LED Lights and Color

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Learn how color is produced by LED lights and how colors look when viewed under LED lights.

In our last blog, we looked at how LED lights are much more efficient than both incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.  This translates into savings for you in terms of your electric bill and in how often LED light bulbs need replacement.  This time, we’ll look at how LED lights produce color and how they bring out the colors of objects around them.

color, LED lights

First, let’s look at color temperature.  Color temperature is a standardized format used for all bulbs that describes the color of light a bulb generates.  Color temperature is measured using the Kelvin, which is the unit of absolute temperature.  Kelvin is noted by a capital “K” and is often called “degrees Kelvin.”  You might have heard of this color rating in relation to fluorescent light bulbs.  The color temperatures for light bulbs generally range from:

  • 2,700 K = Soft White
  • 3,000 K = Warm White
  • 4,100 K = Cool White
  • 5,000 K = Daylight

Incandescent bulbs burn around 2,700 K, meaning they give off a slight orange tint.  A halogen bulb burns at 3000 K, making it a bit brighter and whiter. A 5000 K degree bulb burns a bit bluer.  LED lights have color temperatures across the entire range, from 2,700 K to 7,000 K.  This means there’s probably an LED light available for any color temperature you’d like your bulbs to be.

A bulb’s usefulness depends in part on its color rating.  For example, a 2,700 K bulb works well for highlighting darker colors such as browns, tans, and dark reds.  A 3,000 K is great for lighting up brighter colors such as pastels.

When choosing a bulb, you should consider not only how the light it produces will look, but how that light will show the objects around it.  Believe it or not, there is a scientific measurement for this, called the Color Rendering Index, or CRI.  This indicates how true of a color you see under a particular bulb.  The closer to 100 the rating is, the more accurately your eyes are seeing color under this light.

Once again, let’s use fluorescent bulbs as an example.  Most fluorescent light bulbs have a CRI of 60-70.  This means your eyes are only 60-70% accurate when trying to determine an item’s true color under a fluorescent bulb.  This is why florescent bulbs have a reputation for discoloring what we see.  Because of this, many people prefer not to use fluorescent lighting when putting on makeup.  Clothes can often appear a different color at home than they did at the store because of the fluorescent lighting’s low CRI.

Halogen bulbs have a CRI of 90, which is why they are used in artwork lighting, kitchens, and showrooms.

Depending on the bulb, LED lights can have a CRI ranging from 80-95.  This range reflects the differences in the bulb’s construction, and is one of the main reasons LED light bulb prices vary greatly.  Generally speaking, only higher-end LED bulbs will have the CRI printed on their packaging.

On average, about 25% of your electric bill is used for lighting.  This makes choosing the right bulbs an important consideration.  LED lights not only have good color temperature and CRI ratings, but remember they are also much more efficient.  For instance, recall that incandescent bulbs only turn 10% of the electricity they consume into light, while the other 90% becomes heat.  This isn’t the case with LED lights, which lowers your power expenses and saves money in the long run.

If you’d like help in choosing the right lighting for you, give McCauley Electrical Service a call at 678-362-2881.  We’ll be happy to discuss if LED lights are right for you.