Lumens vs Watts: What’s The Difference?

What are lumens? What happened to just using watts? If you’re asking these questions, you’re not alone.

Many of us will have spent most of our adult lives buying traditional incandescent bulbs, which means we’ll be used to choosing them based on their watts rating. In recent years, however, light bulb packaging has begun to reference lumens ratings rather than watts, which is unsurprisingly causing a great deal of confusion.

But there is method in the madness. Let us explain.

What are Watts?

Ever since the light bulb was invented we have been measuring its brightness by its watts rating. A watt is simply a unit of measurement (named after the Scottish inventor, James Watt) that indicates the energy consumption and, therefore, the brightness of the bulb. The higher the wattage, the higher the energy use and the brighter the light.

What are Lumens?

A lumen is a unit of measurement that purely measures the brightness of light emitted by a bulb, not energy consumption. A higher lumens rating means a brighter bulb, and a lower lumens rating means a dimmer bulb. Buying a bulb by its lumens rating uses exactly the same principle as buying milk by the pint or steaks by the gram; you’re buying the exact amount of light that you want, regardless of how much power it consumes.

So Why the Change?

The introduction and advancing development of good quality LED bulbs has changed the way we measure our lighting. Modern LED bulbs use a lot less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs without compromising on brightness. This means that the traditional wattage measurement system has become less relevant, as you can get the brightness of a 100 watt incandescent bulb from a LED bulb of just 16-20 watts. If you’re still using traditional incandescent bulbs, take a look at our guide to LED bulbs to see the many benefits they carry.

We may not be used to seeing it, but measuring in lumens is nothing new. This system has in fact been used for decades to measure light output, but has only recently been added to packaging to help customers gradually get used to selecting bulbs based on this new measurement.

Our reliance on wattage to judge bulb brightness has made it difficult to compare traditional bulbs with the more efficient LED alternatives, but there is an easy way around this.

Converting Watts to Lumens

Just like with watts, you can recognise brighter bulbs by a higher lumens rating, but how do you know how many lumens equates to the watt ratings you’re used to?

Here’s a quick and easy conversion table to help you convert watts to lumens and find the right bulb for your needs:

what are lumens

It’s as simple as that! Before long you’ll have made the permanent switch to lumens, while enjoying the perfect brightness and energy efficiency of LED bulbs. Here at Moonlight Design you can find the right LED bulb and lumen output to suit any room in your home or business. Browse our full range of LED light bulbs and lamps to get started.

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