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How to Make Heads or Tails of Color Temperature, Lumens, and Wattages

 One of the most commonly asked questions and misconceptions is color temperature.  To this day, we still get questions about it and what it really is.  I had posted a blog post a few years ago on the topic and thought I would readdress it and throw out some knowledge on the subject.

So what is color temperature?

Color Temperature (in lamens terms) basically breaks down to how harsh the light is going to be to the human eye.  There are different looks to color temperature (quite obviously), and it is measured in Kelvin; If someone says their light is 3,000k it is 3,000 Kelvin.  

When looking to purchase a light you want to look at 3 main aspects: Lumens (the actual amount of light that's given off) Wattage (the amount of draw it takes to power the light) and Color Temperature (how the light will fit into your given space and appear to the human eye).

Here's where it can get tricky.  Just say you have a 1500 lumen 6,000k light and a 3,000k light.  One of those is going to appear brighter, even though the lumens are the same.  Why?  The 6,000k light is going to appear more harshly to the human eye, and give the illusion that it is brighter.  This is why a 6,000k light would be recommended for high ceilings, where you are not staring directly at the light.  

For applications such as home, a restaurant, movie theater, etc. you're going to want to use more of a 3,000k color temperature- remember, regardless of the lumens,  this color is going to appear more gentle to the eye and create a homey, more ambient atmosphere.  

For us personally, we deal with a lot of customers that are using lighting in shops, office buildings, schools, etc.  We go with a 5,000k color temperature as this is as close to daylight as possible.  This way it's clean enough to work under without giving you a headache or making you feel as though you're at a restaurant (a happy medium).  

Here's a good visual diagram of the Kelvin scale:

Even though the lumens are the same in the above picture, do you see how each color temperature alters the appearance of the light? It can be quite drastic.

Now, although we use 5,000k color temperature on all of our lights, this doesn't mean this is the "correct" color you should be using- as mentioned above it is a happy medium that fits the criteria for the majority of our customers.  We are always able to special-order custom color temperatures for your specific need.  Below I have posted some common uses for each color temperature, to use as a reference.  

2200-3200K: Restaurants, Movie theaters, Some areas in homes, Accent lighting

4000-5500K: Shops, Offices, Schools, Home/Basements, Garages, Cold Storage

6000-6500K: Gymnasiums, Warehouses

Next time you need to update or add lighting to an area ask yourself:

-What kind of atmosphere am I looking to achieve? (ambient, clean, or harsh)

-What is the actual light output you're looking to achieve? (depending on how much light you want, which particular light is going to achieve this most cost-effectively?) 

-Which light is going to overall save you the most money? (in terms of wattages in regards to your lighting bill and rebate savings).

Hopefully, this post will help break down the specifics a bit further when looking at the big picture for your next lighting project. 



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