A Guide To Measuring LED Color Temperature

A Guide To Measuring LED Color Temperature
  • Opening Intro -

    The technology of light can seem to move at the speed of light.

    It feels as if it was just yesterday that we were replacing a lightbulb because its fragile filament broke.


Today, incandescent bulbs are mostly a thing of the past, and the halogen hum of fluorescent light is on the wane as well. Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, offer equal or superior luminosity at a small fraction of their predecessors’ energy requirements. The transition has not been a smooth one for everyone.

LEDs have changed the way we illuminate our spaces, but unfamiliarity with the different characteristics of LED lighting has changed the way our rooms look, and not always for the better. Color temperature, measured in Kelvin, is how we define the characteristics of light.

This does not measure actual heat, but rather analogs to the colors that a metallic object would take on under corresponding temperatures.

In this guide to measuring LED color temperature, we’ll explain how hot means cool, and daylight isn’t as natural as it sounds. If you can’t find it posted, a color temperature meter will tell you what you need to know.

Warm White

Warm white LED lights are the best approximation of incandescent light. These lights have a color temperature of 2,000 to 3,000 Kelvin.

At the lowest temperature, LEDs will almost resemble candlelight.

If you want a sense of coziness and warmth in the room you’re lighting, understand that a color temperature in this range is what you should look for.

Don’t mistake this for a weak light, however—a warm white LED can still generate plenty of light, with low energy costs and less heat, too.

Cool White

With a color temperature falling between 3,000 and 4,500 Kelvin, “cool white” LED lights occupy a comfortable middle ground that sheds the warmer yellowish overtones of warm white light and introduces hints of blue.

This light can be more unforgiving than warm white, making it suitable for the lights that line your bathroom mirror so that you can make those honest self-assessments.


One of the biggest mistakes new adopters of LED lights make is believing that natural light is the ideal. “Daylight” bulbs have a color temperature of between 4,500 and 6,500 Kelvin, and this often appears to us not as a replica of sunlight but as garish blue light, making once-inviting rooms feel cold and clinical.

As anyone who has scrolled their smartphone in bed knows, blue light makes it harder to fall asleep, meaning a high-temperature LED light in a lamp could make it harder to unwind in the evening.

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However, automotive LED lights don’t need the warmth and ambiance of lower temperatures. You may want to measure those lights to make sure they meet specifications.

Beyond Warm and Cool

Our guide to measuring LED color temperature could easily span far beyond this spectrum. LEDs can come in all colors, making them perfect for Christmas lights or unorthodox approaches to lighting. Green, purple—you name it—LEDs make them possible.

Image Credit: measuring LED color temprature by twenty20.com

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