You’ve finally made the switch from traditional tungsten light to energy-saving LED lighting, only to find out that your living room has a clinical vibe.
The chances are you’ve chosen a bulb with an extremely cool color temperature.
It would be pretty wasteful to throw a perfectly good bulb away. Is there any way to make cool white LEDs appear warmer?
Depending on requirements, there are several ways to make a white LED look warmer. For a cost-efficient fix, paint LED light bulbs or applied orange color filter gels. Smart bulbs have a built-in function to alternate the color temperature.
When you’re used to purchasing conventional bulbs, being faced with LEDs with different color temperatures can be daunting. Don’t worry if you’ve made a wrong decision; you aren’t the first person to do it, and you certainly won’t be the last!
Let’s dig into the world of correlated color temperature and the different ways you can alter the color of your LEDs together.
Why Do You Need Warm Light?
Before you start playing with your LEDs’ color temperature, you need to understand why you’re unhappy with cool lights. This will help you choose the most adequate solution.
White LEDs come in lots of different color temperatures, and this is measured in degrees Kelvin (K). The Kelvin spectrum ranges from 1000 to 10,000K.
Lights with low kelvin ratings up to 3500K are warm and give off more red wavelengths. Lights with high kelvin ratings (5000+K) whereas are cool and give off more blue wavelengths.
Why does this matter?
There’s a vast body of research on how different color temperatures impact the body’s circadian rhythm.
Blue wavelengths are proven to suppress the production of melatonin, which regulates sleep/wake cycles.
High exposure to blue light in the evening can prevent you from relaxing. At the severe end of the spectrum, cool light may contribute to sleep deprivation.
While they may complement your minimalist home, it’s clear that cool LEDs are not suitable in all contexts.
Thankfully, warm LEDs have the opposite effect. The ambient nature of yellow light has a soporific effect, so they gradually decrease concentration and cause fatigue.
Cool lights are ideal for workspaces or areas where you want to feel alert and productive during the day time. But warm lights are better suited to cozy living spaces such as bedrooms and sitting rooms in the evening.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to explore your reasons for wanting warmer LEDs.
- Do I want this change to be permanent? Perhaps you purchased a white LED on a whim without paying attention to its color temperature. Now it’s creating an unhomely vibe in your bedroom.
- Do I want this change to be temporary? For instance, do you need warm white for a photoshoot?
- Will I want to alternate between cool and warm lights regularly? Maybe you live in a small studio flat that functions as a home office in the day, but a relaxing sanctuary at night time.
- What kind of climate do I live in? Humans tend to prefer cool white when the weather is sunny and warm when the weather is cold.
How To Change Color Temperature of LED Lights
The fact of the matter is, the color temperature of your LEDs is critical.
Regardless of your reasons, there are several ways you can get warmer light in your home or office space; these range from temporary DIY fixes to more permanent and professional solutions.
Let’s discover them together
Get A Color Filter For Cool White LEDs
The first and the easiest solution is to use colored lighting gels. Commonly used in theatre to create different stage dynamics, filter gels are thin sheets of transparent material fitted in front of an LED lens.
If you’re specifically looking to convert your cool LED bulbs to warmer color temperatures, you need orange or red gels.
These are often called CTOs (color temperature orange). Depending on the strength, orange gels can neutralize a cool LED or completely transform it into a warm white.
They come as large sheets, which must be cut to size and inserted in front of the LED. No glue or tape is required!
You could even use two or three gels depending on how warm you want to make the light. So gels are best if you’re looking for a cheap or temporary solution.
I have personally used these and done a little test to share them with you here on my blog.
Before I share the results with you, I want to get a couple of things straight on how I have set up this test.
This experiment’s original light was a white LED bulb with a color temperature of 6000K.
To give you an idea, 6000K is a very cool white that is very similar to the daylight.
I have created the same condition for all lighting gels to ensure the consistency of the experiment.
I have used total of four gels with different levels of transparency.
- 1/8 CTO
- 1/4 CTO
- 1/2 CTO
- 1 (or full) CTO
Each of these numbers represents a different transparency level, where 1/8 is the most transparent (92%) and 1 being least transparent (47%).
In other words, the full CTO gel will produce the warm white color of the temperature between 2700K and 3000K depending on the initial temperature of the light source.
Meanwhile, 1/8 filter gel will only make the LED light slightly warmer than the original. In my example, I got from 6000K to about 5000K, which was still pretty cool.
I know you are eager to get the results of this experiment, so here is the little graphics comparison of all gels.
Hope you like that bowl with seashells that I have collected.
As you can see, although 1/8 and 1/4 lighting gels make the white light warmer to an extent, the shade of white is still relatively cool.
Gels with the transparency of 1/2 and 1 created the warm white that I have found the most welcoming being very close to incandescent light.
You need to keep in mind that I have used extremely cool white light for this test. So if you have LED lights below 6000K, you might have better results with the first two.
Once again, here is a comparison between cool white with no filter and warm white with a full CTO filter.
Use the slider to see the difference.
Gels for LED lights are readily available from places like Amazon.
At the same time, they can be inconvenient if your LED lighting is in an open or hard-to-reach space.
If you need to change the color of your light bulbs frequently, using gels when you have extremely high ceilings, for instance, is bound to get annoying!
Although I think gels are the easiest way to make your white light warmer, there are also other great ways, so let’s explore them.
Paint An LED Bulb
The cheapest solution is to color the outside of your cool-toned LEDs with yellow or orange paint. This will convert any white light that is emitted to a warm, ambient color.
For this cheap, DIY solution, everything you need is probably already in your craft box, no extra equipment necessary!
What’s more, if you change your mind about the color you’ve chosen, the paint can simply be wiped off. Easy-peasy!
Proceed with caution, though, as paint can be flammable. While LEDs do not generate a lot of heat, covering one of their heat dissipating devices (the glass) with paint will cause heat to build up.
Ultimately, this will shorten the lifespan of the diode. In fact, I have written the article about it and you can read it here.
Similarly, using opaque paint will reduce the bulb’s overall brightness to a point where it may not be usable.
Buy New LED With Warm White Color Below 3,000K
Time is precious. I get it.
If you don’t have time for DIYs, it’s probably easier to purchase a new bulb with warm white temperatures. Ideally, you need to look for an LED with a Kelvin rating of 3000k or less.
This will give you the beautiful yellow-toned, relaxing light you desire.
And don’t worry about waste. There are tons of things you can do with lightly used LED bulbs. Perhaps you could donate them to a friend or a charity?
For more inspiration, check out my article: What To Do With Unused Light Bulbs?
Get Color Temperature Changing Bulb
What if you prefer cool lights during the day to enhance productivity and complement your Scandinavian décor but prefer reading in the evening with warm light?
Is there any way to get the best of both worlds?
Luckily, more and more manufacturers are beginning to produce smart LEDs that have adjustable color temperatures. One example is the Philips Hue (Amazon).
The Hue can be controlled with the touch of a button via the Philips smartphone app. This means there is minimal effort involved.
You can change the bulb’s color temperature without even having to leave your bed or get up off the sofa.
Ideal for lazy Sunday mornings.
And if your hands are busy?
Well, the Hue also links with popular voice assistants such as Google Home and Alexa. So if you’re mid-way through a makeup look and you realize your lighting isn’t flattering, don’t worry!
Just ask Alexa to change it.
This is revolutionary for people with disabilities. No DIYs. No painting. No climbing up to difficult nooks and crannies. Just a simple smartphone app.
With over 16 million colors to choose from, the Hue allows you to play around until you find that perfect shade of warm light.
Are cool-colored LEDs in your bedroom disrupting your sleep?
Hopefully, in this blog post, I have shown you that it’s not the end of the world!
As you have seen yourself, there are a few things you can do!
Have you tried any of these DIY hacks? Do you agree that smart LEDs, such as the Philips Hue, are the way forward?
Write a comment, let me know!