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Which colour temperature?

For many years before LED lighting technology went mainstream consumers had no choice of which colour temperature to choose. The only option was extra warm white 2700K to 2800K. Colour temperatures are measured in Kelvin and is symbolized by the letter K. The higher the Kelvin rating, the whiter and then bluer the light appears.

Contrary to popular belief a higher colour temperature is not a measurement of brightness but appearance, brightness is measured in lumens. Although because LEDs are blue to begin with, more phosphor is coated over the LED to provide the warmer colour temperatures which does make the cooler colours appear slightly brighter.

Here are the main three colour temperatures used in modern day LED lights such as retrofit lamps and downlights:

  • Extra warm white 2700K which is similar to a traditional GLS light bulb or halogen. A 2700K LED will still appear slightly whiter than a halogen but is more orange in appearance. This is sometimes called 'soft white' by people in the trade. Extra warm white is not available in many integrated LED downlights so if you known you want this colour temperature you can narrow down your search to just a few.
  • Warm white 3000K which is clearer in appearance but still quite warm. This has become the 'new norm' for lighting in general and is by far the most popular choice.
  • Cool white 4000K which is much more clearer in appearance and is frequently used in commercial locations. Cool white appears brighter than warm white meaning it's also more energy efficient. It's around 5% brighter than the other warm white options. It can make a room feel cold and clinical but when used in the right environment it can make a room appear more modern. This is also referred to as neutral white or cold white but as long as the Kelvin rating is the same then it can be called whatever you like.

The chart below shows a scale that compares everything from candlelight to daylight:

You won't be able to fully appreciate the dramatic difference that each colour temperature offers until a room is fully illuminated with one of them. Just testing a sample will give you more of an idea of the difference. But until you've seen a room fully lit in one of the colours will know only then fully understand the difference.

Each option also accents the colours of your walls, floor and surrounding area. If your kitchen has grey walls and cupboards, the cool white version could make your room appear too clinical like a doctors surgery. Compared to 3000K which makes less of a statement.

The images below show the impact of how different colour temperatures can have in same kitchen:

As you can see by the images above, choosing the right colour temperature is an important decision and has a major impact on a room. The colour of the room or walls should also be considered as the right colour temperature will emphasize the colour and bring the room to life. For example an orange / yellow room may be more suited to extra warm white whilst a blue or white room may be more suited to cool white. 


Here are some examples detailing which colour temperatures may work better in different room types:

Extra Warm White 2700K

Lounges, living rooms and bedrooms. This style of light appears warmer and sets a more relaxing, homely scene. If you think halogen is too warm and want some else then try 3000K instead.

Warm White 3000K

Kitchens, conservatories and bathrooms. The slightly whiter appearance allows you to see better but is not too cold. Although this colour temperature can be used anywhere.

Cool White 4000K

Although I wouldn't recommend this in lounges, cool white can be used effectively in kitchens. The most popular destination for this colour temperature is bathrooms. In a white bathroom it can make appear brighter and cleaner although if your planning on spending time in the bath it you may want to go for a more warmer appearance.

Dim Tone / Dim to Warm

Some LEDs will change colour temperature as they get dimmed down lower. Starting at full brightness at a regular 2800K or 2700K warm white colour temperature, as they get dimmed they start appearing more warmer. The lower the brightness becomes the warmer they become, until they reach a colour temperature of 1800K to 2200K which is similar to a candlelight effect. This can be used effectively in bathrooms to set a relaxing low lux lighting effect that appears just like a candle. They can also be used in bars and restaurants to create a more relaxing or romantic setting at night times.

Philips Lighting and Megaman both have dim tone LEDs that are available.


There's no right or wrong answer, it's your room and your choice. Consider what the main activities and what the main function of the room will be. If in doubt feel free to order samples from us on a sale or return basis, simply return the ones you don't like.

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