Bright Ideas

Color Rendering Index in Under Cabinet Lighting

Posted by Tanya Barr on Feb 8, 2016 9:25:51 AM

In our last blogpost, we discussed considerations for choosing color temperature for under cabinet lighting in kitchens.  It really is about matching your color temperature to your environment so the materials used in your kitchen such as the countertops, backsplash and appliances become crucial in your color temperature selection.  

In this blogpost we will talk about another performance metric called Color Rendering Index or CRI.

What is Color Rendering Index (CRI)?

CRI, by definition, is the “measurement of the ability of a light source to reveal colors of objects in comparison to how they would appear if they were lit by a natural light source”.  Under natural light, objects render in their true colors.  Using a different light source will modify the appearance of that same object to the human eye.  CRI is measured through an international system (based on 0-100 scale) where the closer the CRI number is to 100, the better the color renders.  Differences in CRI are typically not visible to the eye unless the difference is greater than at least five points.  The image below gives you an indication of how an object appears under varying CRIs.

CRI in Traditional light sources vs. LED

LED technology has existed since the 1960s in multiple forms; however it hasn’t been readily accepted especially in the residential lighting segment.  Only recently over the last few years, we’re starting to see homes make the switch to LED.  One reason for the slower adoption of LED has been attributed to the inability of LED chip manufacturers to deliver a high enough CRI.  Comparatively, an incandescent light has a CRI closer to 95, but its inefficient technology converts 5% of the energy to visible light while 95% is dissipated as heat.

However LED manufacturers have made huge strides in delivering much higher CRIs and offering a broader spectrum of color temperatures. So you can achieve that same warm or cool white color at a high rendering index with LEDs.  This breakthrough in LED technology coupled with declining costs has contributed to its growth in residential and commercial applications.  A study by the National Lighting Bureau (NLB) shows that LED market share in the US in the residential segment is expected to rise from 9.5% in 2015 to 35.8% in 2020.

Why is CRI so important in the kitchen?

CRI is important in the kitchen especially because under cabinet lights are often used for task lighting. Regardless of your kitchen skill set, whether you are paid to be a culinary genius or unpaid as the captain of your own domain, every kitchen chef needs clarity and inspiration when preparing a meal. Installing the right lighting allows you to monitor the colors of your food during preparation and its overall presentation.  When using under cabinet lighting, select CRIs with a measurement of greater than 70.  Don’t forget to inquire about the CRI level before purchasing your LED under cabinet lighting.

What’s next?  Continue to follow our blog where we explain the importance of lumen output; another critical performance metric in under cabinet lighting.


 Are you considering under cabinet LED lights for your kitchen? Download our Buyer guide on ‘LED under cabinet lighting for your kitchen’  

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Topics: Under cabinet lighting