Picking the Right Color Temperature

When buying LED downlights or any other type of light, it’s important to consider color temperature. This is always expressed in degrees of “Kelvin” and abbreviated to “K”. The higher the figure is in Kelvin, the cooler the light will be. For example, a 2700K bulb or LED emits a warm white light with a yellow/orange bias, while a 4000K light source emits a cooler white light with a blue bias. In between the ranges of 5,000 to 6,500K, the light is usually described as “daylight” in color.

Why is it important to get this decision right?

Because the human brain reacts differently to different colors of light, color temperatures affect us in specific ways, which usually defines how they are used. For example, because a cool white light is closer to middle daylight in color, it keeps us alert and helps concentration. A warm white light more resembles the light of sunset, when we begin to relax and become sleepy.

Below are some examples of applications using specific color temperatures:

Cool White Light (4000-6500K)

  • Schools: aids concentration and improves results
  • Offices: aids concentration, increases productivity, combats tiredness
  • Kitchens: appears slightly brighter and aids alertness
  • Retail: for displaying cool-colored merchandise, including silver, blue, violet
  • Fast-food cafes: helps turn tables faster

Warm White Light (2700-3200K)

  • Homes: used in most areas except possibly kitchens, offices, utility rooms
  • Hotels and all hospitality areas
  • Cafes, coffee shops, fine-dining restaurants
  • Retail: especially beauty, fashion or furnishings
  • Spas: warm light is more flattering to complexion as well as being more relaxing
  • Waiting rooms: creates a relaxing mood

Neutral White (3500K)

Although there is no such thing, strictly speaking, as a neutral or pure white light, a color temperature of 3500K is often described as such. This color of light is sometimes used in supermarkets.

Complementing decor

Another influencing factor in choosing a color temperature may be the color of existing decor. Cool white light complements and enhances cool hues such as blue, violet and silver. A warm white light accentuates the ruddier colors of wood, brickwork and copper.