Adjusting Color Temperature with LED

a guest post by Lisa J. Reed, Lighting Designer

Now that we have the ability to adjust color temperature, we can do it on a whim. Not just when we dim, but even just because we want to.

Don’t you just love that soft, warm glow of firelight? Or how about the dim, warm ambiance of a nice restaurant when you’re celebrating a special anniversary?

After 100 years of incandescent lamps, we are used to lights becoming a warm orange-red in color when we dim them. Out of habit, that’s what we expect to see when we lower the light level. It’s so important to us that now we’ve convinced our solid-state lighting manufacturers to mimicking this incandescent lighting property in the LED lighting that they make.

Most LED manufacturers now offer “warm-dim” or “warm glow” or “sunset dimming” options. An LED doesn’t normally become warmer-colored when it dims. Without special lamps, drivers, and programming, it would stay the same color no matter how bright or dim the illumination is.

But why not? One of the great things about solid-state technology is that the answer to most of our lighting questions is, “Why yes! Yes, we can do that.” And now that we can change the color of an LED as it dims, what if we want to change its color without dimming it? Again, the answer is, “Why yes! Yes, we can do that.”

Now that we have the ability to adjust color temperature, we can do it on a whim – not just when we dim, but even just because we want to. Nothing makes a control-freak lighting designer happier than giving me – I mean, the control freaks – control over the lighted environment. The more parameters I can control, the better!

Lumenetix is a company that builds color tunable modules (which can be found inside a number of lighting manufacturers’ products) that cover a full range of colors and shades of white.

Similarly, Ketra makes tunable replacement lamps that can be programmed to almost any color of white. These can be used to match daylight or halogen light or even to match the light of a fluorescent lamp.

Today’s big challenge is to create a user interface that is simple and easy to use. Controlling the color of the light as well as the intensity of the light does add a level of complexity that might not be appropriate for every situation. For me, having the ability to change the color is so much fun and is so rewarding that it is worth the challenge of learning to operate a controller. In some situations, the color temperature adjustments can be set by a programmer during commissioning, leaving just the simplest of controls for the end users.

All of these technologies do come at a price, so you’ll need to decide with your dollars whether you prefer to have the ability to adjust the color temperature of your lighting. But if you want to, there are a variety of LED manufacturers who are making this possibility a reality!

Lisa J Reed photo - Lighting Blog

Lisa J. Reed has been attracted to lighting (like a moth to a flame) for 20+ years. She is the Founding Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC in St. Louis, where she designs, teaches, and writes about architectural lighting.


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