What is Lighting Kelvin Temperature?

Have you ever been to a facility and noticed different colored light bulbs in a fixture or from one space to another? With all of the options available in lighting this is unfortunately a very common occurrence. The good news however is that it doesn’t have to be this way and depending on the technology in place, it can typically be an easy fix. All it takes is an understanding of lighting color temperature.

Color temperature is the term used to describe absolute temperature at which a theoretical blackbody can be heated to emit a certain color and is measured in kelvins (K). Thus, all lighting products have an assigned kelvin Temperature. The chart below outlines the common options, but in short the higher the kelvin rating, the whiter the light will be and the lower the kelvin rating the more yellow the light will be.

Explaining Kelvin color temperature

Most reputable lighting manufacturers will list the kelvin temperature on the item itself, but there are manufacturers who make up their own name for kelvin temperatures to try to get you to only buy their product. By understanding the above color temperature scale, you should be able to find the color temperature you desire or need to match what you currently have.

In terms of what kelvin temperature to choose for a given application, it all depends on what the user of the space prefers. That said, most facilities have multiple users so if you need to choose one, here are some suggestions:

2700 Kelvin – This is the color temperature of the standard incandescent light bulb (soft yellow glow). Often used in living spaces where a warm atmosphere is desired.

3000 Kelvin – This is the lowest kelvin temperature offered for linear fluorescent and LED tubes common in commercial settings. Use this color if you have linear fixtures and desire the warmest color available or if you want a little brighter appearing option, but stay in the warm color.

3500 Kelvin – This is the in-between of all the common options. This has become a common choice for commercial environments that want the lights to provide the most neutral color to the space.

4100 Kelvin – For commercial applications, this is the most common option. Often called Cool White, this light is designed to provide brighter white light without providing too much blue light.

5000 Kelvin – If you are looking to brighten a space or mimic daylight this is the best option. This temperature is often used in manufacturing and production facilities as well as exterior lighting.

6500 Kelvin – This option has become a little more popular since LED lighting technology has taken over, but is often considered too blue/harsh for everyday commercial lighting applications. Generally seen in niche applications like grow lighting or sign lighting.

In addition to the look and feel of the space, kelvin temperatures can also be used to brighten spaces. Although the lumen output is often similar between like products using different kelvin temperatures, you will often notice what appears to be much brighter light by increasing kelvin temps:

5000K LED vs. 4100K Fluorescent


In this picture above, the lights on the right are linear fluorescent 4100 kelvin temperature lamps. The lights on the left are 5000 kelvin temperature LED tubes. Both options provide similar lumens and foot candle levels but because of the kelvin temperature it appears that the 5000K LED tubes are much brighter.

In conclusion it is important to take your time considering and ultimately choosing the best kelvin temperature for your application. If you can’t choose or want flexibility, there are now many color-tuning LED lighting products available to choose from. This comes at a price premium, but it allows you the ability to change kelvin temps at any point to adjust to different preferences.

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2 Responses to “What is Lighting Kelvin Temperature?”

  1. Doug AndersenNovember 15, 2018 at 7:39 am #

    I am an artist who often paints under fluorescent light. There is what is know as “full spectrum” fluorescent lights, which show a full range of color. Regular cheap fluorescents do not show certain color hues. How do the LED replacements stack against the full spectrum fluorescents for color trueness?

    • PremierNovember 15, 2018 at 9:43 am #

      Thanks for the message Doug. What you are referring to relates to CRI, which determines how true the color is. In general, LED and fluorescent lamps are in the 80-82 CRI range. There are high CRI LED T8 lamps that are 90+ CRI that show colors that are more accurate/true. Note that high CRI lamps tend to deliver about 15-20% less lumens, so there is a trade-off to this. See more info below:

      High CRI LED T8


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