Even though sunlight is white, it changes color depending on the time of day. During dawn and dusk, sunlight appears golden and almost reddish in hue. During midday, sunlight is strikingly white, almost blue.
Just like sunlight has many shades, artificial lighting also comes in many varieties of white. These varieties are a light's color temperature.
What is color temperature (CCT)?
Color temperature is a measure used to describe the visual appearance and whiteness of a light source. Color temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin, with a typical range in light bulbs falling between 2700K-6500K.
The lower the number, the "warmer" and more yellow the light is, while the higher the number, the "cooler" and bluer the light.
Note that temperature, in this case, is not a measure of thermal heat temperature; it's just a way of describing how the light appears.
Of the above 2700K-6500K range, we describe light bulbs by one of three color temperatures: warm white, natural white & cool white (or daylight).
Standard color temperatures in the home:
2700-3000˚K Warm White
3800-4500˚K Natural White
5000-6000˚K Cool White
The best color temperatures for each room of your home
When deciding the best color temperature for each room in your home, most recommendations result from the mood or ambiance you'd like to create.
Generally, a higher, cooler color temperature promotes alertness, while a lower, warmer color temperature instills feelings of warmth and coziness.
The following universal recommendations are based on these general effects, so keep your room applications in mind when choosing the best color temperature. If most people use their living room to lounge and relax, and you use it as an office space, the recommended warmer or natural color temperatures may not be your best choice. Color temperature is a matter of preference; any recommendations you read are general guidelines.
That said, here are some suggestions:
We can probably all agree a softer, warmer light is a better choice than very white and stimulating light. This warm white range, spilling into territories of natural white is a good place to start.
Living Room: 3800-4500K
Natural white is a typical choice here. It's a soft and neutral range that works well in "neutral" spaces like living rooms.
Similar to our living room recommendations and just a bit warmer. We find this range is both soothing and natural enough.
Like living rooms, the kitchen is a bit of a neutral space; anything in the higher natural white ranges works well here. 4000K is more neutral, while 5000K will give off a whiter, brighter, and "cleaner" effect.
Still natural yet white enough to promote alertness.
Same temperature, different light: Not all light is the same
Two light bulbs can have the same color temperature while varying tremendously in appearance.
When you're shopping for lighting, color temperature is just one element. Here are two other important describing factors to look out for in light bulbs:
Lumens: The brightness of the light emitted by a bulb.
CRI (color rendering index): A quantitative measure on a scale of 1 to 100 of how accurately a light source illuminates an object compared to natural sunlight (with its CRI rating of 100). A light with a CRI above 85 is considered great, and above 90, excellent for color vibrancy and having your surroundings "pop." Stay away from low CRI light, which has a dulling effect on surroundings.
So, while two bulbs with a 4200K color temperature give off a similar color of light, one can be brighter and duller than the other if it has a higher lumen count yet lower CRI.
Light quality is best quantified by CRI, while the color temperature is a subjective measure best chosen according to your intended application and aesthetic preferences.
If we had to choose the best light for the home, what would it be?
If you're reading this article, you're most likely researching color temperatures for LED lighting. While LED is wonderful for many applications, it's not our top choice for home lighting.
Now more than ever, our homes are our sanctuaries. We prefer using incandescent sources since they're the purest version of artificial light that's also beneficial for health. Try any bulb from the Chromalux® incandescent line, in particular, to experience stunning, pure home lighting beyond compare.
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