Light matters The LIFX blog

What is a lumen?

Typically, consumers have been used to the act of searching for a specific wattage when looking to purchase new light bulbs.  However, with the growing popularity of energy saving bulbs that use LED technology, lumens as the measurement of light, has become more important to understand, to make sure you get the light you want. Because of this, very similar to food labels, manufacturers have recently began to label lumens on their packaging to easily allow customer the ability to better understand the bulb’s overall ability to emit light. The higher the amount of lumens will result in a brighter output of light. Alternatively, a lower amount of lumens will result in a dimmer brightness and overall lower light output. 

There is some science behind what defines a lumen. Essentially, is a scale based on luminous flux. Luminous flux Is a measure of the radiant power of light emitted from a source without regard for the direction output of the light source. So, it's a measurement of radiant light produced by a light bulb, like the ones you use in your home, versus directional light, like a spotlight used at an Amphitheater or Concert Hall.

Why are Lumens important.

From the first common usage of the modern light bulb, starting a little over a hundred years ago, light bulbs have changed quite a bit. However, until compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) appeared, the predominant light in homes was created by incandescent light bulbs. These incandescent light bulbs have been maximized in their output capability, and common understanding of how much light you would get, was based on the wattage of the bulb. For instance, a 60W bulb, or 75W bulb. The 75W bulb would produce more light, but also use more wattage. Still, after 100 years, it became the simplest way to know how much light you were getting from the lightbulb you were buying.

With more energy efficient lights, like CFL, and LED lights becoming more commonplace, and incandescent bulbs being removed from use, we need a better understanding of how much light a bulb can produce, instead of just how much energy it uses. One positive here is, your light bulbs use much less energy per lumen, and smart bulbs can allow you to adjust your lighting for different needs.

How many lumens do I need?

For simple math, a 60W incandescent bulb would produce about 800 lumens, and a 75W bulb would produce about 1100 lumens. With the way LEDs are built, you can have a wide variety of lumens output for different designs, even within the same brand. But if you stick to this guideline for the most common bulb types, you’ll be able to find bulbs that produce very near to these numbers, and you’ll know what to expect in max brightness for a given lightbulb.

Taber Dullea