Use Light Reflectance Value to Choose Paints and Save on Energy

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Look on the index of most color chips and paint fandecks and you'll often find the acronym LRV. You may have noticed those letters and wondered what they mean. Well, we here at Lakeside Painting are here to define it and show readers how it can be used.


LRV stands for Light Reflectance Value, and it's place on color chips and paint fandecks is a way of gauging the quality of light that will result from any particular paint. 

LRV does not deal with the intensity of color (brightness/dullness), only lightness or darkness. It a measurement of how much a paint color reflects or absorbs light. Think of it in these two extremes: white reflects light, whereas black absorbs it. They are the two poles of LRV, rendering pure white a 100% LRV color and a pure black a 0% LRV. We don't live in a world of such extremes, though—the purest white still absorbs light, and the blackest black still reflects some. So, the purest black has a 5% LRV, while the purest white sits at 85%. 

How LRV is Used

LRV is used by interior designers, architects, color consultants and painters in the design of interior and exterior spaces lit by both artificial light and daylight. Certain colors, as we've often discussed here at the Lakeside Painting blog, enhance light's qualities, while others absorb and knock down light's intensity. 

Use in Homes

Architects, interior designers and painters might recommend a high LRV color if a home owner wants their new home to have less lighting fixtures. If the homeowner opts for more light fixtures, on the other hand, it might be best to go with a color lower down on the LRV scale. 

On exteriors, LRV is used to decide how much light the surfaces—whether vinyl, brick, wood, etc.—will reflect or absorb. This relates to our recent blog post on Cool Roof Painting, in which roofs are painted white to reflect sunlight, thus preserving the paint job, lowering cooling costs and keeping a business environmentally friendly. A home in an annually cold climate, conversely, might want to use a lower LRV color in order to absorb any sunlight for warmth. A home or businesses's climate is certainly a factor here.

Use in Factories and Commercial Businesses

In factories, LRV is used by architects to help a business owner save money on energy, since less energy is required to illuminate an employee's work space. Indeed, when energy efficient bulbs that require less fixtures are paired with a high LRV paint color, the energy savings would be considerable, not to mention environmentally friendly. And the bonus is that aesthetically it looks much, much better. (Read our blog entry "Painting Ceilings Improves Factor Aesthetics".) As noted above, painting a factory roof white will yield incredible savings on energy.

For both homes and businesses it's important to note that 50% is the mid-tone value, which those in interior design and painting often use as a baseline reference when selecting colors. Work around that value at first, then consider colors at the opposite extremes if nothing is doing the trick.

Final Thoughts

It's not always easy to predict how a color, whether it is high or low LRV, will look in an interior or exterior space until it is applied. Naturally, LRV familiarity cannot take the place of good taste, instincts, training and experience. As paint professionals, we know that these factors count for a lot.

If you have a project in the Greater Milwaukee area or northern Illinois, and need help navigating LRV and other color theory questions, call Lakeside Painting at 262.642.9445 or email us at

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