What is Light Color (a.k.a. kelvins)?

March 30 | By LED National

Have you ever bought a light bulb and wondered why it doesn’t look the same as the other lights in the room? If you haven’t experienced this, you might want to play the lottery. For the rest of us, I’m here to shed some light on the concept of light color (a.k.a kelvins). I’ve put infographics below that show the difference between “soft white” or “warm white” (2000-3000 kelvins), “cool white” (3500-4500 kelvins) and “day light” (5000-6500 kelvins).

LED National - Light Color
LED National - Light Color Kelvins

The ultimate question is this:

What is the right color temperature  for the area I am lighting? 

This is a matter of opinion.  What is important in the above images is that the brightness (i.e. lumens) of the lights are the same but the kelvins (light color) are different.  Most of us, if not all of us, will walk into the 6400k room after leaving the 4200k room and say it is brighter.  This is what you need to know about kelvins, they tell us how much a room will seem like sun light on a clear day, not how many dark areas there will be in a room.

Ask yourself if you want a warm, sunset-like, cozy glow in your room or if you want it to look like a sunny day with no clouds.

Restaurants often have those “warm white” lights and shadows that make it frustrating to read your menu.  This is because they have inadequate lumens.  You can have a “warm white” room with no shadows and a menu your guests aren’t squinting to read!

When in doubt, try it out…

Go to a home improvement retailer and buy a few light bulbs in a variety of color temperatures such as 2700k, 3500k, 4000k and 5000k (don’t damage the packaging so you can return them).  Light colors will look different when wall colors vary as you can see with the examples I provided above.  Install the lights with varying color temperatures and decide what you like.  Then simply return what you don’t like and then buy the quantity you need in the light color you prefer.

Voila! You have chosen the correct light color for your room.  Congratulations! 

If you want to learn more about light color recommendations for specific rooms such as your kitchen, office, lobby, garage, living room, library or classroom, click here.