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Understanding Color Rendering Index

CRI is the measurement of how light affects how you see color. Understanding the CRI in your bulbs …

The color rendering index is the measurement of how light affects how you see color. Understanding the CRI in your bulbs and fixtures plays an important role in your home’s appearance. 

Stix Plus LED Bath Bar by Robert Sonneman for SONNEMAN Lighting
Stix Plus LED Bath Bar by Robert Sonneman for SONNEMAN Lighting 

The Color Rendering Index + Lighting 

The type of light bulb you use in your home could have a profound effect on the way a room looks. This is often attributed to something known as the color rendering index. Also referred to as CRI, this index measures the ability of a light source to reveal colors of objects in contrast to a natural light source, such as the sun filtering in through your windows. Put another way, it’s the measurement of light in relation to how it affects the appearance of color. This range can also depend on the “temperature” of the light. 

For example, lighting temperatures can range from invisible infrared light to the kind coming from a skylight, all the way to ultraviolet light. Ideally, you want to use lighting that will best illuminate each room depending on your needs. 

SoCo Modern Socket Pendant by Tech Lighting with a bowl of fruit.
SoCo Modern Socket Pendant by Tech Lighting 

Understanding the Color Rendering Index Chart 

Every type of lighting has its place on the color rendering index chart. This chart measures a scale from 0 to 100, depending on how accurately it can produce light that matches a naturally referenced light source, such as the sun. 

In general, bulbs at the higher end of the scale will produce a more accurate color rendering of the objects around it. This can be vital for use in things like photography or lighting used in a museum setting. But it can also affect you and your home. It’s best to choose bulbs that will make your surroundings clear, bright and as close to how they would appear in an outdoor, natural setting. 

Excellent90-100Most accurate color rendering
Good60-85Acceptable, may have some distortion
Poor0-55Distortions in color are obvious
Color Rendering Index (CRI) Ratings

Color Rendering Index + LED Light Bulbs 

LED bulbs are more popular than ever, mainly because of their energy-efficient qualities and bright light production. In terms of CRI for LED, most LED lights produce a score of about 80 to 90+ on the chart. The result is a brighter room, but with a much more natural, accurate output of light. Unlike fluorescent lighting which can create an unnatural look, LEDs are better suited to indoor environments. Aside from the color rendering index, the lumen output (or actual light produced) also plays a role in the overall effectiveness of an LED bulb. 

Considering CRI for Lighting Fixtures 

When it comes to choosing the right light bulbs for your home, CRI for lighting plays a role. Colors should be crisp and everything should look sharp so that your décor, paint colors, furniture (and reflections) look their best. It may also affect your eyesight when you’re doing certain tasks like reading a book or watching television, or even your ability to notice mold when preparing food in the kitchen.

The CRI scale became more popular when LED lighting was introduced to homes. Many modern light bulb manufacturers post a “lighting facts” portion on the packaging to inform consumers of the bulb’s properties. These facts should indicate the color rendering index scale, number of lumens, watts and efficiency metrics. Choose lighting with a higher CRI rating so you can be sure you’re getting the most accurate color portrayal in your home. 

The difference in color with 90+ CRI (left) and <60 CRI (right).

The Bottom Line with CRI 

When you choose the right lighting for your home, there are many things to consider. Of course, energy efficiency and how many hours of use you’ll get from each bulb is important. Checking the CRI scale can also help to ensure that your environment is brighter, clearer and filled with perfect color. LED lighting is the smart choice, and today’s LED bulbs are more varied and affordable than ever. There is also an increasing number of lighting manufacturers who have moved toward integrated LED fixtures, building in all the benefits of a better CRI rating. 

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