Lumens: Why They’re Important When Light Bulb Shopping

Forget everything you know about watts, and focus your thinking on lumens. Here’s why:


Gone will be the days of standard incandescent light bulbs. From 2012-2014, manufacturers were required to cease production of the standard incandescent light bulbs, in hopes that the public would use more energy efficient light bulbs in their homes and businesses. Even though you may still see them on the shelves of some stores until 2020, the phase out began in 2012, when Congress passed a law that required bulb manufacturers to stop making the 100 watt incandescent light bulb. Then came the end of manufacturing for the 75 watt incandescent light bulb in 2013. Lastly, your 40 and 60 watt incandescent light bulbs started to phase out, with the end of their making in the beginning of 2014.


So, what are we left with now that the bulbs we have been using since the 1800’s will no longer be in existence? Why think lumens instead of watts? As mentioned in a previous blog post, LED and CFL (compact fluorescent light) are your alternatives, along with Halogen (a form of incandescent bulb, but much more energy efficient). This isn’t bad news folks, this is great news! This phase out of standard incandescents and the switch to alternatives means energy and money savings for you! But when shopping for these replacement bulbs, it’s important to know the new lingo before making a purchase. Because these lighting options are more efficient than incandescents, it’s time to think lumens!


What are Lumens?

When we shopped for the standard incandescent light bulbs back in the day, we were looking at the different wattages like your 40 watt and 60 watt bulb to determine how bright the light bulb would be. But watts are not actually what determines how bright a light bulb is. A watt is a measurement of how much energy is used to power on a light bulb. Your 100 watt incandescent uses more energy than your 40 or 60 watt light bulb, and that’s why we found the 100 watt brighter than the 40 or 60 watt bulb. Today when shopping for LEDs, CFLs, or Halogens, we need to look at lumens because a lumen actually measures the brightness of each bulb. The fewer number of lumens, the less bright the bulb will be. Because LED, CFL, and Halogen bulbs use much less energy (watts) than your standard incandescent, there is no need to base your purchase off of how many watts the light bulb will produce. Lumens will determine the amount of light your bulb will give off, and that is what consumers need to be mindful of when replacing their old incandescents with the alternatives.


How Many Lumens Should I Choose?

Remember: Stop looking for the number of watts on the packages of those LED, CFL, or Halogen bulbs. Think brightness, not energy used (since all of these bulbs are very energy efficient). Look at the example Lighting Facts label on the back of your bulb package to figure out how many lumens you want. Here is what you can expect if you are replacing your standard incandescent bulb with any one of the replacement options mentioned (LED, CFL, Halogen):

  • A 40 watt incandescent light bulb is equal to 450 lumens
  • A 60 watt incandescent light bulb is equal to 800 lumens
  • A 75 watt incandescent light bulb is equal to 1100 lumens
  • A 100 watt incandescent light bulb is equal to 1600 lumens
  • A 150 watt incandescent light bulb is equal to 2600 lumens