LED Color Tuning Enriches Interiors

LED Color Tuning Enriches Interiors

This piece was originally published in the August 2016 issue of electroindustry.

Brent Protzman, Manager, Energy Information and Analytics, Lutron Electronics Co., Inc.

Research suggests that color tuning and dimming improve comfort and may create a healthier, more productive environment, especially when employees contend with computer monitors and stress. Photo courtesy of Lutron.
Research suggests that color tuning and dimming improve comfort and may create a healthier, more productive environment, especially when employees contend with computer monitors and stress. Photo courtesy of Lutron.

As light-emitting diode (LED) lighting and controls become more commonplace, so too does the scrutiny of color quality and how it affects people, especially those in customer-care environments in which employees face an almost constant dose of computer monitors and stress. Research suggests that color tuning and dimming improve comfort and possibly create a healthier, more productive environment.

While incandescent lighting suffered from inefficiency, it did deliver warm dimming and color capacities that made people feel comfortable; but that warm color didn’t always align with the needs of the space or its occupants. LED lighting, on the other hand, is highly efficient but has traditionally been associated with monotone light. New technologies deliver the ideal combination: LED lighting that allows for nearly limitless color adjustment to arrive at the perfect color temperature for any application.

There are three predominant color-tuning techniques.

  • Dim-to-warm tuning best mimics incandescent light. The full output of an incandescent source causes the lamp’s filament to glow white-hot. The color temperature may vary from 2,700 K to 3,000 K. Dimming naturally cools the filament, moving it through its dimming curve to yellow and then red. When LEDs are used in restaurants and residences, they provide a familiar glow. The simulated warm dimming behavior of LED light sources, however, may not exactly match that of existing incandescent lamps and may vary from one manufacturer to another.
  • White-color tuning provides the flexibility to independently adjust the color temperature and dimming level of fixtures based on need. In the past, the choice of color temperature was fixed once the lamp or fixture was selected (e.g., if 3,500 K was designed, only 3,500 K could be delivered), even if the finished interior design was modified. Emerging studies on health, comfort, and productivity suggest that the ability to tune the color temperature of a light source to match the needs of the application, event, or occupant has significant benefits. Tunable white is a technique primarily achieved with LED fixtures, although more sophisticated LED screw-base lamps, such as those controlled wirelessly, may offer this capability.
  • Full-color tuning, which originally was used almost exclusively in theatrical applications, now creates theatrical effects in commercial and residential spaces. Full-color tuning produces a color output anywhere along the visible color spectrum. Architectural uses include tuning for the preferred appearance of retail products (e.g., fruit); the creative appearance of space (e.g., selecting 3,500 K at a workstation and a pool of reddish light in a corridor), or providing higher-efficacy lighting when color rendering is less important (e.g., at night). Full-color tuning may also increase or decrease the vibrancy of objects, which is advantageous in restaurant and retail applications.

The evolution of LED technology has led to tremendous opportunities for designers to create unique and engaging environments while enhancing occupants’ feelings of satisfaction and control. As we begin to understand more about how the quality of light in a particular space affects occupant health and wellbeing, comfort, and productivity, lighting control manufacturers do so much more than reduce energy use—they offer solutions that essentially improve interior environments.

Read the August 2016 issue of electroindustry

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