How Bright is a Lumen

by Linea Lorenzo

When it comes to understanding how bright something is, we often use units that are not directly describing the light intensity, but rather the units showcasing how much power we need to make the source of light shine.

For example, the most common way of buying light bulbs would be to check their wattage, because most of the models we used to buy in the past were the incandescent models. With these, the light intensity was directly related to the thickness of the wolfram wire within the bulb itself, which then corresponds with the watts spend to power up this light bulb.

In a recent couple of decades, however, there's been a notable shift toward the alternative sources of light to the old incandescent models. This brought forth a curious problem that did not use to exist - how do we measure the brightness of these light bulbs if the wattage of these different light bulbs models is not consistent. ( The thing is, LED's spend way less energy than their incandescent counterparts, but they offer just as much brightness. )

So, in this article, we're going to talk about lumens - an internationally-recognized unit measuring the brightness of various objects, light bulbs included. As you will see, classifying light bulbs according to their lumen value has many benefits and can give us a clearer picture of a bulb's overall worth.

Right then folks, without further ado, here's the deal.

What is a Lumen?

What is a Lumen?
What is a Lumen?

To put it simply ( because the official definition is a bit complicated ), a lumen represents a unit of brightness. A single lumen can be looked at as a rough equivalent of a single burning candle. So, the more lumens a light bulb has, the brighter it shines.

What makes lumens a great way to measure the value of a light bulb would be that they only measure its brightness. Add to that equation the wattage and you have a clearer picture of how much use a light bulb is relative to its price. So, to reiterate, lumen represents a unit of brightness and it is used to determine how much of it a light bulb or some other source of light emits.

Things to Consider When Choosing Lumen?

How Bright Is A Lumen
How Bright Is A Lumen


The first parameter you should be looking into when it comes to buying light bulbs would certainly be how bright they will be. Of course, the amount of brightness you require will probably depend on the size of the room you want the light bulb to be covering. Also, the position of the light bulb plays a role in how much brightness it's going to give away.

As we mentioned earlier, brightness is a value expressed in lumens, so you should look for the section on the label where the word 'lumens' is mentioned and the check out the number in front of it. Again, the more lumens a light bulb has, the brighter it is. So, if you want to make an outdoor area well lit, you may need a powerful light bulb packing a lot of lumens. ( Or, you can get a couple of weaker light bulbs, the choice is entirely up to you. )

Annual Energy Cost

… represents the estimate of how much money a single light bulb will set you back on an annual basis. The thing that most affects the energy expenditure over the course of a year when light bulbs are in question would be their wattage. Another part of this equation would be the amount of time you leave a light bulb burning, of course.

In order to give you at least some idea as to what this number may end up looking like, the manufacturers of these light bulbs may give you a value on the label that tells you how much money you'll spend on a single light bulb if you leave it on for three hours a day. ( So, if you use yours for 6 hours a day or more, you can simply multiply this value by two and see where you're standing. )

Light Bulb Lifespan

Antique Vintage Edison Bulb 4 Pack - 60 watt - Hudson Lighting 60 watt Vintage Light Bulb - ST58 - Squirrel Cage Filament - 230 Lumens - Dimmable - E26 Bulb Base – Edison Light Bulbs - Warm White
Antique Vintage Edison Bulb 4 Pack - 60 watt - Hudson Lighting 60 watt Vintage Light Bulb - ST58 - Squirrel Cage Filament - 230 Lumens - Dimmable - E26 Bulb Base – Edison Light Bulbs - Warm White

It doesn't matter much if you have a highly-efficient light bulb that shines bright and doesn't use too much energy if it dies after only a couple of days of use. This is why an average lifespan of a light bulb represents an important parameter to look into before you decide to buy a bulb model.

The thing is, the lifespan of a light bulb is a highly changeable value that depends entirely on the build of the bulb itself and the materials it's made out of. Incandescent models tend to be the least durable ones and also the models that tend to use up the biggest amount of electricity when you turn them on. Compared to these, LED models tend to do much better both in the department of longevity AND energy efficiency.

Light Appearance (Color Temperature)

Other than the amount of electricity they use and how bright they are, light bulbs can also be judged by another standard - the appearance of the light itself. The thing is, most people got used to the standard incandescent models shining their yellowish light, but there are many different colors when it comes to the light provided by light bulbs.

To measure and classify this, a scale was developed by the manufacturers of these light bulbs, which goes from warm to cool. This warmth or coolness is measured in Kelvins, and the warmer light a light bulb provides, the fewer Kelvins you will see on the label.

As the name itself of this parameter suggests, the appearance of the light can play a role in what sort of atmosphere you want to create in the room or area where you plan to place the light bulb itself. For example, if you want the atmosphere in your office to be productive, official, and to promote alertness, you may want to use a cooler, white light. If you want the atmosphere to be more relaxed and informal, a yellowish light may be more appropriate.

Lumens vs. Watts

Since incandescent light bulbs have not entirely disappeared from use, many people still aren't sure what the difference is between lumens and watts as a system of measuring the power output of a light bulb.

This difference, of course, is quite an obvious one as lumens represent the unit for brightness, while watts represent the unit for power. So, a light bulb requiring a certain number of watts will give out brightness that's worth a certain amount of lumens. The two units aren't connected, so when buying a light bulb, make sure to first look at lumens and then the wattage of a product you like - because this way you'll know how bright it is AND how much power it will require you to run it.

All in all, to repeat what we said earlier here once again, a single lumen is a rough equivalent of a single candle's brightness. Modern daylight bulbs, of course, are capable of giving you a couple of thousand lumens, so you should take your time to figure out how much brightness you need and how much energy you're willing to spend annually on a light bulb. We hope this article helped you understand how bright a lumen is and what to look for when buying light bulbs.

About Linea Lorenzo

Linea was born to love drawing and just a few tech gadgets. While not working or sleeping, he often spends hours to look through the coolest, latest gadgets at different shopping sites, drooling about them. He also likes to keep things clean and tidy - now that the reason you see so many cleaning devices and electronics reviews at Ah yes, he made the site also just for that. Occationally, he invited friends to share their expertise around here too. Linea received Bachelor of Arts in Arts & Letters at Sacramento State University.

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