Home Lighting Basics: Comparing Lumens vs. Watts

Posted by Birddog Lighting on May 21st 2019

Home Lighting Basics: Comparing Lumens vs. Watts

Light bulbs today are more energy-efficient; they consume about 25% to 80% less energy. That’s good news for homeowners, but the problem with this is that they may now get confused with labels.

In the past, people only relied on the wattage rating to measure the brightness. Now, we have lumens, which also indicates the brightness of the light bulb.

What do we need to look at when buying light bulbs? Read on to find out the differences between lumens vs watts.

1. Lumens vs Watts: What Do You Need to Look At?

To better understand the labels and to find what we’re looking for, let’s study what watts and lumens mean.

What is the Watts Rating?

For the most part, the watts rating is a good indication of how bright a specific bulb is. However, that’s not its actual meaning; it only tells you how much electricity the bulb uses.

The reason why people associate it with the brightness of the bulb is simple: the more energy it uses, the brighter it must be.

While this is true for older light bulbs, it’s no longer a good indication of how bright a newer bulb is today. Energy-efficient light bulbs, for example, may use less energy for the same amount of light.

What are Lumens?

The above is the reason why you should look at the lumens rating instead to check the brightness of the bulb. Lumens are the actual measurement of how much light a light bulb produces. Hence, more lumens means more light, irrespective of the watt rating.

The lumens rating has been around for a while, but LED lights were the first ones to display it in a prominent position in the packaging. This is because, as we’ve said above, watts are no longer a good indication of the bulb’s brightness.

This is also why the FTC now requires manufacturers to emphasize the brightness in lumens rather than the energy usage in the packaging. This is also helpful to buyers as they can know which is more economical at a glance.

Note that lumens also take into account the projection of the light. Some bulbs shine only in one direction, which means it produces less light than a bulb that shines in all directions. Hence, it has fewer lumens than the latter.

Lumens have a direct relation with watts, but it will wear out over time. Meaning, the bulb will use the same amount of energy but will produce less light as it wears out.

Lumen per Watt Rating

The relationship between lumens and watts is almost linear. A certain amount of watts produce a certain amount of lumens. That’s why you’ll see a lumen per watt rating on the packages, which tells you how much lumens a watt produces.

This helps you pick out a brand that’s more energy efficient. You’d want to look for a bulb that needs less energy to produce more light.

2. Incandescent vs LED Lights

People used to look at the watts rating of incandescent bulbs to get a good idea of its brightness. If you’re switching from incandescent to LED, you’ll get confused on how much lumens you’ll need for your new bulbs.

Here’s a handy guide for you to tell what you need to look for in LED lights based on your incandescent lights. (In) stands for Incandescent, (LED) stands for LED lights, W stands for wattage, and lm stands for lumens.

  • (In) 40 W = 450 lm = (LED) 6-9 W
  • (In) 60 W = 800 lm =  (LED) 8-12 W
  • (in) 75 W = 1100 lm = (LED) 9-13 W
  • (In) 100 W = 1600 lm = (LED) 16-20 W
  • (in) 150 W = 2500 lm = (LED) 25-28 W

Let’s set an example using the guide above: say you usually use incandescent bulbs with 60 W. That has about 800 lumens, so you’ll need to find LED bulbs with that measurement. These usually use 8 to 12 W of energy.

3. Compact Fluorescent Light vs LED Lights

Another option consumers have is CFL or Compact Fluorescent Lights. It’s also meant to replace incandescent light bulbs as a more energy-efficient option since it uses way less energy to produce the same amount of light. It’s should also last longer, although it comes at a higher price.

The technology is more or less the same as that of fluorescent bulbs, but they’re smaller (hence, compact).

If you were using them and you want to switch to LED, here’s another guide for you:

  • (CFL) 8-12 W = (LED) 6-7 W
  • (CFL) 13-18 W = (LED) 7-10 W
  • (CFL) 19-22 W = (LED) 12-13 W
  • (CFL) 23-36 W = (LED) 14-20 W
  • (CFL) 38-42 W = (LED) 25-28 W

To be sure of what you’re buying, check out the lumens in the packaging of your old light bulbs if you still have it. If not, use this chart against the chart above to find out how much lumens you’ll need to look for.

4. Another Thing to Consider

When buying light bulbs, you might also come across the Kelvin measurement. This doesn’t have to do anything with the brightness; it measures the color temperature. If you have a preference between warm and cool, you’ll need to pay attention to this, as well.

The lower the Kelvin measurement, the warmer the light that a light bulb produces. Incandescent bulbs usually emit yellowish light, which measures about 2700K to 3000K. Warm white, which is about 3000K to 4000K, is a bit neutral, which makes it perfect for working spaces like kitchens.

If you want something cooler for better contrast, bright white (4000K to 5000k) or daylight (5000K to 6500K) will work. To help you gauge how the color temperature looks, the packaging also usually has “Warm White” or “Daylight” or such labels.

Choosing the Right Lighting

To choose the right lighting, you’ll need to consider both sides in lumens vs watts. You need to look at the brightness, but you need to look at the energy consumption, as well.

Whatever it is you’re looking for, though, we have it in store. Check out our wide selection of products and contact us for any inquiries.

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