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Why You Should Compare Lumens and Not Watts When Buying a Light

Why You Should Compare Lumens and Not Watts When Buying a Light

Three simple reasons why you should compare lumens and not watts when buying a light

Purpose and Location (where, what, when) 

What is the light or bulb needed for the task at hand? Is it for something around the office space, work shop or house? When you have to take out the trash at night do you want something strong? Would a simple off the shelf low lumen flashlight work for checking dark areas in your attic, garage, or when checking the circuit boxes during a power outage. Or how about when you go on a camping trip with the family or friends, you may need a flashlight with a long narrow beam lumen or a lamp with low watts that can last all night and light up the campsite area.

On the other hand, if you need a desk lamp for your office and have bad eyesight like myself you may need something more bright with high lumen. If that same desk is being used by kids’ reading, then you might want a gentler light to reduce eye fatigue. Dimmer lights can be used in the bedroom to create a more soothing atmosphere while kitchen lights you want them to be brighter so you don’t spill anything, burn something, or mix up ingredients. Context and the brightness of you fixtures matter too. I know when I finally build my man cave or playroom I’m going to have multicolored LEDs in them.

The function and use of the lights you are searching for can influence how bulbs are spaced out. If there are multiple sockets then you can get few dimmer bulbs and spread them apart or you can just simply purchase a single high lumen bulb that will serve the whole space. Ideally, you would like higher lumen and lower watts.

So what’s the difference?

You may now be asking yourself, do watts really matter? Well it turned out that wattage was never the most accurate way to determine brightness of a light bulb. For years we have associated brightness to wattage and were taught to buy lights or bulbs with high watts. This was a misconception for a long time up until the idea of energy-saving lighting, specifically LEDs, were introduced into the industry. Both watts and lumens are units of a light bulb space but they also have differences. While lumens demonstrates to you how bright your bulb is, watts tell you how high your bill will be.

Lumens can be described as the amount of light you can see, or a measure of the total 'amount' of visible light emitted by a source, while watts calculate the amount of power that will be used up. The energy efficiency of these LEDs meant that a higher wattage no longer meant a brighter light. While LEDs are becoming the norm in lighting, it’s important to understand the difference between lumens and watts and how to determine what is a suitable amount of lumens for creating your ideal atmosphere.

Now that you know what the differences are let’s talk about the different technologies in lighting. There are several bulb types from incandescent, halogen, CFL, and LEDs. On average the main bulbs that majority of people use in households is halogens and LEDs. Depending on the amount of power you want to save you should choose a light bulb that has low watts for a high output of lumens; ideally a LED would be the best bet. We know now that higher lumens correlates to brighter light, and lower watts is less power, so it makes sense that a light with high lumens and low watt will be more energy efficient than another light with low lumens and higher wattage.

Choosing the Right Product

When you are shopping for a light for your next home project it’s important to make sure to look for the advertised lumen count in the specification. You will need to take into consideration weather you want to focus on the source of lumens or the lumens to be delivered by the fixtures. It will start helping you if you begin by thinking in lumens instead of watts. It has been an adjustment for me but it is an essential part of understanding how to build a preferred atmosphere to the project at hand. You will need to realize that LEDs, fluorescents, and more efficient incandescent all have different levels of wattage, but that no longer is tied to brightness. Try avoiding figuring out what a good lumens per watt number will be, because the development of lighting tech is increasing rapidly. What seems to be energy efficient right now may not be the case a few months down the line. Ultimately, take into consideration the lighting levels and lumens over the wattage of the lamp/flashlight/bulbs/fixtures, and if it will provide a more energy efficient light system. High lumen and low wattage, specifically LEDs, will provide the best lighting with the lowest energy cost.

The points I’ve recently explained are how I go about buying a light, by mainly focusing on lumens.

  1. Function: Know about lumens required for the given purpose or task at hand. What brightness will best suitable for the job you are working on. Understand how lumen will be more effective in certain locations vs. watts.
  2. Energy Efficient: choosing higher lumen and low watts is more bang for your $$$ buck. As mentioned earlier, lumens are in and watts are out, in this day of age.
  3. Correct lumen Product: Understand the specifications of lumen on certain items when shopping. What are the lumens that are to be provided by the fixture?  This will make the selection process much easier. 
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