Considering Color – How To Choose The Right Lighting Temperature For Your Space

Henry Ford once said customers could have a Model T in any color they wanted, so long as it was black. When choosing new lighting, you seem to have a similar choice: Anything you want, so long as it’s white.

However, LED lighting offers a wide array of color “temperatures,” which can have a significant effect on the quality of your rooms. Let’s look at what color temperature is and how it affects your home or workspace.

Points along the spectrum
Nearly all white light has a tint, referred to by the equivalent temperature on the Kelvin scale. The concept is that if an item such as a piece of iron were heated to that temperature, it would give off light in that color range. For lighting, this range leads from an orangish-yellow light (the equivalent of 2200°K) to the bright, slightly blue-tinged light some halide bulbs give off, equivalent to 6,500°K or more.

One complication to keep in mind: Long before electricity we adopted “cool” to mean colors with bluish tint and “warm” to mean colors with orangish tints. Therefore, artistic convention reflects the opposite of scientific convention. You may end up discussing lighting that’s “cool” (because it’s bluish) but is also described as being 6,500°.

The right light for each environment
The color temperatures used in most workplaces and homes can be grouped into six main categories. Each has an emotional connotation and a technical usefulness, giving you one or two clear choices for most environments.

Warm White—2500 to 2700°K
Warm and cozy, evoking candlelight. Best for living rooms and family rooms, restaurants and other spaces where the primary aim is to provide a homelike ambience. Works well with fine woodwork.

Soft White—3000°K
Still warm and homey, but better for visual clarity. Best choice for bathrooms and kitchens.

Neutral White—3500°K
Helps maintain focus, but with enough warmth to avoid seeming sterile. Skin looks healthy, but it promotes visual clarity. Perfect for offices, education, study and retail, especially clothing stores.

Cool White—4100°K+
Best for close examination, this is often used in grocery stores and workshops. Also makes colors pop more than warmer colors.

Bright White—5000°K+
The brightest, whitest, clearest light, similar to those given off by traditional fluorescent tubes. Excellent for areas where high illumination and maximum contrast are needed, such as broadcast studios and healthcare facilities.

Very much like full outdoor daylight. Tends to have a noticeable blue tint. Excellent for ambience, reading and indoor plant growth.

There’s a lot to lighting and color choice, but if you know your goals and have a little help, making your selection can be simple. Call Thayer today, and we’ll help you with just the right lighting for your needs.