What are Lumens?

Bright Lightbulb

In the past you’re likely to have heard the term watt more often than lumen. Wattage is what we used to measure the strength of our light bulbs. However, these days lumens are a more common used to measure these things. As for why, we’ll get to that soon. 

In this article, we’re going to reveal exactly what lumens are and how you can use them to make sure you find the perfect light bulb for your home. If you’re still counting the number of watts in each bulb then you’re doing it wrong!

Read on if you would like to know what lumens are and how they help us find the best light bulbs!

Bright Lightbulb

What are Lumens?

Lumens are the unit used to measure how much light is given off by a lightbulb. Of course, lumens measure all forms of light, not just from man-made bulbs. However, lumens only measure light given off by the bulb, rather than how much energy it gives off, as is the case with watts. 

For example, a light bulb may produce 60 watts as energy, but the value of lumens may be far less. Why is this? Because watts also measure the heat given off by your bulbs. Instead of measuring light and heat, lumens measure only the light, giving you a more accurate result. 

The basic premise is this:

  • Watts measure all energy.
  • Lumens measure useful energy. where useful energy is light.

How Many Lumens Per Watt?

There is no exact conversion between lumens and watts. The reason for this is that it depends on what kind of light bulb you’re using. 

For example, the older versions of incandescent light bulbs produced a large amount of energy, but only about 10% of it was emitted as light – the rest became heat. This meant that the wattage of those bulbs was 10 times more than the value of lumens. 

Lumens and watts don’t follow the same measurement system. A 60-watt bulb won’t necessarily have 60 lumens. In fact, the number of lumens is usually more than 1000 higher than the number of watts.

While it is impossible to determine the exact difference between a bulb’s watt power and lumen power, here is a table that takes the average levels from various bulb types:

Incandescent Bulb WattageAverage Lumen EquivalentLED BulbCFL BulbHalogen Bulb
100 W1600 LumensApprox. 22 WApprox. 26 WApprox. 72 W
75 W1100 LumensApprox. 20 WApprox. 23 WApprox. 53 W
60 W800 LumensApprox. 12 WApprox. 15 WApprox. 43 W
40 W450 LumensApprox. 9 WApprox. 11 WApprox. 29 W

The bulbs in each column of the above table hold the same number of lumens. However, bulbs such as the LED and CFL have far fewer watts than the halogen or incandescent bulbs. The more efficient a bulb is at producing light instead of heat, the fewer watts it requires to reach a high level of lumens. 

How Many Lumens do I Need?

The number of lumens required depends on what the light bulb is for. The more lumens in your bulb, the stronger the light it will emit. If you want a weaker light, it needs to contain fewer lumens. 

Let’s use the table above again. Say, you need a bulb to be placed over your kitchen countertop. Since you will be using sharp knives and other dangerous objects there, it is important that you light the kitchen countertop well. 800-1100 lumens would be plenty to light that up such a space. 

As for the higher level of lumens, 1600, you may be questioning what that could be used for. There are two main uses for a bulb with 1600 lumens in it. The first is for rooms that receive little to no natural light, such as your garage or a basement. These rooms can feel very depressing and sometimes a little scary when they aren’t brightly lit. A strong bulb with 1600 lumens would be perfect there. 

The other use for such a powerful bulb is for brightening a specific surface which you won’t use directly. For example, you could use one to light up a desk display. You could even install one outside your front door for security purposes at night. A 1600 lumen bulb should never be used for a light that will be aimed directly at you throughout the day – even using one as pendant lighting in your living room will hurt your eyes over time. 

The bulbs with very few lumens, 450, are for more general purpose lights. These can be wall lights, chandeliers, standing lamps, pendant lights or any other that serve a similar prupose. 

If you’re still unsure how many lumens you need for your bulb, tell an interior designer or lighting industry professional what you intend to use the bulb for and they should be able to help you out.

light bulb 4

How Do I Find an Energy Efficient Light Bulb?

We’ve already mentioned the two types of bulb that tend to be highly energy-efficient: LED or CFL bulbs. However, some companies produce a slightly more efficient version of each. To find the one that is the most efficient, consider the following factors:

  • check the Energy Star Label
  • look at the CRI (Color Rendering Index)
  • check the colour temperature
  • look for something with high lumens and low watts

These are the essential factors that contribute towards finding the most energy-efficient light bulb. If the bulb has an equal level of lumens and watts to the LED bulbs in the table above, you have an almost completely energy-efficient light bulb right there. 

Just remember when replacing a bulb that you need one with the same number of lumens. If you replaced a 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a 60-watt LED light bulb, the light will be far brighter than you may have intended!

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