Guide to color temperature in the home

Though sunlight is white, we all witness different colors depending on the time of day: as it rises and sets, it shines a warm, golden, reddish hue. At midday, it looks striking and white, almost blue.  

Just like the sun’s light appears in different colors depending on geography and time of day, so too does artificial lighting come in many shades of white. These different shades are a light’s color temperature, measured in degrees of Kelvin (˚K). Have you noticed how some light bulbs emit orange or red-tinged light, while others seem bright and very white? That’s due to different color temperatures. Generally, the higher the color temperature, the cooler and more “blue” the light; the lower the color temperature, the warmer and more red/orange the light. Note that temperature, in this case, does not have anything to do with thermal or heat temperature; it is just a way of describing how the light appears.

Light bulbs are typically categorized as one of three color temperatures often used to describe shades of white light. Read on to better understand which color temperature is best suited for the different rooms of your home. Please note these are all just guidelines; in the end, how you light your home is entirely up to you. Let your personality and tastes guide you! 

Color Temperatures in the home: 2700-5000K = Warm, natural & cool/bright white

different color temperatures of light

 

Warm white, neutral/natural white, and cool/bright white are the standard descriptions of commercially available light bulbs, though color temperatures vary further than the standard 2700-5000K range generally intended for home usage. Light in a “daylight” range with a color temperature between 5000-6500K, is most similar to the light of the sun at noon and is most suitable for plants, as well as increasing energy and alertness in an office or workspace. 

A higher color temperature with bluer light promotes alertness, while a lower color temperature promotes feelings of warmth and coziness. 

By thinking of light in terms of their waveforms, it is easier to remember which types of light are more energizing or not. Red light - being at the opposite side of the light spectrum as blue light - has a longer wavelength than its blue counterpart. As wavelengths increase, their frequency and energy decrease. As the wavelengths decrease, their frequency is higher and more energetic; therefore, blue waves are technically more “energetic” than red waves. This blue wave energy is passed on to all living things, plants, humans, and animals alike. 

We want to feel comfortable and at ease in our homes, therefore we generally don’t recommend a color temperature over 5000K for residential usage. Generally speaking, for residential applications, people may prefer a color temperature ranging between 3200K and 4500K, as this color range is comforting and not too warm or cool. 

Here are our top recommendations room by room:

Living Room: 3200-4200K is a beautiful range and perfect for what most us typically use living rooms for: reading, watching tv, relaxing.  

Bedroom: 2700-3800K. Opt for something a bit warmer in color, for a cozier, more soothing feeling.

Kitchen: 3600-5000K. In kitchens, we want something whiter, brighter, and “cleaner” feeling. We want to see the color of our food more reliably and crisper.

Bathroom: 3600-5000K. As in the kitchen, we want to see ourselves in the mirror more naturally.

Same temperature, different light: Not all light is the same

Now, it is worth mentioning that two light bulbs can have the same color temperature - say, 4200K - but the light given off varies tremendously. That’s because color temperature describes just one aspect of a light’s appearance: its color. 

Here are some of light’s other describing factors to look out for:

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 as 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. Therefore, it is recommended to choose a light source with a high color rendering index and just enough lumens for your application. 

We always recommend full spectrum bulbs, since full spectrum light provides all the best qualities of light, including high CRI to improve our wellbeing in the home even more. 

If we had to choose the best light for the home, what would it be?

We prefer to use incandescent sources such as Chromalux® full spectrum lamp in our homes due to its soothing, pure, and neutral light. Its light is natural, easy on the eyes, and glare-free. For those that prefer to use LED, we recommend the next best thing: Chromalux® Full Spectrum LED.  Combining LED technology with our patented Neodymium glass coating, these LEDs produce a soothing light almost indistinguishable from that of a Chromalux® incandescent lamp.

New to healthlighting and Chromalux®?  Check out our best sellers!