All about Tunable White LED

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You’ve probably noticed that not all light sources come in the same color. Fire and candlelight have orange and red colors, for example, while midday sun is distinctly bluer.

Likewise, if you’ve studied up on LEDs, you’ve likely noticed that household light fixtures generally come in a few common color temperatures, noted on the Kelvin scale:

  • 2700K – mimics the light from a standard incandescent lamp
  • 3000K – mimics the light color of a halogen lamp (just a tiny bit whiter)

Other color temperatures include 3500K and 4000K. You’re more likely to experience these color temperatures in schools, stores, and at the office (or if you have a fluorescent overhead light in your kitchen or garage).

As a rule of thumb, the higher the Kelvin temperature, the bluer the light. The lower the Kelvin temperature, the more amber or orange the light.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, what is “tunable white LED” light?

At its simplest, a tunable white fixture uses LED “color mixing” to create different shades of white with varying color temperatures (i.e., warm tones, cool tones). (Note: standard color mixing uses red, green, and blue LEDs to create thousands of hues of colored light.)

Why does tunable white even matter? Use the perfect “white” for your applications.

1. You can use it for whatever task is at hand. Some examples:

  • In the kitchen, a higher color temperature can make tasks easier, helping your eye differentiate colors (e.g., helping to discern an onion from the cutting board beneath it).
  • In the bathroom, you can easily apply makeup for different light conditions (e.g., preparing for an afternoon picnic vs an intimate nighttime dinner).
  • In the office, a higher Kelvin light output can help make reading and writing (or inspecting finely detailed work) easier. On the other hand, a lower Kelvin light output can be used for finalizing paperwork before bed.

2. You can match lighting to the time of day. Keep in mind that morning light is much cooler and bluer in color temperature, while afternoon sun is warmer in color temperature.

3. You can match lighting to your own internal rhythms and energy. Some studies have begun to show that matching lighting to your circadian rhythm can help dial in to your natural energy cycles.

4. You can fine-tune your lighting to the way you live. For example, eat breakfast under cooler light to match the daytime lighting. Then, warm it up for a relaxing dinner.

Interested in giving tunable LED a try? Here are a couple of lighting products to check out:

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Koncept Mosso Pro. We recently touted this as one of our favorite task/desk lamps. You can change the color temperature on this fixture from 2700K to 5000K and then dim to the perfect light level.


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AFX Noble Pro. One of our favorite undercabinet fixtures, the AFX Noble Pro comes in many sizes and finishes. The sliding switch allows you to toggle between three different color temperatures as well as high and low light output.

Need help? A Wolfers Lighting consultant can assist you with choosing the perfect LED tunable white fixture for your application.

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