Learning the Lightbulb Label

Back when incandescent bulbs were the most common type of lighting, you probably knew how to figure out what the light would look like: just check the watts. The higher the wattage, the brighter the bulb.
But now that energy-efficient LEDs take up a lot more space in the lighting aisle, you may run into some unfamiliar terms. Consider this guide your personal dictionary.

Watts measure how much energy a bulb is consuming. Since LEDs use 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs, comparing their wattage isn’t apples to apples.

Instead, look at the lumen levels. Lumens are a brightness metric specifically for LEDs.

Still got watts on the brain? The table below converts common wattage to lumens.

Another thing to remember: lumen levels don’t give you any information about a bulb’s color, which is measured in Kelvin. For more information about LED color temperature, check out our guide here.

Posted March 2019. Updated December 2022.

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