Warm white and soft white will produce a yellow hue, close to incandescents, while bulbs labeled as bright white will produce a whiter light, closer to daylightand similar to what you see in retail stores. If you want to get technical, light color (color temperature) is measured in kelvins.
Choosing the right color LED
You can always count on incandescents providing a warm, yellowish hue. But LEDs come in a wide range of colors.
As shown off by the Philips Hue, LED bulbs are capable of displaying an impressive color range, from purple to red, to a spectrum of whites and yellows. For the home, however, you’re likely looking for something similar to the light that incandescents produce.
The popular colors available for LEDs are “warm white” or “soft white,” and “bright white.”
If you want to get technical, light color (color temperature) is measured in kelvins. The lower the number, the warmer (yellower) the light. So, your typical incandescent is somewhere between 2,700 and 3,500K. If that’s the color you’re going for, look for this range while shopping for LED bulbs.
The Range of Color Temperature
The three primary types of color temperature for light bulbs are: Soft White (2700K – 3000K), Bright White/Cool White (3500K – 4100K), and Daylight (5000K – 6500K).
The higher the Degrees Kelvin, the whiter the color temperature. Although the whiter lights will appear “brighter” than those of a lower Kelvin reading, the amount of Lumens (measurement for brightness) does not change, and true brightness is not affected.
Although our eyes have adjusted to the Soft White color temperature of incandescent bulbs over the years, this doesn’t mean that they are necessarily the best option for all lighting applications.
For example, because of their warmer color temperature, these soft white lights often pull warmer colors from a room (reds, oranges, etc.), altering the contrasts throughout the space. With that in mind, here are some tips on how to light the different rooms in your home most effectively:
SOFT WHITE/WARM WHITE:
Best for bedrooms and living rooms; providing a traditional warm, cozy feel to them
BRIGHT WHITE/COOL WHITE:
Best in kitchens, bathrooms or garages; giving rooms a whiter, more energetic feel
Best in bathrooms, kitchens and basements; good for reading, intricate projects, or applying makeup – provides the greatest contrast among colors
Why is soft white LED better than daylight LED bulbs?
So-called “soft white” isn’t better than daylight for all applications. It’s just a different color temperature that is well-suited for many things. I would say it’s more desirable than daylight for nighttime interiors. The warmer tones blend better with incandescent, and tend to be associated with more domestic environments.
Daylight color temperatures, around 5600 Kelvin, tend to energize people for reasons not completely understood. Melatonin production in the body tends to be interrupted by exposure to bright daylight sources, since humans are basically diurnal creatures.
I like to match color temperatures with whatever the dominant light source is. If it’s an open office with windows that will be occupied during the day, I might use either daylight or “cool white” sources (around 4000 Kelvin). If it’s a nighttime occupied space, I’d stick with the 2700–3000 Kelvin sources, which are roughly the same as incandescent lights.
Neither is superior, but they’re best suited for their appropriate uses.
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