What is the difference between cold and warm light?

by | Dec 11, 2020 | Design, DIY Tips, Home

Times when light was used solely for expelling darkness are long past us. Nowadays it has become an important part of interior and exterior design – it sets the atmosphere and can expose/hide any detail we desire. And it’s not just the looks that matter – colour temperature of light has a noticeable impact on the way people feel in a given room. Therefore, choosing the right lighting for the right space is far more important, than you might think.

The colour temperature of light

            The colour of light on its Correlated Colour Temperature (CCT). What exactly is that? It’s described as the appearance of emitted light, measured in kelvins (K). For example, light emitted by candles has a CCT of 1000K and is considered warm. But that’s just the start of the CCT scale – the higher up it we go, the closer our light will resemble blue light of day. However, you must remember that this scale is a bit confusing – the colour temperature describes the light itself, not the lamp that produces it and the higher CCT, the colder the lighting will look. That last part is especially counter-intuitive, so keep it in mind while choosing your bulbs. Most lights used indoors have the temperature ranging from 2000K (warm yellowish, similar to the yellow hex code) to about 6500K (cool white). A very popular option is also warm white light (starting at 2700-3000K). Choosing between them is largely a matter of personal preferences, but you should also consider the effects they’ll have on the room.

Effects of light

            As we mentioned, lights can act as an important part of interior design. Here’s what you should keep in mind while choosing:

Display of colours

            Another important trait of light is colour display, which measures how well the colours can be observed under a certain kind of light. Colour display is described by Colour Rendering Index (CRI), with a scale of 1 to 100 Ra. The value of 100 Ra stands for a perfect light, in this case daylight. The norm for most environments is 80 Ra, but for shops dealing with colours (e.g. clothing or paint stores) the lighting should have 90 Ra. It’s worth mentioning that LED bulbs have a very high CRI index, which makes them superior to traditional incandescent bulbs.

Mood and atmosphere

But observing colours of objects isn’t all there is to lighting – the effects it has on people are far more important. Warm light (up to 2700K) creates a cosy, soothing and, obviously, warm atmosphere which makes it great for homes (especially living rooms and bedrooms). You should avoid it in rooms you want to be productive in, though – it also creates large contrasts which is very tiring for your eyes. So for any workspace (e.g. office, kitchen, desk, restaurant) it’s way better to pick light with higher CCT (at least 3000-4000K) or a cool white one (above 5000K), as it creates an open and sober atmosphere, making the room seem simple and functional. This will make it easier to concentrate on the tasks at hand. If you’re planning to display something (e.g. in an art gallery), you should aim for lights closest to daylight.

Can light temperatures be mixed?

            In general, yes, they can. But you must keep in mind that each changing of lights means that your eyes will have to adjust. Your best option for mixing and matching lighting is using LED lights. Not only are they available in many colour options, but can also be easily made dimmable or even completely colour changeable. For example, white LED bulb can smoothly transition from white cool light to warm white with a simple, dedicated remote. This process can be even automated and matched with your natural rhythm. LED strips are also available in full RGB options, allowing you to change its mood on the fly.

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Warm or cool?

            Now that you know the difference between warm and cool light, the choice between them is up to you. Everything depends on your personal preferences and purpose of the room you’d like to install in. The possibilities are almost limitless, especially if you get LED bulbs or other LED light sources (e.g. halogens or strip lights).

Read through our useful guide for more information

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