Understanding LUMENS and the New Labeling for Lighting

You might have heard recently all the talk about banning the incandescent light bulb. It’s not really a ban but a legislation to increase the efficiency of light bulbs – similar to increasing the miles per gallon of automobiles. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required light bulbs to use at least 25 percent less energy beginning in 2012. The uproar was that this requirement could make the old incandescent bulbs obsolete if manufacturers didn’t meet the new efficiency standards.

The requirement for lighting efficiency has spurred new technologies and the new consumer options for lighting can be mind boggling. Have you been in a big-box store lately to shop for light bulbs?

Here’s some information to help sort through the new options and labeling in light bulbs. Read the new labels and look at the LUMENS not the watts. Lumens tell you how much light you are going to get; wattage indicates how much energy is being consumed. Lumens are what you are buying for your money. The more lumens–the brighter the light.

Here’s some rule of thumb (from Energy.gov):

  • To replace a 100W (watt) incandescent bulb, look for a bulb that gives you about 1600 lumens. If you want something dimmer, go for fewer lumens; if you prefer brighter, go for more lumens.
  • Replace a 75W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 1100 lumens
  • Replace a 60W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 800 lumens
  • Replace a 40W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 450 lumens.

To become fully “enlightened” on lumens and new lighting labels, watch this video from energy.gov.

Remember, when looking for new light bulbs, you want to compare lumens with lumens. Lumens is a measure of how much light output the bulb has or brightness (see post 3/14/11). A typical 60 watt incandescent light bulb has a lumen output of 820 lumens. An equivalent compact fluorescent bulb will have the same lumen output but far less electricity needs such as 13 watts. That’s a savings of 47 watts for the same amount of light.