Choosing Daylight or Warm Color Bulbs

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These days when it comes to energy efficient lighting there are a lot of choices. One of those choices is the color temperature of the light. No longer are we stuck with orange for incandescent, green for fluorescent. Using light bulb color wisely in your home can have positive effects on your and your families lives. Below you'll find my tips for choosing light bulb color.

Philips SlimStyle LED Bulbs

It's important to note that the big reason I've been able to switch so many lights to LEDs has been because of the incredible value and quality of the Philips Slim Style LED bulbs.

Over the past few months I've been swapping out a lot of my incandescent and CFL bulbs for LED bulbs. Incandescent bulbs use a lot of energy and CFLs are so inconsistent when it comes to color temperature. Even many of the daylight CFL bulbs I've tried have a subtle greenish tint that I find unpleasant. They also shift the paint colors I spent so much time agonizing over.

Most of the LED Bulbs I've been using have been the Philips SlimStyle Daylight LED bulbs which are also available in a warmer Soft White color.

The bulbs cost about $10 each but every once in a while I've noticed that Home Depot has them on sale for about half price in the store and on their website (use the links above to see if they're on sale now). Whenever I'm in the store and see them on sale I pick some up. Even at regular price they're a good deal but... hey five bucks is five bucks :)

They're really nice bulbs that give off a good amount of light without using much energy. Only 10.5 Watts for 800 lumens, equivalent to a 60W incandescent. Change a few of the bulbs you use most often and you'll notice it in your electric bill.

They're also dimmable using standard dimmers so you don't have to replace your current dimmer switches. They don't dim as much as incandescent bulbs when using standard dimmers but the light will decrease enough to change the mood of the room and save even more energy.

When they're dimmed they don't buzz or flicker either and I find the colors and light quality to be good.

About Light Bulb Color

The color of light a bulb puts out is measured in degrees Kelvin (K). The use of Kelvin degrees has to do with the color iron glows when it's at a certain temperature. Lower color temperatures indicate a redder light while high temperatures indicate a bluer light. 

Most incandescent bulbs emit a warm light in the range of 2,700 - 3,300 K and many LED lights try to mimic this color since we're so used to it. They are sometimes labeled as Warm White or Soft White.

LED bulbs are also available as Daylight bulbs with color temperature in the range of 5,000 - 6,500 K. Natural daylight on clear day is about 5,000K while on an overcast day it's about 6,500K.

In between warm and daylight you'll find Cool White, Neutral and Bright White bulbs which range from 3,500 - 4100 K.

For the most part in these tips I've limited the choices between warm and daylight bulbs because those are the two colors available in the Philips bulbs I mentioned. If you feel the daylight color is too blue for your tastes you can substitute a Cool White bulb instead of daylight but I suggest you try some daylight bulbs first. My recommendations should make the harshness less noticeable to those that don't care for daylight bulbs.

How Light Color Affects Us

There have been a number of studies on how the color of light affects us. For example, bright cool light during the day helps increase mood, alertness and productivity.

At night, warmer light helps us sleep better and relax so in the morning we're less grumpy. Blue light at night can negatively affect our circadian rhythm, our internal clock that tells us when we should sleep and when we should wake up.

Light color even affects how we perceive time. Time appears to pass faster with blue light than it does with red light and blue colors suppress appetite.

I've always had problems with sleeping and waking up on time and I've found that controlling the light color at night before bed has helped me a lot. When I bought orange UV safety glasses along with a UV flashlight to detect pet stains I read a lot of reviews of users using them at night to help them sleep and that worked for me too.

Bright lights also make it hard for you to go to sleep compared to dimmer lights.

My light bulb color recommendations try to factor in these effects.

How Light Color Affects Our Vision

Our brain adapts to how we see light. If you're sitting in a room lit by incandescent lights at night you may not even realize that everything has a yellow or orange hue caused by the light.

Sometimes this makes it difficult to differentiate between colors. Have you ever spent a long time at the paint store or paint department selecting the perfect colors for your walls only to have the room look like a completely different color when it dries? That's because the store's lights have different color characteristics than the lights in your room. That's why you should always check the color with samples in your room.

It's easier to interpret colors correctly with daylight bulbs.

Cool Lights Up, Warm Lights Down

For most rooms, including living rooms and dining rooms I like to include both daylight and warm colored lights.

Living Room with Overhead Daylight Colored Bulbs

The way I like to do it is have Daylight bulbs in ceiling fixtures  (usually with dimmers) to provide bright general lighting. Surface mount ceiling fixtures, recessed lights, etc. This is good lighting when you just get home from work, especially in the winter when the days get shorter.

Living Room with lower Warm Colored Bulbs
Wall sconces, floor and table lamps with warm colored bulbs will provide a less intense light used to provide a more relaxing, cozier feel. Switch off the overhead lights and turn on the warm colored table lamps.

Having warm and cool colored bulbs on at the same time can sometimes seem odd but I've found that having the cool lights up top as general lighting and warm lights in lamps placed lower looks quite natural. It's similar to having daylight coming in from the window while incandescent bulbs are on for additional lighting.

Cool Light During the Day, Warm Lights at Night

In addition to my Cool Up/Warm Down rule I like to use cool lights during the day and warm lights at night.
Dining Room Daylight Bulbs in Cans
During the day it also matches the light coming in through windows better. Start your day right with a good breakfast and cool colored bulbs. Inviting people over for lunch? That's a good time to use the daylight bulbs in your ceiling lights too.

Dining Room with Warm Lights
For a more intimate evening meal use the warm colored bulbs in the chandelier and accent lights dimmed a bit.

Bedroom with bright daylight ceiling light
In the morning when you first get up, switch on the daylight bulbs in the ceiling fixtures to provide you with a bright, invigorating light to get you going.

Bedroom with warm colored table, floor and wall lights.
In the evening switch to your warm bulbs in your wall, floor and bedside lamps to help you get to sleep faster. As the night goes on and you're ready to crawl back to bed switch off more lights until it's just your bedside lamp until you're ready to put that book down and go to bed.

Cool Lights For Getting Ready

When you're getting ready in the morning it's important to view colors accurately. Closets should have daylight bulbs as should any room you get dressed in whether it's your bedroom or a large walk-in dressing room closet. That way you'll be wearing clothes that match as well in sunlight and office light as they did in your home.

Bathroom lights should also use bright and cool colored bulbs to help you wake up in the morning and about 50% of you reading this will appreciate getting your make up colors right.


In bathrooms it may be difficult to fit in warm colored nights as well but if you have the space to fit in a little table or accent lamp that'd be great. If not, even a small nightlight is enough light to help you see enough to brush your teeth before bed, remove your make up and for the other 50% of us, not miss the bowl.

There are even these warm colored battery powered LED lights you can stick on your wall that have motion as well as light sensors so they turn on when someone's in the room but won't turn on when there's already light in the room.

Cool Lights for Working

Bright, cool colored day light bulbs are easier and safer to work with. Use these in home offices, kitchens, craft rooms, workshops, garages and on desks. For your workshop, or any other spot you use fluorescent tubes, check out these LED replacements for fluorescent tubes.


If you spend time in your home office late at night try to fit in at least one fixture with a warm colored bulb so you have an easier time falling asleep. I also use software called f.lux to change the color temperature of my monitor automatically throughout the day. At night emits a warmer color light on moy computer monitor at night.

One or two warm colored lights in your kitchen would be nice too if you spend a lot of time there in the evening. Maybe some wall lights or pendants over a table or counter.

Now that you know what color lights to put in which rooms check and see if the SlimStyle Daylight and Soft White LED bulbs are currently on sale.

9 comments :

  1. I like the idea of combining and using warm and daylight lamps at different times of day! Also glad to see there are new LED lamps at an affordable price - especially on sale!

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  2. Nice article..in a dillema as to which ligh temperature to use for my orange lampshade

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  3. Will the author please reveal his/her professional affiliation? The article reads very well and offers great lighting tips, but I can't help but think the author is being compensated for their time by Philips...?

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    1. I do not work for Philips nor have I received any free Philips products. I did try to contact them about some new LED bulbs in the hopes of getting review samples but I didn't get anything. I've bought a lot of Philips LED bulbs for my home with my own money because when they were on sale they were a great deal. Right now there are some other bulbs worth considering too. Non-dimmable cheap LEDs. Philips has one and GE has the LightStick which is about $9 for a 3 pack at HomeDepot. I'll probably add them to this post when I have time.

      I thought I'd put my thoughts on when to use daylight and warm bulbs because I thought other's might find it interesting.

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  4. How about pendants? I have some pendants going above a dining table, about 30" above. I'm thinking you'd want a warmer light. But I also have some pendants near a vanity I'm not sure of. It's in our master bedroom. We have a small chandelier centered about our bed. I'm leaning toward daylights for it while complimenting bedroom with some bedside lamps with warmer lighting. But I am not sure what to do with vanity pendants which are off to the side.

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    1. These are just general guides on my preferences. I would normally treat pendants as a chandelier or accent light. It depends how you plan on using it. If you are using it to create a warm cozy light that you might use when you're relaxing in your bath then I'd go with warm. If you are using it as general task lighting in the morning then you might want to go with daylight. If you want to be able to do both there are these new Philips LUX bulbs that allow you to change the color temperature with your smartphone. See http://amzn.to/1Qr1LSH A bit pricey but I have some wireless controlled lights and they're very convenient.

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  5. im not sure if i should use day light bulbs for my convenience store. Any recommendations?

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  6. Hi Tombuildstuff! Wow, such an insightful and well written mini-course on LED Lighting! Thank you for your efforts. We are totally on the same page with sleep issues. I learned a lot from you. I love lighting ambience and needed to learn how to choose the best bulbs for my new recessed lights in bathroom and kitchen that are not yet installed. I now know exactly what to do. Btw, If you had a link to the Phillips Slim Dimmable LED's, I'd use it to give you some compensation for the huge effort you made to allow me to find you on a google search (Soft White vs Bright White LED), learn from your insights, and to visualize the lighting differences in all of the included photos. I love soft nighr lighting effects but also need to see well when cooking/reading/sewing or hobbying at night when my night blindness seems to need daylight, 300 to 400 watts in incandescent lights, to see well enough. Ha...now i know how I'm sabotaging my circadian rhythms! It isn't just the night-owl curse. If you blog articles like this on Amazon reviews, you should receive products to evaluate as I see others do. This is one of the best written I've seen...and i read tons of reviews before buying most atuff I'm unfamiliar with. Have a glorious day! Kindest regards, Cali

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  7. P.S. How do I subscribe to your blog? I'm on my phone and can't find any links/options to do so. Thanks again!

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