Choosing Between 2700K and 3000K

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When searching for home and residential LED lighting products, you will oftentimes come across a choice in color temperature between 2700K and 3000K. Although both are oftentimes considered to be "warm white" - there certainly is a noticeable difference in color between these two color temperatures. If you're unsure about which to choose, read on for our perspective!

2700K: Incandescent Light Bulb Color

Traditional incandescent light bulbs illuminate when the filament inside the bulb gets so hot that it begins to emit light. At full brightness, the filament's temperature is approximately 2700 degrees Kelvin, hence the 2700K rating.

In short, a non-incandescent bulb (e.g. an LED A19 bulb) with a 2700K color temperature rating, will have a light color similar to an incandescent bulb. If you like the color of the traditional incandescent bulb, 2700K is the color temperature you need.

2700K provides a very nice and warm atmosphere, and is a great choice for living rooms and bedrooms where you would want to promote relaxation.

Not everyone likes the 2700K incandescent bulb color, however, and certain installation locations could benefit from a higher color temperature. The primary concern with 2700K is that it can appear quite yellow or orange, such that everything appears "washed out" with a yellow hue. For living rooms and bedrooms, this is typically not a significant concern, but for more task-oriented areas in your home such as the kitchen, you may want to consider 3000K as an alternative.

3000K: A "Crisper" Alternative

3000K light is a slightly more pure, neutral white color compared to 2700K. It has less of a yellow/orange hue, and will appear "crisper" for that reason. If you have any halogen bulbs (e.g. MR16 style spotlights), there is a good chance they emit a 3000K light color.

If you personally don't like the incandescent light bulb color of 2700K, or you want to be able to have a bit more color acuity, 3000K is most likely your best option. We typically recommend our customers to consider 3000K lighting for kitchen, laundry, bathroom and home office areas where visual tasks are more common, and warmth and relaxation is not the primary objective.

A common concern we hear from customers is that they don't want lights in their home that are too cold, stark or sterile. We've seen our share of first-generation energy-efficient CFL bulbs that emit a harsh, cool white color, and completely understand.

The good news is that by specifying an exact color temperature of 3000K (and no higher), it is very unlikely that you feel that the lighting will be too cold or harsh (assuming the manufacturer specifications are accurate, reliable and consistent). 3000K is still well within the range of "warm white" color temperatures and there should be no concerns about it being too blue, intense or clinical.

How Perceivable is the Difference Between 2700K and 3000K?

To the naked eye, the difference is certainly noticeable, though it is by no means extreme. If you look at a 2700K and 3000K light bulb side-by-side, you will definitely be able to tell the difference. But, if you went to visit friends at two different (but similar lighting style) homes in one night, you may not consciously realize that the first home had 2700K and the second home had 3000K lighting.

As long as a 2700K and 3000K light source are not immediately next to each other (e.g. mixing them in a single 6-lamp ceiling fan light) the two color temperatures can blend fairly well in a single space, without any aesthetic concerns.

You may, for example, choose to use 2700K LED bulbs for ambient lighting, and 3000K LED strip lights for an under-cabinet installation in the same area to illuminate a countertop, and the result would still have a quite cohesive look.

That being said, it can be difficult to qualitatively explain the 300 degree difference between 2700K and 3000K, and the perceptibility of such differences can vary for different people. Oftentimes seeing the lights in person is the best way to truly know which is the best choice. (This is why we offer a 30 days, no questions asked free returns & refunds policy).

Don't Forget About Color Rendering

In our discussions thus far, we have left out the variable of color rendering, typically measured using the Color Rendering Index (CRI for short).

You may have felt that a 2700K bulb is too yellow or "dingy" not due to its color temperature, but due to its CRI value. A low CRI value, independent of color temperature, can cause objects to appear washed out and dull. As such, we recommend making sure that if you decide to rule out 2700K bulbs due to your prior experience with them, that you confirm that it is indeed the color temperature you didn't like, and not an issue with its CRI value.

Similarly, if you're looking for 3000K to improve color accuracy and clarity, keep in mind that high CRI is as important an indicator of this as a shift in color temperature from 2700K to 3000K. A low CRI 3000K light source will remove much of the yellow and orange hue, but it will still not present colors of objects faithfully. If for example, you choose to install 3000K lights in a bathroom so that you can see your makeup colors better, be sure to choose a high CRI option, as you may otherwise not achieve the improved color accuracy you originally hoped to achieve.

Comparing the "Blue Light Hazard" of 2700K and 3000K

Finally, we'll discuss one aspect of the 2700K vs 3000K question that has been getting more and more attention lately - the so called "blue light hazard" and its health effects. We've written about the blue light hazard extensively, and this is a very much a relevant question when it comes to selecting between these color temperatures.

You may have heard about the concerns with blue light, especially as smartphones, tablets and other light-emitting screens become commonplace during late-evening hours, and its effect on our ability to fall asleep and rest well. Blue light has been shown to suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes relaxation and sleep, and therefore the type, amount and duration of light exposure prior to when you go to bed can have an effect on your sleep quality.

The relative amount of blue light content in 2700K and 3000K can be analyzed by looking at the spectral power distribution of the respective light sources. A quick look at these charts will reveal that, in general, all else equal, 3000K will have a higher amount of blue light than 2700K, and will therefore be more likely to keep you alert and awake.

Should you avoid 3000K altogether if you are concerned about circadian and sleep impacts? We would strongly advise against doing so, and here is why.

First, the difference between 2700K and 3000K with respect to blue content is certainly measureable, but not extremely significant. Our smartphone and tablet screens, for comparison, are calibrated to 6500K, a bright, daylight white color with lots of blue light. 3000K remains well within the "warm white" range of color and can be said to have similar amounts of blue light compared to 2700K, albeit slightly more.

Secondly, we emphasize the phrase "all else equal" (above), because it is important to keep in mind that there are other factors beyond just color temperature that affect the degree of blue light hazard. For example, the brightness and proximity of the light bulbs to your eyes, will very much affect the impact of the light sources, as will the duration of exposure and time of day that you are exposed to the light source.

A similar analogy would be to say that an espresso shot has a higher caffeine content than a cup of coffee, but 5 cups of coffee at 10 pm will most certainly affect your sleep quality than a single espresso shot at 10 am.

If you are most concerned about blue light's impact on your health, the 2700K color temperature will be a better choice (or 2400K as an even lower blue light alternative) for you. If you prefer the cleaner look of 3000K, we wouldn't recommend giving up on the color altogether, but you may want to consider the slightly elevated impact of blue light compared to 2700K.

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