March 12, 2019

People used to buy light bulbs using wattage. Today, with the expansion of LED lighting, the industry now uses lumens, a measure of the light itself, when shopping for lighting. Let’s start by exploring how watts and lumens differ.

Wattage is used to measure energy consumption and has made sense as the go-to metric for light comparison when using incandescent technology. A 100-watt bulb is brighter and consumes more power than a 60-watt bulb. LED technology allows us to produce light much more efficiently, so the industry has shifted to using lumens as the new standard.

The lumen is a unit of measure for the total quantity of light emitted by a source.

Using lumens is closer to measuring the actual brightness of a light, rather than how much energy it consumes.


Today’s lighting buyer must familiarize themselves with how lumens compare to wattage when lighting a space. Below you’ll find a table created by EnergyStar that serves as an initial guide when switching from an incandescent solution to LED.


To learn more about other factors in choosing the right lights for your space, see our primers on Delivered Lumens, or Color Temperature.

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