Lumens are the New Watts
Using lumens as the measure of a light bulb’s brightness will simplify shopping for light bulbs…Posted Aug 17, 2011
Back in the old days, when there was only one basic type of light bulb consumers could buy, (the incandescent bulb descended from Edison’s original) we could rely on the term “watts” to help us choose the right bulb for our lamps and outdoor lights. Although “watts” refers to how much energy a bulb will use when lit, we understood the relative brightness levels between 60-watt, 100-watt or 150-watt light bulbs.
Then along came the energy-saving CFL bulbs A 15-watt CFL bulb, according to the package, produced the equivalent light of a 60-watt incandescent. A 25-watt CFL was comparable to a 100-watt incandescent in light output. And so forth. Shoppers were expected to understand the wattage conversions of these strange looking new CFL light bulbs.
LED bulbs, more efficient than CFLs, use even less wattage to achieve desired brightness levels
As we gradually got used to the idea of the CFL bulbs and began to understand how to choose the right CFL for our lighting needs, the new LED bulbs came into the mix. Originally used for small task lights such as flashlights and instrument lights, LED technology has evolved rapidly with new LED bulbs available for most applications in the home. LED bulbs, more efficient than CFLs, use even less wattage to achieve desired brightness levels. A 6-watt LED is equivalent to a 15-watt CFL which is equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb.
It’s getting confusing isn’t it?
And besides three different wattage equivalents for the three basic types of light bulbs on store shelves, there are new halogen incandescent bulbs, new LED tube lights, and terms like Coloring Rendering Index (CRI) and Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) which further describe characteristics of light quality from a bulb.
the FTC has mandated packaging changes for all light bulbs, effective in 2012, which simplify and standardize the differences in light bulb output
To help shoppers make sense of the many choices in lighting today, the FTC has mandated packaging changes for all light bulbs, effective in 2012, which simplify and standardize the differences in light bulb output. Wattage is no longer a reliable way to gauge a light bulb’s brightness. Lumens, the measure of a bulb’s actual brightness, is the new standard for comparing light bulbs of all types.
Lumens, the measure of a bulb’s actual brightness, is the new standard for comparing light bulbs of all types
Lumens measure brightness. A standard 60-watt incandescent bulb, for example, produces about 800 lumens of light. By comparison, a CFL bulb produces that same 800 lumens using less than 15 watts. But you don’t need to understand yet another conversion. It’s simple. The more lumens, the brighter the bulb.
You can use lumens to compare the brightness of any bulb, regardless of the technology behind it, and regardless of whether it’s a halogen incandescent, CFL or LED. Using lumens helps you compare “apples to apples” when you shop for light bulbs. Once you know how bright a bulb you want, you can compare other factors, like the yearly energy cost.
This video, produced by the FTC, is a simple tutorial explaining the upcoming labelling changes:
To learn more about the different types of energy-saving light bulbs, see our page Energy-Efficient Lighting.
To compare the costs and relative benefits of CFL versus LED light bulbs, see our page LED Light Bulbs: Comparison Charts.
Visit our online store to buy energy-efficient light bulbs.