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What are the different kinds of light colour temperature?

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It’s something you’ve probably heard people say many times: “Oh, that’s a warm light” or “That lighting makes the room cooler”. They’re not talking about the heat generated by a light bulb, rather the temperature of the light itself. Generally speaking, the cooler (bluer) the light, the higher the temperature in Kelvin. The warmer the light (more red or orange) the lower the temperature in Kelvin.

Selecting the right LED tempurature

Clears that up, you say, but who’s Kelvin? Kelvin is a unit of measurement such that zero Kelvin is absolute zero, where it is said that life as we know it ceases. If we wanted to confuse you more, we’d say that the triple point of water is 273.16K – that is, at 273.16K, water can exist at a liquid, solid and gas, which is also 0.01 degree Celsius. Just as well we didn’t want to confuse you, isn’t it.

Getting back to light bulb colour temperature, if you wanted a room to feel cooler in the hot summer months but didn’t want to use your air conditioner to get the same effect, a LED light in the “cooler” temperature range would work – at say, a temperature of 5600K upwards. It would give off a bluer tone, tricking you into believing that the room is cooler than it actually is. Conversely, if you wanted a room to feel warmer than it is, then a bulb heading towards the 3200-2800K range would work well. If you want to mimic direct sunlight then a light of about 4800K would be perfect. In fact, “daylight” is anything from 4600K up. Partly cloudy sky is 8000-10,000K. Sun at midday is 5000-5400K, and so on.

Brighter temperatures work well in environments where, for example, workers really need to see what it is they’re doing, such as warehouses. If you read a lot or study, then  you’d benefit from a LED light bulb in the cooler end of the spectrum.

What are some of the other lighting temperatures? Let’s compare colour temperatures:

  • Candle – 1500K
  • Sunrise or set – 3200K
  • White fluorescent – 4200K
  • Cool white LED lighting – 5500-6500K

So as you can see, the temperature of your light doesn’t refer to how hot or cold it is, or the temperature of the actual light it gives off, but rather the colour of the light. What will you use your newly-acquired knowledge of light colour temperature for?


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