What Are Lumens?

What are lumens?

Lumens measure the amount of light produced by a light bulb. When it comes to lighting, most of us have heard of watts even if we don’t quite know what they are (If you’re wondering, a watt is a unit of power defined as one joule per second. It measures the rate of energy conversion or transfer). When we need to buy a new lightbulb for a lamp, we know generally how many watts to look for, and we know that the wattage will vary greatly if we decide to buy a lightbulb for our spacious garage instead . . . But the time has come for the watt to share its throne with another useful standard of measurement: the lumen. So what are lumens?

what are lumens

Lumens vs. Watts

Due to the changes in energy efficiency requirements that struck the electrical world earlier this year, you can expect to see some changes in how the world purchases and classifies light bulbs. One change to anticipate is a shift in focus from “watts” to “lumens.” If you’re baffled by this new term, you’re not alone. It isn’t a word most people use in their day-to-day lives. So what are lumens, and why are they suddenly as important as watts?

Lumens measure the amount of light produced by a lightbulb. The measurement is useful because different lightbulbs that produce the same amount of light all have different wattage. So instead of doing a lot of research to learn that your old 100 Watt incandescent lightbulb produces the same amount of light as a 72 Watt Halogen, a 23 Watt CFL, and a 16 Watt LED, you can just look on the package for the amount of lumens they produce (in this case, all four lightbulbs produce about 1600 lumens). Use this list for reference:

  • 1600 Lumens Produced: 100 Watt Incandescent, 72 Watt Halogen, 23 Watt CFL, 16 Watt LED
  • 1100 Lumens Produced: 75 Watt Incandescent, 53 Watt Halogen, 19 Watt CFL, 9 Watt LED
  • 800 Lumens Produced: 60 Watt Incandescent, 43 Watt Halogen, 13 Watt CFL, 6 Watt LED
  • 450 Lumens Produced: 40 Watt Incandescent, 29 Watt Halogen, 9 Watt CFL, 4 Watt LED

Consumers are accustomed to searching for light bulbs based on their wattage, so don’t expect watts to disappear from package labels. They’re still a useful way to differentiate between bulbs. However, that said, now is the time to start focusing on lumen ratings. Here are a few more useful tips for you regarding lumens and energy-efficient light bulbs:

Tips for Purchasing Light Bulbs

  1. Keep an eye out for the Energy Star label if you want to find a high quality, energy-efficient product.
  2. Start checking out the lumen rating on all types of lightbulbs. Also, know how much light you need as opposed to how many watts. Know how to answer the question “What are lumens?”
  3. Check out the color temperature, which will be listed on the package. If you, like most consumers, are looking for a similar alternative to incandescents, try to find an energy-efficient light bulb with a color temperature of 2700K or 3000K.
  4. If you’re new to the world of energy-efficient lighting, purchase 2-3 new light bulbs and try them out to see how they affect your space and how similar they are to your old incandescents. Hang on to the receipts so that you can return the ones you don’t like!

So what are lumens? They’re the international standard unit of measurement for luminous flux, and they measure the total amount of visible light emitted. As we switch from incandescent to energy-efficient light bulbs, this method of measurement will make choosing a lightbulb far more convenient.

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