I sat down with Gregory Kay, founder of award-winning manufacturer Pure/Edge Lighting and the famed Lightology residential-commercial showroom in Chicago, to talk about the importance of this new technology.
If you attended LEDucation, Lightfair, or any of the smaller trade shows focused on lighting technology this year, you undoubtedly heard (and saw) the term “tunable white” a lot. Universally described as the ability to control a light source’s color temperature output, the implementation of tunable white lighting technology has been linked to boosting employee productivity (e.g. higher CCT and luminance levels in the morning and after lunch to increase alertness), aiding in melatonin production in nightshift workers, and helping regulate better sleep cycles for the senior population.

Lutron’s focus at this year’s Lightfair was on how light levels could be controlled for maximum comfort and performance throughout the day. While Lutron’s demonstration centered around an office setting, the benefits of tunable light on people’s sense of well-being are of increasing interest to the residential market.

Greg Kay is such a huge fan of the technology that nearly all of the products now offered by his company features Warm Dim tunable light in 90 CRI. His interest is also personal. “I’ve changed over my entire home to lighting that is 90 CRI 2700K. That’s not an inexpensive thing to do; I see it as an investment,” he notes.

“Light is an emotion,” Kay says, pointing out that most people do not feel energized or upbeat when outside on a cloudy day. “Now, how do you feel on a sunny day? Great, right? Tunable light controls the intensity. As lighting people, we understand technical things like color temperature.”

Kay is quick to note that color tuning is not the same as dimming. “Color shift happens when you dim and [the wrong color can make us] look eerie and feel irritable,” he explains, adding, “There is a huge market for this.” The invention of tunable white technology has been revolutionary in improving how good people feel in a space.

“If you’re not selling tunable light in your showroom, you might as well be selling prison lighting [under which no one looks good],” he jokes. “Tunable white technology is something you have to live with and experience in order to appreciate the benefit,” Kay states. For that reason, he urges lighting showrooms to have at least one product that demonstrates this technology. “I’ve found the best method for demonstrating the benefits TUNING INGreg Kayto consumers is with an illuminated tunable white dressing mirror or at a bathroom mirror setting [next to a tunable light source].

If you’re not selling tunable light in your showroom, you might as well be selling prison lighting.” Gregory Kay

Pure/Edge Lighting

“Every showroom should have a tunable light mirror in their showroom to demonstrate to customers. It will convince every client who sees it. They won’t [realize] the benefit until they see/experience it for themselves. I start off by showing them how they look under 4000K, then 3500K, and 3000K, and then 2700K and 2400K…and when I reach 2000K, there’s a huge glow on their face and they’re smiling,” Kay comments. “This is the light that photographers call the ‘golden hour.’ You’re painting their skin with this amber glow that is like living in sunset. I show that they will have a beautiful glow and so will their partner. Until tunable light came along, we’ve never been able to live in this incredible ‘sunset lighting.’ I ask customers, ‘How do you feel at a sunset? You can capture that feeling every day with tunable lighting. I explain that this is a long-term investment in yourself,” he remarks.

According to Kay, tunable white is “the most natural step in the progression away from halogen and incandescent.” The simplest way to explain what tunable light to a consumer or nontechnical design professional is that the product contains two sets of LED chips (in 2000K and 4000K) that are independently controlled, and by mixing the two together, one can achieve the light intensity and color (most likely around 3000K) that the end user desires.

Since two sets of chips and the technology required to operate them independently are more expensive than a single color/chip temperature LED, customer education – and demonstration – is crucial to the sale.

For residential customers, Kay recommends tunable fixtures offering a range between 1800K and 5700K. “I don’t like 6500K,” he advises. “I think 2000K to 4000K is where you want to be in residential use.” For office and commercial spaces, Kay recommends a range of 3000K to 4000K.

While presenting tunable lighting will take more time and effort with each client to sell, Kay is convinced the extra work is worthwhile for ultimate customer satisfaction as well as establishing your showroom’s reputation as a lighting expert.