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Warm White or Cool White – the Differences and Applications Explained

Warm white or cool white?  Choosing the right lighting for your space is all about creating an atmosphere or a mood. From selecting a statement piece, to choosing a lighting style that will blend into the background, the right lighting will enhance or detract from the design statement you are trying to create.

Just as important, and too regularly forgotten, is the colour temperature of the light emitted from your fitting of choice. In the past, colour temperature was less of a consideration, however, with advances in lighting, the range of colour temperatures to choose from has expanded. Here, we will explore the differences in light colour temperature, and their most suitable applications to help you decide on warm white or cool white for your space.

What is warm white or cool white light or colour temperature?

Light colour temperature refers to the “colour” tint of the white light emitted from your globe or integrated light source. This colour is measured in kelvins (k) which most commonly range from 1500k up to 6500k.

This measure of colour temperature is not to be confused with the brightness (measured in lumens) or power consumption (measured in watts) of the light. In simple terms, the lower the kelvin of light, the more “yellow” the light will appear. Conversely, the higher the kelvin, the more “white” the light will appear.

You may already be familiar with this measure of colour, most commonly referred to as warm white or cool white. As their more common names suggest, warm white light generally falls on the lower end of the kelvin scale, usually between 2700-3300k, while cool white light falls on the high end of the kelvin scale, between 3300-5300k. Light colour temperatures between 5300-6000k are often referred to as “daylight”, which as it’s name suggests, is thought to most closely resemble natural sunlight.

It is important to always consider the kelvin value of the light you are looking at, as the more common references of warm white or cool white can often be interchanged by lighting manufacturers.

Kelvin value more commonly known as warm white or cool white

Choosing warm white or cool white can be a completely personal preference, and there is no right or wrong choice. However, to help you make the choice that is right for your space, here is a quick guide as to the most common and ideal applications for each.

Warm White Lighting

Warm white light is the closest in kelvins to candlelight, and so thought to be the most effective in creating a warm ambience in a room. Warm white lighting tends to create a calmer, cosier, and more relaxing atmosphere. For this reason, warm white lighting is best suited to areas of your home where you want to relax and wind down, including bedrooms, living areas, dining rooms, outdoor areas, restaurants and cafes. Warm white lighting is perfect, for instance, in background lamps where you want to create a warm ambient glow to the space without flooding it in light.

Warm white colur temps perfect for the bedroom to promote relaxation

Cool White Lighting

Cool white lighting, on the other hand, is most suited to areas of your home where you may use more task oriented lighting, or areas where higher concentration or visibility is required. Cool white lighting is perfect, for instance, for use in bathrooms, kitchens, laundries, toilets, garages, study spaces, and commercial applications.

Cool white colour temps most suited to areas where you complete tasks

Daylight Lighting

Daylight colour temperatures are closest in kelvins to natural sunlight. They can appear quite harsh and clinical, and can give a bluish tint. For this reason, daylight colour temperatures are not often used in homes where we most regularly want to relax, as the “daylight” appearance can keep us more alert and awake. Most common applications for daylight colour temperatures include more commercial oriented spaces such as, offices, garages, warehouses, hospitals and other more industrial settings where alertness is a priority.

Kelvin values greater than 5300k perfect for commercial spaces

Still can’t decide whether warm white or cool white is right for your space? Consider some of these tips.

  • Cool white or daylight temperatures will impact our ability to fall asleep at night, so stay away from these in the bedroom.
  • Consider the climate you live in. For instance, if you live in a hot humid climate, lighting with a higher kelvin measure will give off a feeling of “coolness” as you enter the room. By the same token, lower kelvin measures providing a warm light will help create a feeling of “warmth” as you enter the room.
Warm white light provides a feeling of warmth
  • Consider the use of a space. For spaces that are more task oriented, you may choose a cool white light, as opposed to say bedrooms where a warm white light will help you to relax.
  • Avoid clashes of colour temperatures. If you have an open plan space, for instance, having cool white in your kitchen and warm white in your living area can create an unsightly clash. In this instance, it may pay to opt for the addition of more directed task lighting, such as pendant lights over your kitchen bench, to keep that feeling of consistency in the space as a whole.
  • Consider more than one colour temperature where you can interchange what lights you have turned on. For example, you may have cool white downlights for task use, but opt for warm white in your table or floor lamps that you switch on later in the day to wind down.
  • Consider tri colour LED lighting that allows you to change the colour temperature at the flick of a switch or, with new home automation innovations, via an app on your phone.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing warm white or cool white for lighting in your space, it is a personal choice. The team at Rovert Lighting & Electrical can answer any questions you may have, and help you choose the colour temperature that is right for your space.

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