What is CRI? What Does It Mean When It Comes To Lighting?

August 25, 2020

what is cri

What is CRI?

The type of bulb that you have in your home could have a huge difference in the way your house looks. This is due to the color rendering index or CRI. CRI is a term also used to measure the ability of light to show the appearance of colors in comparison to natural light like the sun.

CRI also depends on light temperatures, like infrared light, light streaming from a skylight, and ultraviolet light. You will want to use lighting that would best illuminate any area depending on your needs.

Incandescent lights have the best CRI. It scores an index of 100 because the light’s spectrum supports all wavelengths. In fact, it emits the same light from sunlight. Sunlight emits a CRI of 100 too.

How Important is CRI in Lighting?

What makes color rendition important? CRI plays a crucial role in any space in your home or business. Low-CRI lighting can create a washed-out effect, and this can mean objects in your home or business look drab or dull. People would look sickly and lifeless.

Conversely, high-CRI lighting can create a more vibrant environment.  The colors of furniture, food, clothing, and all other objects in a room can pop with the high CRI. This type of light offers a rich subtlety to your home and office design.

High CRI can give people a richer skin tone and a healthier look.  Lighting with high CRI is particularly important in places or areas where visual presentation and color accuracy are highly crucial. These places include retail stores, grocery stores, and real estate where visual appeal is vital.

In the time of incandescent light bulbs, CRI wasn’t important because these bulbs were able to offer beautiful color rendering. However, incandescent bulbs have started to disappear recently largely because they’re energy-inefficient. Now, more people are using LED bulbs, and these bulbs are regarded as a better alternative to fluorescents.

Understanding the Color Rendering Index Chart

how important is cri in lighting

Every lighting has a place on the CRI chart, which measures from 0 to 100.  The measurement would depend on the type of light that is produced in comparison to a natural light source like the sun.

In general, bulbs that are on the higher end of the scale emit accurate color rendering of the objects in your home and place of business. These are the kinds of lighting needed in museums or photography studios. You can also benefit from this lighting in your home. These bulbs can make your surroundings clear and bright.

How to Measure CRI

The method for calculating CRI starts with determining the color temperature of the light source using spectral measurements. The color temperature needs to be determined so the appropriate daylight spectrum to compare can be selected properly. The light source being assessed will be shone onto several color swatches called test color samples with the reflected color measured. There are 15 color swatches overall.

The same color temperature will also be compared to the series of virtual reflected color measurements for natural daylight. The reflected colors will then be compared, and then the R score for each swatch of color will be determined. This score indicates the light’s ability to render the same color in contrast to a natural light source.

The Common - and Acceptable - CRI Values

At this point, you’ve probably spent money on your home, choosing the right decorations, furniture, products, and other details Maybe you’ve found light for your space, but the color quality doesn’t seem to work well for your space. So, how do you decide the right CRI for your home or business? 

What’s better: 80 CRI vs 90 CRI?

80 is the most acceptable color-rendering index. It is considered mid-range to low, but it is the baseline for indoor and commercial lighting. 90 CRI or above is ideal for color appearance is crucial to the work being performed inside. It is also a great value for improved aesthetics.

90 CRI lighting should be used in textile factories, hospitals, printing facilities, or paint shops. In areas where improved aesthetics is crucial like high-end hotels, retail stores, and photography studios, a 90 CRI and higher can be proven to be quite beneficial.  If color quality is important for aesthetics or purpose, a 90 CRI score is your best option.

Of course, you need to consider other factors first like light output or wattage. The second consideration is CRI. It is also worth mentioning that improving your home’s light quality would include adding more phosphors. This would help you achieve improved light characteristics as you move to LEDs and a better energy process.

color rendering index chart

Choosing the Right CRI

When it comes to choosing the right light bulbs, you need to consider CRI for your lighting. You want everything in your home to look crisp and sharp so that your home decorations, paint, and furniture will look the best that they can.

The CRI of your lighting can also affect your efficiency when performing tasks like reading a book, preparing food, watching television, or sewing clothes.

Most light bulb manufacturers include “lighting facts” on their products’ packaging to inform people of the bulb’s properties. This portion indicates the CRI score, watts, number of lumens, and efficiency metrics of the bulb. Make sure to choose light bulbs with higher CRI rating, so you can get the most natural color portrayal in your home or office.

As with color temperatures, there are no real test substitutes for grabbing a few samples and trying them out in your space to see how they would look.  You will be surprised at how well an 85 CRI bulb can be performed or disappointed at how 95 CRI bulbs can fail.

On the other hand, you can see the difference that shifting from low-CRI HID lighting to mid-range CRI LED lighting can create. This can have a huge impact on the aesthetics of your home.

What’s the Bottom Line?

When you choose the right lighting for your home or office, there are many things that you have to consider. One of the primary considerations is energy efficiency and the number of hours of use that you will get from the bulb. You need to check the CRI scale to help ensure that you get only the best bulbs for your home. This will ensure that your environment will be brighter and clearer.  Everything will be more vibrant with the right lighting.

LED lighting is a smart choice especially those with high CRI.  Today’s LED bulbs are more affordable.  This means you can get enjoy the benefit of an energy-efficient light with better color rendering index rating.

Spring is a reminder of how wonderful and beautiful color is.  It is only with a bright light that you will be able to see the subtle color variations of roses and tulips blooming in the yard. A higher CRI score for your bulbs will ensure that you will also enjoy the same illumination in your home.

The difference between lower CRI and higher CRI is particularly important in certain applications. The right CRI can make all the difference in the aesthetics and function of applications and items in your home and store. A slight difference can create a more functional economic, and beautiful home or business as opposed to a bland and lifeless one.

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