While you may be used to comparing light bulbs and products by wattage, a new unit of measurement has taken the spotlight: the lumen. So, what is a lumen? Although it’s difficult to compare watts and lumens directly, we want to share some guidelines on understanding the relationship between them.
What is a Lumen?
Lumens have become the most prominent unit of measurement for brightness, but what exactly are they? A lumen is a unit that describes the amount of light provided over a given area. Each lumen is about equal to the light output of a single candle. Essentially, a lumen is a measurement of brightness itself.
Lumens vs. Watts
The fundamental difference between these two units is what exactly each of them measure. We just learned that lumens measure the output or “brightness” of a given light source. On the contrary, watts measure the amount of energy required to produce a particular level of brightness.
While a comparison between watts and lumens isn’t apples to apples, some correlations can be made to help you choose the lighting solution best for you (see chart below). For instance, if a standard 40-watt bulb delivers about 450 lumens of light (actual light output varies by product and manufacturer), we can assume that 1-watt of consumption is necessary for an output of about 11.25 lumens.
Even though conversions like this can be helpful, they don’t take into account many other factors that influence the brightness of a light. Some of these neglected factors include concentration and color temperature.
As we've moved toward more energy-efficient solutions in the 21st century, the light bulb label has adapted. The introduction of new technology almost always brings change. Lighting regulation amendments call for information, such as lumens and bulb life, to be included on the packaging of light bulbs, in order to better communicate brightness and energy efficiency.
One term you may be seeing more often is “color temperature." Color temperature describes the shade of light coming from a given source and is measured in Kelvins. Your typical “white” light falls between 2700K and 6000K. The higher the measurement in Kelvins, the cooler the light will appear.
A cooler light color temperature of 5000K and higher is most similar to natural daylight, while 3000K and below is closer to the color temperature of your standard incandescent bulb. Due to such variations, we often recommend looking to color temperature as another indication of “brightness," depending on your specific lighting needs.
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