The Color Rendering Index (CRI) represents the ability of a light source to reproduce object colors as if they were being seen in daylight. In other words, high CRI lighting brings out more accurate and natural colors. LED technology has advanced enough so that LED lighting now gives the same appearance to objects as if in daylight.
The LED Lighting Facts Program is a U.S. Department of Energy initiative to encourage LED lighting manufacturers to provide product performance information on the label. There are now 63,000 products from 2,900 partners registered on its database.
Of these 63,000 products, there is a noticeable trend in downlighting toward higher CRI: the proportion of high CRI (≥90) products increased significantly from 4% to 49% between 2013 and 2017. This surge seems to have been driven by market demands for more accurate rendering of natural color, as downlights are mostly intended for residential and hospitality applications.
The California Energy Commission (CEC), which is leading energy-related standards and regulations in the U.S., operates Title-24 and Title-20. Title-24 establishes energy requirements for buildings while Title-20 imposes performance standards for lighting and other appliances in California. Both regulations have minimum requirements for lighting efficacy and color quality of LED lights.
According to Title-24, all lighting systems in the State of California should have a minimum CRI of 90 and R9 score of 50. Title-20 sets the minimum CRI for LED lamps sold in the state at 82, starting from January 1, 2018. Given that Title-20 also requires R1 - R8 scores to be 72 or greater each, the CRI required under the regulations will be closer to 90 in actuality.
The majority of lamps sold today have an R8 score of 50: a score of 72 is only typical of lamps with a CRI of 90 or above, due to the current technological limitations. In other words, when the R8 requirement of 72 is met, the CRI or Ra ― the average of R1 - R8― will be close to 90.
Samsung's High CRI COB D-series is designed to satisfy the increasing demand for high-quality color. It features a CRI score of 95 and a heightened R9 score, an often underappreciated specification since it is not factored in CRI calculation. Its R9 stands at 90, meaning it generates light of a quality similar to sunlight. It can render natural object color precisely and is suitable for high-end lighting needs.