We discussed what color temperature is and how it affects lighting in an earlier article. Now let’s take a look at how to use that knowledge to choose the best light color for different locations in your home.
Light to Work By
Called task lighting by design pros, it’s the light you use to see what you’re doing. That can be preparing dinner, reading a book, or making a quilt. Besides making work easier to see, having sufficient light reduces eyestrain and makes using dangerous implements safer.
Choosing the right light color for the job is important, too. A warm white light can reduce glare when reading as can using slightly less intensity than you need in kitchens and workshops, but too little can cause eyestrain. When color is important—painting or sewing, for instance—bright/cool white renders colors better. Jobs where precise color comparison is critical such as printing and paint selection use lighting in the 5000-5500K range, about the equivalent of late morning or early afternoon sunlight (high noon light reaches closer to 7500K).
Light to Relax By
When the sun is up, people tend to be their most alert. The light is cool and bright and energy levels are high. That’s great for getting things done, but not the best environment for relaxing. Warm lighting in the yellow-orange part of the spectrum mimics the colors of the setting sun and adds to a sense of calmness. Warm white is a good choice for lighting in living spaces and soft white works well in bedrooms and baths. Warmer light complements skin tones, too. Just be sure you have enough to see clearly, especially in bathrooms. You may even want mirror and makeup lights that are brighter and cooler for more accurate color rendering.
Light to Live By
Use lighting to compliment your surroundings. The color of your lighting can add to or detract from your décor. Cooler color schemes benefit from cooler color lights and warmer, darker decors look best in warmer light. Mismatching light and décor colors can dull both warm and cool color schemes. But even if your scheme is on the cool side, remember that warmer, softer light is more relaxing, so you might want to keep that option for when mood is more important than décor.
Lighting in zones can also add to the look and enjoyment of a room. Well placed ceiling lights can illuminate an entire room. Table and floor lamps add task- and place-specific lighting. And track, sconces, or spot lighting can be used to highlight focal points like artwork and feature walls. Separate controls let you vary the lighting in a room with multiple uses.
Match Your Lighting to Your Habits
Bright, cool lighting can get you off to a good start and keep you energized during the day. This can be beneficial for persons working at home, too. Our circadian rhythms, the internal clock we have, are programmed to wind down as the day comes to a close, so a warmly-lit home works with them to help us relax in the evening.
If you inhabit specific areas at different times of day, you can choose lighting to match your activities—cool bright light in the breakfast area, warm white in living and reading areas, and soft white in bed and dining rooms. Bright natural daylight can substitute for artificial lighting but remember it can get dark early in the winter.
A Word About Color Rendering Index
The Color Rendering Index (CRI) measures how accurately the bulb shows colors—are reds really red, blues really blue, etc. The rating is expressed as a percentage number between 0-100 with 85-90 offering good color rendition. When accurate color is paramount, art and fabrics, for example, bulbs with a CRI above 90 are critical. To qualify for Energy Star ratings bulbs must have a CRI of 80 or higher.
By the nature of how they generate light, fluorescent bulbs usually have low CRIs. To compensate, some use colored phosphors or sleeves to add to parts of the spectrum they lack. Incandescent and halogen bulbs have CRIs close to 100 but low-wattage bulbs have low color temperatures, causing colors to look warmer than they are. Some may have coatings to change their color temperature but that comes with a significant drop in CRI. White light LEDs use arrays of diodes that emit colors evenly across the spectrum making them very high in color rendering.
Choosing the Right Bulb Type
Energy-efficient compact fluorescent and LED bulb are replacing incandescent lamps in homes and offices today. Especially with fluorescents, that brings concerns about both color temperature and CRI. Read the bulb’s packaging to verify you’re getting what you want.
Use the information in this article as a guide to the best combination of intensity, color temperature, and color rendering index for your particular lighting needs. And if you need to add or change fixtures or switches, or to add or upgrade service, call Allstar Electrical at (303) 399-7420 or visit our website. Then use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment. We’ve served the Front Range for over 15 years and are top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List.