How To Identify Different Color Temperatures Of LED Lights?

Have you ever been frustrated under your existing lights when they don’t appear to look the way you wanted them to? Your souvenir collection is either looking too washed out and harsh, or your bathroom lights are so dim you’re unable to see clearly, squinting around.

Most likely, you have picked out the wrong color temperature of your LED bulb.

Installing the correct temperature of the light will take your space to completely different moods and functions, so it’s important you give this guide a read to figure out what to look out for.

You can determine the color temperature of an LED bulb by reading the CCT rating, which varies in degrees Kelvin between 2000K as a warm yellowish light up to 6000K as cool bluish light.

Color Temperature vs Lumens: What Is The Difference

Every light source is unique and has its own personality. The reliable crisp, cool light from your kitchen LEDs keeps you focused on your creative cooking. While the comforting warm glow from your nightstand puts you at ease as you sink into your bed.

Two (out of many features) of light determine its character, which helps you choose where and how to use it. You might also have a specific preference for a particular feel of light.

The first is lumens, arguably the most essential feature you need to look out for. Lumens is the measurement of the total light output of a bulb.

Simply, lumens measure brightness. To give a typical example, an average 60-watt incandescent bulb produces about 800 lumens of light.

The other feature is color temperature, also known as correlated color temperature abbreviated as CCT, which is simply the appearance of the color of a white light bulb. It is measured in degrees Kelvin.

This measurement specifically gives the general indication of the apparent ‘coolness’ or ‘warmth’ of the emitted light.

You would consider the lumens of a bulb to figure out how bright you want your light in a particular place of your home or office to be.

You would choose the appropriate color temperature (CCT) of the bulb based on the light’s function.

The two ratings are not related and do not have any effect on each other.

But what about if you want to create different moods in a single space along the course of the day or for some occasions?

How Do LED Emit Different White Colors?

light temperatures

There is a ton of research backing the benefits of the different color temperatures of lights and their effect on the human body throughout the day.

A strong case can be made for dynamically changing CCT LED lighting to cater to circadian rhythms of the human body, which include physiological functions, learning, memory, mood, and efficiency among other fluctuations.

This adjustable temperature feature may be called ‘turntable white lighting,’ ‘variable white,’ or ‘custom temperature’ lighting, among other names.

More and more manufacturers are offering adjustable CCT options to end-users. It is also a more cost-effective technique to produce more than one color temperature without buying multiple bulbs and fixtures.

So one LED fixture can produce a warm 3000K white light, a neutral 4000K white light, or a cool 5000K white light with a slide of a button.

It can do this by having two different kinds of LED chips inside one.

LED strip or bulb and using Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) through the logic board, a gradient of color temperatures becomes possible, taking your mood from relaxed to attentive.

The LED will have both warm and cool white LEDs. For example, an LED strip can have 2900K for warm white and 6500K for bright white, giving you different color mixing possibilities in between.

Probably the most popular bulb that can change the color temperature is the smart light Philips Hue (Amazon).

You can control it through Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Home Kit. However, if this is not enough, you can control it through the app and adjust the temperature you need.

How To Check Color Temperature On The Bulb?

If you’re unsure what light bulb colors are all about, you’re not alone. Many light bulbs have a bunch of numbers on them, and sometimes it’s hard to tell what they mean.

All light bulb color temperatures, including those of LEDs, are measured by Kelvin temperature. The higher the number of the Kelvin temperature, the “cooler” or “whiter,” the color is until the really high numbers like 6000K, which start to give off a bluish hue.

Alternatively, the lower the number of the Kelvin temperature, the “warmer” or “yellower” the bulb’s color would be.

So on a bulb, for example, you will see a number on a bulb-like “2700K”, or “27K”, or even just “27”.

Now sometimes, along with the color temperature, a bulb part number will feature a combination number that includes a color rendering index (CRI) also .

This CRI can be in the “700”, “800”, or “900” series. This simply signifies the percentage of CRI, so an 800 series represents a CRI of 80%, a 900 series represents CRI of 90%, etc.

The 800 series number represents the color rendering, which is a scale indicating how accurate the light source is at rendering color. The higher the number, the more accurate the light color is.

So when written together as a combination, you will see something like “827”. This photo shows how that particular number is represented:

light type explanation

As you can see, there is a part number LA19/12/827/OD-33. The color temperature is indicated by the “27” or “2700K”, which is a warm color on the Kelvin scale.

If the bulb had “841” printed on it, then it would be an 800 series and “41” or “4100K” which is a cool (whiter) color on the Kelvin scale.

Low CCT lights start from red, orange, then going to yellow. Therefore, the term ‘warmth’ to describe a low CCT light is perhaps a carryover from the feeling of a fire or candle that burns with orange tones.

Does Color Temperature Affect Brightness?

The CCT of the bulb you have purchased only reflects the kind of color it gives off. You must get the right color you want as it completely changes the appearance and functionality of a space.

What color temperature is not, is the ambient temperature of the bulb’s body or the heat it generates. Neither is it the brightness of the bulb.

As mentioned earlier, brightness is only determined by the lumen rating, which is one of the most important things you need to watch out for.

So a high color temperature bulb, such as 5000 Kelvin, can output 450 lumens. In contrast, a low-temperature bulb of say 3000K can produce more than 1600 lumens. The two characteristics of the bulb are unrelated.

Also read: What Is The Difference Between Kelvin And Lumens?

Disclaimer: Your brain may perceive a whiter light as brighter because of its higher contrast and crisp light, but the actual brightness will be the same.

Final Words

Now, you know a little more about choosing the right color temperature to create your intended vibe.

Some people prefer mostly cool white lights, and others prefer the natural warm light that was a characteristic of the incandescent bulb.

Have you found yourself with a wrongly colored LED bulb and ended up returning it?

Do you have areas in your home that would benefit from either a warm or cool light, or do you prefer an adjustable light?

Looking for an LED bulb but not sure what type you need?

Check out my free bulb picker and select the right bulb within few clicks.

4 thoughts on “How To Identify Different Color Temperatures Of LED Lights?”

    • Hi Stephen,

      Usually 60W halogens output about 750-800 lumens of light. In terms of LEDs this would equal to 9-12W, depends on the quality of the LED.


  1. Is there a way to measure, or determine the Kelvin of an existing parking lot led fixture. Owners are supposed to use 3,000K but I think they used 4,000K and I need to determine if they have used incorrect led.

    • Hi Peter,

      The Lux meter measures the intensity of light, but does not measure the color of it. I believe to do it properly you would need a lighting experts to come in a measure the colors.

      Alternatively, light bulbs should have it written on the bulb itself where the information text is near the bulbs base.

      Sorry I cant be much of a help.

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