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eLightBulbs Blog > Color rendering index explained in simple terms

Color rendering index explained in simple terms

Posted by Brian Dancer on Nov 25, 2008

In this article, I explain what color rendering index is and why it really is important for you to think about when buying your next light bulb.

Color rendering index explained in simple terms

Every industry is riddled with complex terms and sometimes it drives me crazy.  I really can appreciate when I read something or hear something broken down in simple terms, which has led me to this blog article.  Color Rendering Index.  Bleh.  What in the world is that?  It's also called CRI.  Bleh.  Even worse!  Here's what it really means:

Things have a natural color.  Certain types of apples are dark red.  My favorite football team wears royal purple jerseys.  Grass, when it's watered and healthy, is quite green.  Have you ever noticed that the red apple, the purple jersey, and the green grass don't look the same under the sunlight as they do under a very cloudy sky?  Maybe you never have noticed, but it's true.  Now, look at those things in your basement with a standard light bulb lighting the room.  They look different there as well. 

Does the apple change?  Not likely, right?  The light is the thing that's different. 

  • Noon sunlight is considered the perfect light quality, and when you look at the apple under that sun, you'll see the apple's true color.  That is considered a CRI of 100.  You can't get any better than that, since 100 is the top of the scale.
  • A fluorescent light bulb doesn't rank that high.  They range from under 60 CRI up to 90+ CRI.  So, the red apple and the purple jersey won't show their true color under this light. 
  • Parking lot lights are some of the lowest ranked CRI levels in all of the lighting world.  In fact, sometimes they are so low, the red apple will actually look like a brown apple!

Here's what to take away from this article: 

  • The CRI is important to the quality of the light bulb.
  • The higher the number, the better the quality.
  • 100 is the highest possible CRI.
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About the Author
Brian Dancer
Brian is the Director of Technology at eLightBulbs, spending a great deal of his time working with major marketing partners and focusing on driving traffic to the website. He also works heavily on providing insight and design elements to the development team, ensuring the platform is as user-friendly as can be.
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