Look to the Lumens: How to Buy LED Lighting
Though an LED bulb may look like an old-fashioned Edison bulb, they are quite different animals.
ONE OF THE MORE EXCITING DEVELOPMENTS in the lighting industry over the past decade has been the emergence of LEDs. The principles of LED lighting have been around for some time, but the real commercial breakthrough of the technology, in terms of both affordable cost and creative applications, has only occurred recently. Though these bulbs may look like an old-fashioned Edison bulb, they are quite different animals, and this new type of illumination works differently than the lighting you are accustomed to.
For starters, there’s the vastly different way they produce light. Rather than electricity passing through a filament wire to make it glow and produce light, as is done in incandescent bulbs, LED light bulbs (short for "Light Emitting Diode") or fixtures use a small electronic semiconductor chip (the diode being that chip part).
So one big advantage over regular lighting is that they operate much cooler than regular bulbs because of the lack of hot glowing wire.
They are also much more energy efficient, requiring far less electricity, or watts, than regular types of lighting. In fact, they are so efficient that looking to how many watts a bulb or fixture uses doesn’t really tell you much anymore. You need to evaluate LEDs using a whole new way of thinking and a whole new term.
What are lumens? Simply put, they are a measurement of the amount of light that a bulb or other light source emits. All light sources can be measured in this way, even older incandescent bulbs. And it’s when we compare the lumens that an incandescent bulb outputs versus an LED that you can really see the advantages of this type of lighting.
One of the first things you notice about this chart is that, per watt used, LED lighting produces far more light (there are those lumens!) than any other light source. For example, a 60 watt incandescent light bulb, something most of us are pretty familiar with, produces 800 lumens. An LED that produces the same amount of light needs only 9 to 13 watts of energy. That’s a big difference in energy, meaning that to make the same amount of light they are actually cheaper to operate.
What Does All This Mean For You?
For one, you should be looking at LED lighting fixtures or bulbs to see how many lumens they produce, not how many watts they use. Doing so will allow you to accurately gauge how much light a bulb or fixture produces and get a good idea of what it will look like in your home.
This is a hard idea to get used to at first. We are so used to buying 60 watt bulbs for table lamps, because we have a good feel for how much light such a bulb will produce. But once you start shopping by lumens instead of watts, you'll see that you'll be able to get the same amount of light output for much less energy.