Growing up, we had an addition put on to our family home. I was too young to appreciate the process, to get the satisfaction of seeing all the little pieces come together and make something new. No, instead what I really remember was the way all that construction made the house feel. It wasn’t just the noise, it was the sheets, the big dividers up between us and the in-progress parts of our home to which we had no access. It was the darkness, the way those sheets kept an entire side of the space shrouded from daylight. And then, when the curtains were finally lifted, the way a new wave of soft, natural light filled our brand new space; it was a revelatory experience, and the first time in my life I realized just how important a role light plays in how your space makes you feel.
I’ve been playing with the myriad new light switches in what’s now my parent’s home ever since. Once the addition was finished, I would play with lamp shades and dimmers and curtains and I would sit in the space, seeing how my feelings inside would change with the quality of light. I learned that I could control, to a certain extent, how the room took care of me. The wrong light can ruin your whole day, but the right light can save it.
The Right Temperature
So, what makes one light fixture uplifting and energizing, and another soft, calm, and inviting? Temperature. Lighting temperature is measured in degrees of Kelvin (K) and you’ll see this number listed on the side of every box of lightbulbs. Different temperatures produce different colors and quality of light, so it’s important to pay attention to this number when you go to the store. The effects of different temperatures are as follows:
- Temperatures ranging 4,600K and above: Appear blue-white (commonly referred to as cool or daylight colors).
- Temperatures ranging 3,100K to 4,500K: Appear cool white.
- Temperatures ranging 2,000K to 3,000K: Appear in tones that range from reddish to yellow-white (commonly referred to as warm colors).
Cooler lighting is associated with improving mood and providing and invigorating energy, while warmer tones create a more intimate and relaxing setting. So, if your office is filled with those old yellow-white incandescent colored bulbs, and you don’t have a lot of windows giving you access to natural daylight, a swap to lower temperature bulbs might dramatically improve how the room supports your work. I’m sure if you tell your boss it will help boost office productivity, he or she will be happy to make the switch, right?
Lighting & Circadian Rhythms
The reason our bodies respond differently to different lighting temperature is closely related to our natural circadian rhythms. Lighting plays a key role in helping us keep our sleep cycles in sync with the course of the day, something that is vital to our health. Disruption of your circadian rhythm has the potential to impact not only your mood, but further disrupt your memory and even metabolic function. This is what makes jetlag such a pain, and why Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real, frustrating, and all-too-common thing. Supporting yourself properly through the right quality of light is a vital way of tailoring your space to your needs, and keeping yourself happy and healthy.
My Suggestion: Experiment and Go LED!
The only way to know the best lighting temperatures to use around your own home is to experiment and see what’s out there. Your location, the time of year, and your personality will all play a role in determining the quality or qualities of light that fit you and your lifestyle best. If you can, I highly recommend investing in LED. It used to be that LED light bulbs didn’t offer a lot of variety when it came to temperatures; that, on top of the high prices turned a lot of consumers away for some time, but luckily this is no longer the case. Today, LED bulbs range from cool daylight to warm candlelight, so those of you looking to test out how these different light temperatures can impact your overall mood, you can do so without sacrificing living a green and energy efficient lifestyle. Yes the LED bulbs may still fall on the pricier side, but they also last a great deal longer, making them a sound investment.
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