Color-tunable LED lights are available in three categories. First, dim-to-warm LED’s are most like traditional incandescent or halogen lights, particularly in their appearance while they are selectively dimmed or brightened. They shed light that appears to be “warmer” as they are dimmed, making them ideal for restaurants and personal residences. The technology that enables the dimming of dim-to-warm LED’s is a function of the transition of the “color correlated temperature” (or CCT) of the light. At full output, dim-to-warm LED’s have CCT ratings close to 3000K, whereas when they are dimmed, that rating decreases to 1800K, which is approximately the same light output as a burning candle.
White-tunable LED lights can be dimmed without a CCT shift, which makes them ideal for settings such as office conference rooms where the perceived color of the light does not change when the level of illumination is reduced. These lights include a pair of LED light sources that generate light in different CCT ranges. The light output of each light source is adjusted relative to the other to dim the light without changing the overall CCT output.
Full color tunable LED’s are the third and perhaps most versatile of the color LED categories. These lights use a combination of three or more separate LED bulbs in each fixture to generate a white, tinted, or full color lighting. Control systems for these lights are more complex than a standard slide dimmer, but those systems enable users to design and match the lighting of an area with near-pinpoint accuracy.
Lighting Design with Color LED
The versatility and adaptability of next-generation colored LED is made possible by advancements in both CCT and color rendering index (“CRI”) controls for LED lights. Lighting engineers use CRI to compare how well a light source matches ideal natural lighting conditions. The CRI rating of natural light is 100. As a light source’s CRI goes down, the colors of an object that is illuminated by that light source will appear less natural, and an observer may have a harder time distinguishing subtle color variations. LED lights with lower CRI ratings are generally more efficient.
Architects and designers will balance all of these factors when selecting the optimum lighting solution for a specific setting. In residential settings, for example, architects and designers had traditionally preferred incandescent lighting as a light source that gave a warmer feel to a room, particularly when dimmed, yet that lighting is the least efficient of potential lighting options. They can now select dim-to-warm LED light systems to achieve the same warmth effect without sacrificing efficiency. Taking the design one step further, full color tunable LED’s will give them an opportunity to change the entire aspect of a room with different color lighting adjustments.