Have you ever stood in the middle of the light bulb aisle at your local hardware store wondering which smart bulb color is best for your home? The problem with many bulb colors is that they sound very similar. Soft white, warm white, daylight, cool white – isn’t white just white? Why do some “white” bulbs look yellow?
Let’s learn to unravel the mystery of these color designations and take a look at which bulb temperature is best for your smart home.
Soft white vs warm white vs daylight bulbs
The first thing you need to know in the Battle of the Light Bulb is that each type of white light bulb indicates a reference point on the Kelvin scale. This scale signifies the color temperature of a bulb. The color temperature designation comes from incandescent bulbs and refers to the color of the metal element inside the bulb. As the temperature of the metal element increased, the light changed from a yellowish glow to a brilliant bluish-white.
If you want to learn more about the relationship between color and temperature, there are plenty of resources you can research. Still, you don’t need to know all the scientific knowledge to understand how to read the color temperature of certain light bulbs.
What you need to know is that each Kelvin value indicates a level of “warmth” or “coolness”. The higher the value, the colder or less yellow the bulb will be.
At the lower end of the spectrum are soft white and warm white bulbs. Soft white bulbs are typically around 2700 Kelvin. Despite their name, warm white bulbs are a bit cooler at around 3000-4000 Kelvin.
At the other end of the spectrum are cool white bulbs at around 4000 Kelvin and daylight bulbs, which are even cooler at 5000-6500 Kelvin. With daylight bulbs, you can expect bright, almost blue light that mimics the midday sun.
Effect of lighting on mood
You’ve probably heard the term “mood lighting” before to refer to dimly lit or romantic decor. Now think about the color temperature of this type of lighting. Is it bright and fluorescent, or is it cozier like a crackling fire? Probably the latter, right?
It’s no secret that light affects the way people feel. A study done according to Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, light is the most crucial signal in regulating many biochemical and physiological processes.
Warm light tends to make people feel relaxed and comfortable. On the other hand, cooler light tends to make most people feel energized and energized. That’s why hanging out on a sunny beach is so enjoyable. It’s also why being stuck under fluorescent lights for hours at a time can leave you exhausted.
Most office environments benefit from cooler lighting as it keeps employees alert and productive. But another study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology states that excessive blue light — light emitted at higher temperatures — can negatively affect a person’s ability to sleep well.
Some companies, like Apple, even offer Night Shift, which blocks blue light from mobile devices at certain times of the day.
Related: What is a blue light filter and which app works best?
Selecting the right light temperature
Can you imagine walking into an office where the lighting looked like a diner? Or how about having a chat by the fireplace under blinding fluorescent lights? As you can see, selecting the right lighting temperature is important. But how to do this?
Well, we’ve compiled a list of the best lighting temperatures for each room. Understand, these are only suggestions, as personal preference plays a role in the color temperature you select.
If you want your bedroom to mimic a sunny day when you turn on the lights in the morning, for example, feel free to use daylight or cool white bulbs. Just understand that you’ll probably get less sleep if you use these lights at night.
Living spaces / Kitchens : These areas benefit from both soft and warm light: 2700-3500K. You want your kitchen and living spaces to be comfortable and relaxing. Dimmers are also excellent in this context. Also, if you watch TV in your living room space, you can buy a blue light blocking screen protector for your TV. These protectors ensure that after you’ve binge-watched your favorite series, you’ll still be able to get a good night’s sleep.
Bedrooms : Soft white bulbs work well in bedrooms: 3000K. Most incandescent bulbs are around this temperature. Like living rooms, bedrooms generally don’t benefit from cooler lights. But if you have something like a vanity, then a few cool white bulbs can help you see the contrast much better than their warmer counterparts.
Bathrooms : Warm to cool white is best for bathrooms: 3500-5000K. This temperature range really comes down to personal preference, but super cool bulbs aren’t always the best for this application. That said, cooler bulbs are great for makeup, and blue light makes chrome fixtures pop. If you have a number of these fixtures in your bathroom or want the extra contrast that cooler bulbs provide, don’t be afraid to give them a try.
Office spaces / garages : This is the best place for cooler white bulbs: 4000-6500K. Using bulbs at this temperature will make you feel energized when you need to work.
Related: How to reconnect a smart light switch that lost connection
A Note on Lumens, CRI and Watts
While color temperature is key in determining mood, you also need to consider the brightness of the bulb.
Too much light at any temperature is just as bad as too little. And, although illumination is measured in lumens, wattage still plays an important role in determining the brightness of incandescent bulbs.
Previously, examining wattage could indicate how bright a bulb is. However, LED bulbs consume much less power than traditional incandescent bulbs. For example, an incandescent bulb consuming around 60W will emit much less light than an equivalent LED.lumen, an LED would only consume between 8-12W.
If you’ve upgraded your smart home to LEDs, lumens should be your primary indicator of bulb brightness. If you want to figure out how many lights you need in a room, you can use a lumen and wattage calculator to help.
The CRI color rendering index is another value you may come across in your search for smart lighting. This value indicates the color accuracy representation that a light can reproduce. IRC is most important for things like photography. CRI values of 90+ generally indicate a more color accurate bulb.
Enjoy perfect lighting for your smart home
While navigating the right lighting for your space can sometimes seem daunting, you can easily choose the lighting that’s right for you once you understand how the color temperature scale works. Understanding the effect of lighting on mood can also play a role in how best to light your space.
Getting good lighting for your smart home doesn’t have to be a chore. Also, you should feel free to experiment. There are no strict rules when it comes to lighting. If you want a cooler kitchen area or a warmer bathroom, choose what suits you best.
Your smart home should always be a place you feel comfortable in, and having lighting you love is one of the easiest ways to do that.
Smart bulbs are also one of the categories you can save some money on when building a smart home.