In this blog, we will cover:

  • Differences Between Warm and Cool Lighting
  • Interactive visual examples of each temperature on the color scale
  • The effects of "blue" light
  • The role of lighting in home automation and smart homes
  • Light Temperatures By Room

Just a couple of decades ago, choosing the right lighting for your home was as simple as heading to the local hardware store and purchasing the right size bulb for your lamp or socket. Before the advent of CFL and LED lights, there were limited options for energy-saving lighting, and almost all incandescent bulbs gave off that same, warm, yellowish glow of light.

Fast forward to today and a trip through the lighting department of your local hardware store most likely offers you hundreds of different options - and infinitely more if you look online. Not only can you choose between dozens of different energy-efficient bulbs, but you can also opt for different colors of lighting as well.

Most CFL lights offer what is known as cool light, or white light, while LED lighting can be found in both cool and warm (yellow) light. Today, many smart LED lighting options allow homeowners to change the hues of the lights in their home dynamically, with programs like the Google Home App's Color Picker or through voice commands with Alexa and Siri.

This short article explores the differences between what is known as “warm” and “cool” lighting to help homeowners pick the best lighting option for different parts of their home.

Warm Vs. Cool

When you turn on a light in your home, it probably emits either a white or yellowish glow. The white color refers to cool lighting, while warm lighting is characterized by a softer yellow hue. Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) in different lighting fixtures is used as a description of the color of the light emanating from the light fixture. CCT is measured in kelvins (K) on a 1,000 K to 10,000 K scale.

Color temperatures from 1,000 - 10,000 K
Color temperatures from 1,000 - 10,000 K CCT rating

What is Warm Lighting?

Warm lighting is characterized by its soft, inviting glow, reminiscent of the hues produced by a setting sun or the gentle flame of a candle. Warm, yellow lighting has a CCT rating of between 2,400 and 2,700 K on the Kelvin scale, producing a yellowish-orange light that creates a cozy, relaxed, and comfortable atmosphere. Warm lighting is often used in residential spaces like living rooms, bedrooms, and dining areas, where a sense of calmness and warmth is desired. It enhances the rich tones of wood and other warm-colored décor, making spaces feel more intimate and welcoming. The psychological effects of warm lighting are significant; it tends to relax the mind and can even stimulate appetite, making it a popular choice in both homes and restaurants.

What is Cool Lighting?

Cool lighting, on the other hand, emits a brighter, more energizing light with a cooler, white tone and has a rating of 4,000 K to 6,500 K. This lighting resembles the clear, bright light of morning daylight and is typically perceived as more vibrant and less yellow than warm light. It's often described as having a blue or white quality to it, closely mirroring the natural light from a cloudy sky. Cool lighting is ideal for task-oriented spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms, offices, and classrooms, where clarity, concentration, and alertness are important. It enhances the appearance of white and light-colored surfaces, making spaces appear more spacious, clean, and modern. Due to its ability to improve concentration and mood, cool lighting is also advantageous in workspaces and educational settings, fostering a productive environment.

So what exactly does this mean for the lights we use in our homes? In practical terms, cool lighting will contain more “blue light” and will appear slightly brighter to the eye. This is why cool or white LED bulbs are rated as having a higher lumen output  than their warm LED counterparts.

Cool lighting tends to offer a more modern and “clean” look for different areas of your home while warmer, yellow lights offer a softer and more conventional “glow” for your home. It comes as no surprise that people who live in colder climates tend to prefer warm lights, while homeowners in warmer climates tend to favor cooler lighting options.  

Interactive Visual Examples of Each Temperature on the Color Scale

To better understand the impact of color temperature in real-life scenarios, explore interactive visual examples available on many lighting manufacturers' websites. These tools allow you to see how different temperatures can transform the look and feel of a room.


The Effects Of Blue Light

While the decision on which type of lighting is best for your home is mostly a question of individual style preference, there are a few health considerations that should be taken into account. Cool CFL and LED bulbs have been shown to negatively affect sleeping patterns, similarly to the blue light emitted by our cell phones and computers. Not only do these cool lights produce artificial light at night, but their higher concentration of blue light can throw off your body’s circadian rhythms.  


A recent article in Live Science finds that “exposure to blue light suppresses the production of melatonin more than any other type of light. It is believed that the shorter wavelengths in blue light is what causes the body to produce less melatonin because the body is more sensitive to this type of light.” Suppressed melatonin levels can disrupt your sleeping patterns. At the same time, exposure to bright light during the daytime hours can boost attention, reaction times, and improve your overall mood while making it easier to fall asleep at night - when it’s dark. You must carefully consider the placement of warm lighting and cool lighting in your home, as they have the potential to negatively affect your mood if placed poorly/in inappropriate spaces.


The Role of Lighting in Home Automation and Smart Homes

With advancements in home automation, lighting goes beyond mere illumination. Smart lighting systems can adapt to your lifestyle, adjusting color temperatures based on the time of day or even syncing with your alarm to wake you up naturally in the morning. Integrating lighting with home security systems to simulate occupancy when you're away is another smart application, enhancing both comfort and security.


Light Temperatures By Room

While there are no set rules for color temperature, here are some general guidelines for warm vs cool lighting in different areas of the home.

  • Warm Light for the Bedroom: Warm lighting makes much more sense for bedrooms, especially in the case of night lamps as the lower levels of blue light will not affect your sleep patterns as much.
  • Cool Light for the Office: Many homeowners find that cool, white lighting is best for kitchens as it offers a feeling of cleanliness and modernity, as well as providing full illumination for cutting and cooking.
  • Warm or Cool Light for the Bathroom: Warmer lighting might also be better for bathrooms where this can offer a relaxing feel for a warm shower or hot bath. And if your bathroom already has a lot of white in it (like the tub, sink, or tiles,) a burst of bright, white light in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning can be quite a shock! Although, just like in the kitchen, cool light in the bathroom can amplify a sense of cleanliness, and provide a comfortable environment for self-care tasks that require full visibility, like shaving or applying makeup. This room is where multiple lighting options - and a generous supply of ambiance-enhancing candles - may help create the ideal lighting for many situations.
  • Warm Light for the Dining Room: Warmer lighting for dining areas can bring a sense of coziness to your family dinners or dinner parties.

Again, these are just general suggestions. Be sure to take into account the amount of sunlight each room receives, which tasks will be completed there, as well as what feels good. Your personal preference is always the most important factor to consider when making any decision in your home!

Light Up Your Dream Home With Natale Builders

When designing your dream home, it can be difficult to visualize all the little things, like the difference between warm and cool lighting. We’re here to help!

At Natale Builders, we are a family-owned and operated professional custom home building company specializing in Green and Energy Efficient designs with over 50 years of experience across the Western New York area. Our team of professionals can help you decide on the best warm or cool lighting to give you the ambience you want.

Contact us
today to get started building the home of your dreams!