Ideal Color Temperature for Office and Industrial Spaces

Color temperature plays an important role in how we perceive our environment as well as promoting productivity, and keeping the human body’s circadian rhythm balanced.  If you're contracted to light a commercial or industrial area, it’s crucial to know what color temp to pick for the light fixtures selected for each environment.

What is Color Temperature

Color temperature, or Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) as it is normally specified, describes the appearance or perceived color of the light that a light source generates.  Color temp is measured in Kelvins and is typically represented as a 4-digit number followed by a "K" on spec sheets.  For most normal environments, color temp will range from 2700K to 5000K with some special applications needing up to 10,000K.  The lower the number, the warmer or more yellow the color temp, and the higher the number, the cooler or more blue the color temp.

Understanding Different Color Temperatures

Now that we know the basics, it's important to have a common language that we can use when discussing color temperature.  While a lumen output or foot-candle level is difficult to express in ways that several people can relate with, color temp is relatively easy.  We all know what an incandescent bulb looks like and we can easily see what noon-time sunlight looks like.  These two color temperatures bracket the typical ranges that are used in most of our built spaces.

The typical incandescent bulb that we all grew up with generates light that is approximately 2700K.  This is as warm on the color temperature scale as we usually go.  A candle creates light that is approximately 1900K which is actually considered yellow light.  By contrast, noon-time sunlight on a clear day is closer to 5000K.  The sun also gives us warmer colored light at around dawn or dusk because of the way the light scatters as it passes through our atmosphere.

Color Temp and Atmosphere

You may not notice it, but lighting plays a huge role in how you feel when you enter a room.  Spaces like restaurants, hotels, and churches often use warm lighting to impart a cozy and relaxing atmosphere.  Office buildings and hospitals, on the other hand, are usually lit with cooler light to promote focus and productivity.  Most factories and industrial facilities are lit with even higher color temperature light sources.  Many studies have directly tied color temperature with the level of worker productivity.  It's yet another factor in how we perform while at the office.

In general, these applications fall into three color temperature bands:

  • 2700K-3500K: Warm lighting for residential, hospitality and other relaxing environments.
  • 3500K-4000K: Cool lighting for office and commercial spaces.
  • 4000K-5000K: Daylight for industrial and manufacturing applications.

Color Temperature for Hospitality

Depending on the style and the intended design of the facility, we would normally light hotels, restaurants, and religious facilities with a warmer color temperature light.  Hotel lobbies and corridors might have recessed can lights, wall wash lighting, or wall sconces in a 3000K or 3500K color temperature.  The front house in a restaurant could be lit with track lighting or pendants in 3000K color temperature while the kitchen and prep areas can be lit with recessed troffers or LED panels in 4000K to promote productivity.

Hotels or residential spaces that are going for a modern or clean aesthetic are an exception to the above guidelines.  Many of these types of spaces with white and blue color schemes that are trying to maintain a minimalistic appearance would be lit with a cooler 4000K or 5000K light source.  This color temperature makes the white furniture and surfaces pop and really stand out.

Color Temperature for Office Lighting

Our office environments are typically lit with lighting in the 3500K-4000K range.  Lighting in this range feels crisp and invigorating.  Warmer color temperatures have been linked to sleepiness and lower productivity while cooler color temperature can be perceived as too harsh - even to the point of inducing stress and depression in more sedentary workplaces.

Most commercial pendant lights and troffer fixtures are available in 3500K or 4000K.  We would normally recommend the 4000K option for these unless they are going into law offices, mental health professionals or other offices where a slightly warmer atmosphere is preferred.

Color Temperature for Industrial Lighting

We recommend to light Industrial applications like manufacturing plants and warehouses with 5000K color temperature light sources.  This crisp white light is often best for visibility and improved precision and leads to a higher level of alertness.

Our go-to light source for industrial and warehouse lighting is the LED linear high bay.  These fixtures have the lowest lumen per dollar ratio providing the most light for the lowest amount of cost.  A close second behind the linear high bay is the UFO style high bay.  These are a little more expensive due to their cast bodies but if keeping the round look of traditional high bays is important to you, these are a better option.

We're Here to Help

No matter what type of lighting project you're working on, we have the experience to help make it a success.  If you're struggling to figure out the right fixtures to use or what color temperature would be best, give us a call!  We would be happy to help!