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What Does CRI Mean in Lighting?

Mitch Murray

When it comes to indoor lighting, there are 4 main types you can have: ambient, task, accent, and mood. No matter which ones you choose, you'll notice that the bulbs usually say CRI, followed by a number.

You might have an inkling that this is some sort of rating for the light bulbs. But what does it mean, and what rating should you be aiming for?

Read on to find out the answer to the question "what does CRI mean" and more.

What Does CRI Mean in Lighting?

CRI stands for colour rendering index. This is a scale that was developed to measure how colours look under artificial light, as opposed to natural sunlight.

The scale ranges from 0 to 100, with 0 meaning the light doesn't show colours matching sunlight. At the opposite end of the scale, a 100 means under the artificial light, the hue looks exactly how it would under sunlight.

The only types of lights that have a CRI of 100 are incandescent lamps. Blackbody radiators also have a CRI of 100. Otherwise, all other types of lighting do not have a rating of 100 but can get close to it.

What's Considered a High or Low CRI?

In general, a CRI of over 90 is considered high. On the other hand, a CRI of under 80 is considered either mid-range or low, depending on the specific CRI.

If you're looking for indoor lighting, you'll generally want to go with bulbs that have CRIs of over 80, preferably over 90. We'll cover why in a later section.

What Is CRI LED Lighting?

When it comes to your electricity bill, did you know that 10% of the average household budget goes towards lighting? This is why the government is urging households to switch to LED lights, as they're much more energy-efficient. In fact, they use 75% less energy than halogen bulbs, plus they last up to 10 times longer.

Today, high CRI LED lighting is accepted as the norm for both indoor and outdoor lighting. 

The Benefits of Having a High CRI vs a Low CRI in Lighting

As we just mentioned, high CRI LED lighting is much better than low CRI. Why? We'll give you several reasons why it is.

Check out the image below that shows a scale of low to high CRI 

Image showing a scale of CRI from Low to High

It's Better for Photography

There are several reasons why you'd take photos indoors, whether it's selfies for your social media accounts, pictures of your meals for your blog, or images of your products for your eCommerce company.

Whatever the reason, you need to have good lighting inside. Not only that, but the lighting needs to be decent enough to convey the actual colours of the things in the photos, instead of distorting them.

As we said before, the higher the CRI, the more "true to colour" your images will be. So when you choose a high CRI in lighting, this will make your images appear as close to ones taken outside as possible.

On that note, if you need to take pictures of people indoors, a high CRI is a must. Without it, they can look sickly. Because a high CRI mimics natural lighting, this will give you the result of glowing subjects.

It's a More Natural Look

If you've had fluorescent lighting before, then you'll know how unnatural it can look in a room. Not only that, but it can be tough on your eyes.

LED lights can provide the same brightness, if not more. In addition, they can do this without having that artificial, almost blazing appearance. Because they have a high CRI, LED lights can provide a brighter look without straining your eyes.

As a result, this can create a more relaxed look for your rooms. This can make both inhabitants and visitors feel more comfortable and at ease, as the colour temperature will be warmer.

If you're using this lighting to display items you want to sell or show off, it'll help in this regard as well. The feel when people take a look at a museum display or a retail item's picture on your webshop page will be completely different than if you had used a low CRI light bulb.

It'll Be Easier to See Items in Your Clothes

Have you ever rummaged through your drawers, pulled out what appeared to be matching socks, but found out later in the day, they were actually black and dark blue?

Fortunately, this probably isn't because your eyes are going bad. More likely, it's due to low CRI bulbs in your home. These will make it much harder to differentiate between different shades, especially if they're very similar to one another.

When you replace your light bulbs with high CRI ones, you'll avoid making those embarrassing mistakes with your outfits.

The Bulbs Aren't Costly

If you have a tight budget, then you might think that going with low CRI bulbs will save you some money. But in reality, this can hurt you, especially if you're running a business.

High CRI light bulbs actually don't cost all that much more than low CRI bulbs. So if you can spend a tiny bit extra, that investment will pay for itself and then some when you can produce superior results.

Choose the Right Type of Lighting for Your Home

So what does CRI mean in lighting? It's the colour rendering index, which affects the colour temperature in your space.

As you can see from reading this article, a high CRI is typically better than a low one. So the next time you get some lighting, you should keep this in mind and search for lights that have the right CRI. That way, you can really utilise your space and make some improvements to it.

Are you looking for LED lights that have high CRIs? Then take a look at our collection now. Our LED lights will help you conserve energy and save money!