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Why are warm white LED lights considered to be healthier than the cool white ones?

Date: 2015-06-02
Browse the number: 15

The colour temperature has nothing to do with the healthiness of the light.

However, there is a strong link between people's lighting preferences and the natural environment they grew up in. Three stories.

1) I asked my students to create lighting scenes to match with the description "warm" and "cold". Most students created something yellow, almost orange for warm, and something blue for cold, as in Northern Europe, these relate to fireplaces and sunlight on snow. However, one student made the exact opposite choice, and explained it like this: as he was from the desert regions of the USA, he related the yellow-orange light we perceived as warm to the chilling sunset in the desert, when the night crawls into your bones. For him, warmth was conveyed by the cool white, blueish hue of the midday sun. And for his home interior, he would certainly choose the blue.

2) This is from a Scandinavian designer working with a client from southern Russia. He installed a warm white design for her luxury villa, trying to make it look and feel very cosy and homely, as he would have done in his own home. A lot of cove lighting with 2600K tubes - very close to the incandescent yellow, also little diffuse sconces that reminded him of torches and candles. The moment the lady walked in, she requested the lights to be changed. She perceived the warm yellow light as "dirty" and "murky" and demanded for some white, bright light. The designer had to replace the bulbs for the whole villa.

3) Go to any Turkish kebab joint in Central Europe (there's a lot of them in Germany, for example). While all the local cafes on the street might go for diffuse lamp shades with a warm, yellow glow of light to create an intimate, candle-lit atmosphere, the kebab place will most probably have a dense array of unshaded, cool white bulbs in their ceiling. My guess is that they want to compensate for the lack of the midday sun, that is largely missing in the overcast Europe.

A great way to see this variety is to look at an international dormitory anywhere - the colour hues in the windows give away all the different preferences of the residents from different parts of the world.

Can it be that the question is about some specifically unpleasant, cool white light source? The very early, flickering fluorescents and first generation monochrome-ish LEDs are certainly less pleasing and much more annoying to our eyes than the old incandescents that we were previously used to.

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