Understanding Color Temperatures of LED Lighting

Last week, we reviewed the best way to light a specific area of your home based on the functions of light – ambient, task, accent and decorative. Once you decide what type of light fixture will be placed where, it’s time to think about the color temperature.

The light should complement the interior design, furniture, colors and other decoration in your home.

In general, color temperature is very much a personal choice and preference, however, there are a few rules that can be applied to help choosing the right lighting to highlight the interior design of your home. And, remember, adding color lighting offers dramatic impact to any environment.

Color Temperatures for Ambient Light
The ambient lighting in a room is typically the main source of light and therefore, a key element in setting the overall mood and ambience for a room.

Warm white lighting fixtures are often preferred in living rooms and bedrooms to create a cozy atmosphere.

The kelvin numbers offered for LED lighting are typically 2700K and 3000K. These warm white lights are a good choice to compliment earthy tones and wood furniture.

If more than one type of ambient light is installed, e.g. down lights and cove lighting, choose the same color temperature for both to ensure an even, harmonic effect.

Though many people seem to prefer warm white, rooms that are decorated with light colored furniture and crisper colors, like white, blue and light grey e.g. in a modern kitchen, can benefit from a more neutral, cooler light.

Lighting with kelvin numbers in the range from 3500K to 4000K are considered neutral white and accentuate lighter colors better than warm white lights.

CCT Ranges

Color Temperatures for Task Lighting
Task lighting is used to provide an additional, higher level of light than the surrounding area where a visual task takes place.

It is therefore important that the light is able to create good contrast, which is best achieved with a neutral to cool white in the 3500K to 5000K range.

Besides the color temperature, the color rendering index (CRI) and brightness are particularly important for task lighting.

While for ambient lighting, a CRI of 80 is often sufficient, for task lighting, a CRI of 90 and above should be considered. CRI is calculated using an average of 8 specific R-values representing 8 different colors within the light spectrum. The R-values measure the concentration of 14 colors within a light source’s emitted spectrum that include pastels, saturated colors and earth tones. High R9, R13 and R14 values are particularly important for illuminating skin tones, decorative art and materials like granite and limestone.

CRI Chart

Food that gets prepared on a kitchen counter will look much more appealing when rendered well by the under cabinet light.

Dimming is an important feature of ambient and task lighting. It enables us to set the light level to create the desired atmosphere in an area or create the ideal brightness for a task. In addition, dimming provides energy savings by reducing the electric load of a light fixture.

For today’s homeowner, LED lighting offers unique decorating options never before seen due to the wider range of colors not available through other technologies. “Color tuning” has become increasingly popular for homeowners who are looking to make their home environment really stand out through lighting design.

Visit ElementalLED.com for more information or DiodeLED.com for product specs.