Understanding High CRI LED Lighting

Understanding High CRI LED Lighting

August 28, 2017

Understanding High CRI LED Lighting

There are a lot more factors to consider when buying LED lighting than when incandescent bulbs were the prevailing technology.  One spec that's gaining an increased focus is the color rending index (CRI), which measures the ability of a light to accurately reproduce colors.  Let's take a moment to discuss what high CRI is as it pertains to LED lighting. To understand why a high CRI is important, it's helpful to know what CRI is and, if you're not 100% sure don't worry.

What is CRI?

For starters, CRI stands for color rendering index, and it measures the effect a LED Diode has on the perceived color of objects. Simply put, CRI measures how well an LED replicates the sun, which has a perfect CRI of 100. Underneath a CRI of 100, colors look exactly like they should: bold, vibrant, striking.
The great thing about CRI is that it’s easy to understand: the higher the CRI, the better colors will look. The lower the CRI, the worse colors will look. A bulb with a CRI of 80 or above is good, and a bulb with a CRI of 90 and above is very good. A CRI below 80 isn’t that all that great, and will make colors look yellow, washed out, and can even change the hue of objects.  For example, the lights you see in highway fixtures have a very low CRI, which is a very yellow light which leads to a bad CRI. Subsequently making colors tougher to differentiate.
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  The CRI value, on a scale of 0 to 100, is used to compare one LED light to another.  If one has a CRI of 80, which most LED's currently do, and you see another one has a CRI of 89, then you know that using the latter will show more saturated colors than the former.  When an LED light has a CRI of over 90, it's classified as a high CRI LED.
If all of this seems new to you it's because you didn't have to think about any of this with incandescent lighting.  Incandescent bulbs have a CRI of 100 and everything else goes down from there.
Most CFL bulbs have a CRI of about 80, and consumer LED lighting hasn't really raised that bar either.  This opened the door for manufacturers Like Gap Supply Inc to come and introduce lighting that focused on color accuracy with a CRI of 90+.
To make sure you're getting a high CRI LED light, check the lighting facts label of the product to see where it falls on the CRI scale.
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High CRI bulbs are something you may have only found at an art gallery or a top end restaurant previously, but as more options become available and prices start coming down, adoption is beginning to increase.  In California, the California Energy Commission has created regulations that will start getting more and more people to choose this kind of lighting.
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While not every manufacturer has made high CRI LED bulbs available, Gap Supply has already released LEDs with a high CRI. From the picture above you'll notice that there are differences but probably not enough for most people to run out and replace all of their existing LED bulbs for high CRI ones instead.  What it does mean is that over time we're taking lighting closer and closer to incandescent lighting while still maintaining the energy efficiency of LED technology.



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