for relaxing. This is an individual decision based on preference.
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