Color-tunable lighting is an exciting and relatively new lighting technology that allows users to control the color of light anytime after installation and attune lighting to individual preferences or specific application needs.
Why does this matter?
Contrary to popular belief, sunlight is not yellow. Sunlight is blue. And it’s the bright blue hue of daylight – not yellow – that helps you wake up and go about your day. Here’s how.
When blue sunlight arrives in the morning, it triggers a sharp rise in blood pressure and the production of cortisol, a natural steroid. At the same time, it tells your body to stop secreting melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep.
Blue light keeps working throughout the day to increase one’s ability to focus, enhance reaction times and elevate mood. By the time sunset arrives, you’re slowing down not only because you’re tired, but also because that energizing blue light is slowly fading away, becoming warmer and losing intensity.
Yellow, warmer light color (2500K-2700K), on the other hand, cues warmth and relaxation. But that’s not because yellow light comes from the sun. My theory is that the origins of this pattern date back to our earliest ancestors, who, both for warmth and safety from predators, made sure to light a fire at night. For hundreds of thousands of years, fire was, and in some parts of the world still is, a nighttime necessity. That’s why yellow light may be responsible for triggering feelings of warmth and relaxation in comparison to cool, blue-ish light.
Sunlight (with a color temperature of around 6500 Kelvin) also plays a major role in regulating many human biological responses. For example, research shows that our highest feelings of alertness hit around 10 am. If you’re not well-engaged on your job by then, you are missing an opportunity to do your best work. Using the wrong color temperature of light in an office setting may be responsible for triggering sleep and relaxation as opposed to alertness and productivity. Research also indicates that one’s greatest cardiovascular efficiency and muscle strength occurs around 5 pm.
Three types of color-tunable technologies allow users to tune lighting fixtures in a workplace or residence. The three product types are:
- 2700K – 1800K range
- Mimics incandescent lighting or candlelight
- Dim-to-warm products become increasingly warmer in tone, akin to a flame, as light dims. These tend to work best in restaurants, hotel lobbies and guest rooms; also in ballrooms, theaters and homes.
- 2700K – 5000K range
- Mimics daylight
- Tunable-white products allow for increasing kelvins, which increases blue-toned hues and intensity to simulate daylight. These tend to work best for industrial, medical and commercial office lighting; also in museums and art studios.
- RGBW (Red, Green, Blue, White)
- Provides full range of color wheel and tunable-white
- Full-color tuning products, also known as RGB, RGBA, RGBW, or color changing use primary colors to produce most colors across the color spectrum.
About the Author
David Hakimi is a lighting consultant and co-founder of Alcon Lighting. The UCLA graduate works to achieve energy-efficient lighting, enabling architects, designers and lighting engineers to upgrade from outmoded lighting. David takes particular pride in Alcon’s design, energy and building knowledge, tracing his and Alcon’s commitment to quality, innovation, accountability and value to lessons learned from his father, a Southern California lighting salesman and consultant for more than two decades. Passionate about protecting the environment, David is especially adept in assuring that each client and customer meets both rapidly-changing building codes and project goals.