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Selecting Color Temperature in LED Lighting

As was seen at Lightfair 2015, LED technology has come a long way from the harsh bluish dots of even five years ago. Today, options are available that you'd be hard-pressed to distinguish from their incandescent or fluorescent predecessors both in terms of light quality and form factor, while of course delivering all the performance benefits LEDs.

However, as always, good lighting is not just about wringing the most lumens out of a source for the fewest watts. At the show, the conversation revolved just as much around lighting quality as it did around energy savings. So smart choices still need to be made when considering lighting installations, LEDs included.

One area of caution is color, says Nancy Clanton, president, Clanton & Associates, a lighting design and engineering firm. A brighter LED with a bluer white might be very energy efficient, but it's not necessarily the best lighting aesthetically for people, she says.

"Women tend to not like it at all," she says.

An interesting note on physiology and color-perception: the cones for perceiving color are connected to the X chromosome, and since women have two X chromosomes, they could have up to four cones in their visual system, where guys only have two. "We can see colors that most guys can't do," Clanton says. "In our research for outdoor lighting, we have found that women prefer warmer light than men. So I would really caution energy managers not to jump to this cooler light. Personally, I would not go over 4,000K in an office."

One innovation being touted at Lightfair by several manufacturers was the ability to tune an LED lamp or luminaire to the temperature of white desired, from very warm golden white to very cool bluish whites. While these different color temperatures were available before, the step forward is that now all of the temps are available in one lamp or luminaire, versus having to stock a range of units to fill the same need.

For more on achieving quality lighting in commercial spaces, go here.


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