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02/10/17 Lighting Applications- Cool White vs Warm White

Article - February 10, 2016 By

480 Watt High Intensity LED Light - 60,000 Lumens - Stud Mount Light Head w/ Control Handles

Lighting Applications- Cool White vs Warm White

Color temperature ratings can be used to accentuate various characteristics of an environment. The practice was discovered in 1880s by William Kelvin, a British physicist. The researcher experimented with different color temperatures using a block of carbon that was heated at different settings. These days, Kelvin’s findings are being applied to improve and fine-tune lighting conditions in rooms and buildings.

Overview of Color Temperatures

Color temperature is measured using a Kelvin scale (Kelvin is the unit of measurement). As a rule of thumb, the lower the rating, the warmer the light tone and vice versa. With that in mind, a fixture with a rating between 1,000K-1,900K is represented using a dim candlelight. Warm white light appears between 2,700K-3,000K, while natural white and cool white ratings range between 4,000K-5,000K. At the end of the scale, one can find color temperatures that closely resembles daylight (6,000K) and clear, blue skies (10,000K).

The color temperature of light has several noteworthy effects on humans. High color temperature ratings, with emphasis on bluish tones, have been linked to low melatonin production. Melatonin is a serotonin-derived hormone that is secreted by the pineal gland, which functions as a primary regulator of sleep and reproduction. Scientists believe that exposure to bright, bluish light tricks the body into thinking it is daytime. Hence, when this type of light is used at night, people have a tendency to feel awake and restless. A common mistake when choosing luminaries is the application of dim lights with high color temperature ratings in bedrooms. Dimming the light may help reduce eye strain, but exposure to bluish light tones, even at low levels, can still decrease melatonin production in humans.

Companies that operate outside of normal business hours, have been known to leverage this phenomenon by installing fixtures with high color temperature ratings in the building to promote alertness. This is also why industrial forklifts utilize blue lights for early notification signaling around warehouses.

Day White Applications

According a published report titled Effects on School Children with Lighting Color Temperature Study, classrooms may benefit from day white color temperatures ranging between 5,500K to 6,000K. A bluish light tone can improve concentration levels and focus in students, resulting in a more immersive learning experience. Like warehouses and businesses that operate late into the night, educational institutions may leverage this benefit to improve the academic performance of students.

Indoor growing houses use day white light (as high as 10,000K) during cultivation. Botanists rely on this type of light to promote plant growth during vegetative stages, as well as seeding and cloning. Warmer light temperatures (at roughly 3,000K) are applied when plants reach flowering and budding stages, because at this rate photosynthesis occurs at high levels. Marine specialists have also been known to apply 10,000K-rated luminaries in large aquariums. On a mainstream level, daylight luminaries thrive well in basements, kitchens, inspection rooms and other locations where meticulous tasks are performed. In order to get a feel for the general impact of day white lights, try stepping outside at noon on a cloudless day.

Cool White Applications

Cool white light between 4,000K and 5,000K have numerous applications in industrial sectors. The characteristics of the color temperature are clean and well balanced. Compared to day white lights, cool white offers less persistent qualities due to its cooler appearance. Facilities that require generally bright illumination, such as manufacturing plants, construction sites and buildings that process chemicals and oil, use this type of light often, because it is reliable for a wide range of tasks. Cool white light is not commonly used in living areas, but it can be applied to darkly lit locations in a residential space, including garages and laundry rooms.

Commercial and retail environments, such as malls, hospitals and government buildings, typically use bulbs with cool white temperatures. Luminaries that emit day light color temperatures are not suitable for such locations due to increased risk of visual strain. Cool white settings promote moderate alertness in such facilities, and individuals can tolerate the presence of the light during long periods of exposure. It is important to consider that cool white tones can magnify bright colors and surfaces in a room. If the walls and contents of the location are already white and shiny, using a cool white light may not be the best choice.

When to Use Warm White

Warm or soft white fixtures emit a yellowish light that is very gentle on the eyes. Such lights are mostly found in living spaces, including bedrooms, hallways and living rooms. They are popular in establishments that require dim, mood lighting, such as restaurants, outdoor gardens and monuments. Warm lights promote relaxation in the applicable location; therefore, it is only recommended for use in rooms with low engagement or activities that do not require close attention to detail. For rooms that are filled with dark decorations, using soft white light may highlight the dark properties of the location.

Mixtures and Combinations

In most cases, locations with high activity require different color temperature light settings, depending on the time of day (or night) and the range of tasks being performed. For example, a living room in a traditional residential space may not need artificial lighting during the morning and afternoon. After sunset, individuals may use warm white light in the room to create a comfortable setting for watching television. When entertaining guests or holding informal meetings in the space, cool white light may be utilized.

The theme and color selection of the location may also dictate the color temperature rating of the lighting system. For example, restaurants normally use warm lights when promoting a calm eating environment. But edgy gastro-pubs and fast-moving restaurants with high table turnover rates may incorporate cool white lights to match their speedy service. Additionally, the front of the house (where diners eat) could use warm lights that cater to the restaurant’s customers; but the back of the house (kitchen) may rely on cool white lights during cooking and assembly. It is also possible to use handheld or portable lighting for guidance when performing special tasks under general lighting conditions. Using restaurants as an example, a waiter may use a flashlight with a cool white color temperature while taking orders in a room that uses dim, warm lighting. The use of portable lamps to aid special tasks under general lighting conditions is also applicable to bedrooms and industrial work spaces.

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