What Does Kelvin Rating Mean?

"What Does Kelvin Rating Mean?" Was posted on January 22, 2019

What Does Kelvin Rating Mean. CRI, 5000K….what do these LED terms mean. LED lighting is here. Go to the local big box chain and try to buy an Incandescent light bulb. They are hard to find. Once you find them now you have to figure out how they rate them. It used to be if you needed a 60W bulb you went to the store and bought a 60W bulb. Not many choices. Today is a different story. Now you have a choice in Color ratings or Kelvin ratings. Do you want a 2800K a 4000K or 5000K?

LED Color Lighting Scale

Can you believe that these are all shades of white that are available. As a standard in your kitchen you probably have a can light that is a 2700K. This is a very soft color light that most people like in their kitchen. I personally like a little brighter because I like to see what I am doing but my wife rules in the kitchen so we have soft light. You can see above that 2800K looks pretty yellow but it is a soft shade of white.

COLOR TEMPERATURE or Kelvin… This indicates the “color” of a technology’s white light. Incandescent lighting’s white light is rather yellow and has a color temperature of around 3200K; daylight is around 5200K. Here is a glossary of terms you will come across when buying LED lights.

Shades Of White

A good point of reference is that the sun at mid-day measure 5780 Kelvin. If you look at that on the scale of color temperatures, that is already getting into the bluish range. So, what you perceive to be white light actually has a bit of a blue tint. Typical household lamps use bulbs in the 2000-3000 Kelvin range, and you probably consider them to be white as well. A candle registers at 1900K, so you can see how the glow of fire emits a warm white light. Keep in mind, these are all shades of white light.

Here are some LED Terms you should be familiar with…

COLOR RENDERING INDEX (CRI) The CRI of a fixture as an imperfect rating of how well a fixture can generate light in such a way that the illuminated object’s color appears correct. The closer to a CRI of 100, the more accurate the colors of an object should appear when lit by it.

INCANDESCENT LIGHTING This lighting technology represents the original form of creating light via electricity. A wire inside the bulb is heated up until to glows, emitting light. Most of the electricity is turned into heat, not light, making it a very inefficient form of lighting.

LED (LIGHT-EMITTING DIODE) This is an electronic device that generates light very efficiently as electricity passes through it.

Bottom Line: Today you have choices you did not have 15 years ago. Make sure you buy the right color when purchasing a new LED light.

Here is a Summary Of LED Lighting Today

Today all light has an overall color that is described as its color temperature and is also measured in Kelvins. Color temperatures above 5000K are described as cool (bluish), and colors below 3000 are considered warm (yellow/orange). Many people today are opting for 5000K in classrooms, offices and more because that color is like daylight and its very easy to read with a 5000K light. If you’ve ever looked out the window in the late evening and noticed that everything is totally blue outside while everything inside looks orange, then you’ve seen a perfect example of differences in color temperature. Natural daylight is on the cooler end of the scale and most traditional incandescents fall on the warmer end. As such, everything outdoors will tend to look blue while everything inside has a nice warm glow.

Taking Video Get The Right LED Color

Color temperature is a very important factor when considering LED fixtures for a performance space. If video cameras are involved this factor is critical because the camera is much more sensitive to color temperature than the human eye. A few hundred degrees too warm, and the world appears to be on fire. Too cool and everyone looks like a blue Smurf. Unfortunately, many of the LED fixtures currently on the market have color temperatures that are abnormally low or high for normal presentation uses. It’s important to verify that the color temperature is in the appropriate range as early as possible into a construction project.


Additionally, LEDs produce light in a very different way than conventional incandescent lamps. This difference can lead to a substantially lower ability for the light to render all of the colors in the spectrum in an accurate way, which is described as it’s color rendering index (CRI). CRI is rated on a scale from 1-100. The lower the CRI rating, the less accurately colors will be reproduced.

If the CRI is too low, strange things can happen! In some cases people with light colored skin turn dark and splotchy and certain colors have seemed to glow eerily under low-CRI light. While great strides are being made in this area, it’s another important factor to consider during the decision-making process.


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