What are Lumens?

This is Part 1 of a 4 part series discussing Lumens, Candela, Lux and how those three measurements of light performance impact LED lighting in a marine application for boats: Part 1 – What are Lumens? | Part 2 – What is Candela? | Part 3 – What’s Lux got to do with it? | Part 4 – How Lumens, Candela and Lux work together…
In our modern world, LED lighting, or light-emitting diode technology, powers everything from smart home technology systems to NFL stadiums. Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA is one such example. This gigantic stadium has emerged as a leader among industrial-scale buildings in the use of renewable energy.

As we’ve all heard, LED’s are the light source of the future. As a nation, the United States continues to invest in lighting products for our homes, businesses, and recreational pursuits. And in answering the question “What are lumens?” we hold the key to understanding more about actual light output when assessing lighting potential.

Known for a variety of benefits, LED lights require lower energy consumption. They also possess greater durability for enhanced, long-term light quality. With these clear advantages over traditional light sources, property owners, consumers, and large companies alike are turning to LED lighting solutions.

They have a clear focus on achieving increased brightness, efficiency, and cost-effective lighting across applications. We know that in utilizing LED lights to create more functional, safer, and ambient spaces, we are also making significant contributions to global sustainability efforts.

But what’s behind the energy-efficient brightness of LEDs that is backed by the U.S. Department of Energy? The Department of Energy states that, in traditional applications, modern LED light bulbs use at least 75% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than their incandescent predecessors.

Here, we take a look at LED lights and lumens, watts vs. lumens, and different types of lighting solutions that power your world.

LED Lights and Lumens
According to energy.gov, it’s not your traditional wattage that you should consider when shopping for, or measuring, the effectiveness of the best lighting products. Instead, we should turn to its modern counterpart: the lumen (symbol: lm).

So, what is a lumen? The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America states that a lumen is a Standard International (SI) unit of luminous flux that is determined by radiant power.

This alternative lighting measurement became the most common way to measure light sources of all kinds. Lumens provide a decisive indication of a light’s true brightness, color, lifespan, and projected operating cost. This is because it reads the total quantity of visible light, known as the luminous flux, which the light source produces.

We experience the resulting perception of light when we are in the presence of any number of different light sources. Examples include a lamp on a desk, above water lights on a boat, or spotlights at a Broadway show.

A lumen measures the illuminating power of the light source. It also measures how much of its energy is converted into visible light. In gaining a better understanding of lumens, it’s important to know that lumens do not work alone in measuring the brightness of various light sources.

While the number of lumens represents how much light is actually emitted, the lux (symbol: lx) unit indicates how bright the affected surface will be. Meanwhile, the candela (symbol: cd) rating measures the visible intensity from the light source in any given direction.

In other words, candela output measures brightness in tactical applications where there is less demand for broad illumination. Instead, these applications favor a focused or concentrated distribution of light. So, what does this mean when you shop for light?

More Lumens = Brighter Output
In short, the higher the number of lumens a light source produces, the greater the potential of visible light that source can display, relative to how it is applied. The number of lumens actually defines the total illuminating power of a lighting product, similar to horsepower in an engine, so that you can understand just how bright, or dim, the light source potential is.

Just as horsepower defines the total power output of an engine, the number of lumens similarly defines the illuminating power of a lighting product. An engine’s horsepower translates to a particular vehicle’s performance relative to its weight, shape (aerodynamics), gearing, and other contributing factors such as design and purpose of the vehicle. A 500 horsepower sports car will perform very differently from a 500 horsepower dump truck, even though both vehicles produce the same amount of horsepower.

A light source has a similar relationship between lumens produced and how those lumens perform in a given application. Performance is relative to the way the lumens are applied to their environment. If you want to distribute an even amount of light in all directions, for the purpose of lighting a room in your home, an unfocused light bulb will work well.

Lux and Candela Ratings
On the other hand, if you need a focused stream of light — such as those that provide effective navigational aids on the water — consider not just lumens but also lux and candela ratings. This will help you better understand potential brightness and overall performance, for a specific application, before making the investment.

Our society started shifting light source designs toward lower wattage incandescent lights in recent decades as a means to conserve energy. So, light bulb producers wanted to assure consumers that light quality was not compromised with the reduction in watts.

Rather, LED lights produce stellar light output, color rendering, and cost-saving efficiency. Therefore, emphasizing lumen levels over wattage is the most effective way to clearly communicate this information to the consumer when discussing LED lighting products.

Watts vs. Lumens
Despite what appears to be a subtle shift from using watts to lumens in how we measure light power, watts never actually gave us any information on potential light output. Wattage has always measured consumption — or energy usage — of electricity. On the other hand, lumens measure very visible light that is a result of that consumption.

If we turn the lights on when we arrive home or walk into a well-lit classroom, we experience the visible light. This light is measured in lumens which a light source, or device, produces.

Referring to watts to determine the brightness of your lighting products was rendered unnecessary when we started focusing on the lumen levels of today’s LED lights. We wanted a more accurate understanding of the potential lighting power of various lighting products.

However, for some consumers, the transition is ongoing. Therefore, it’s helpful for them to get a better understanding of how lumen levels and wattage values relate to one another on a particular light product.

In a traditional application, a standard 100-watt light bulb will produce between 1,500 and 1,700 lumens. Another way to look at it is that a 60W bulb produces about 800 lumens. Meanwhile, you can expect about 1100 lumens with a 75W bulb, according to energy.gov.

Liquid Lumens’ blue Underwater Lights offer optimal brightness with a high candela rating
Lighting Power in Your Life
From residential lighting solutions to large-scale lighting installations in industrial buildings, these durable, high-quality light products are an important part of our lives. Now that we know how important it is to measure lighting power in lumens, it’s clear why LED lights are known for their versatility, efficiency, and power.

The U.S. Department of Energy has forecasted a savings of $250 billion in energy costs over the next 20 years if we continue to switch to LED lights. It’s also possible if we continue to think in terms of lumens when choosing the right lighting products to achieve a certain level of light output for our needs.

At Liquid Lumens, we are advancing marine LED lighting technology in the marine environment by designing the best underwater lights in the world. We developed our patent-pending, proprietary “Lumen-Boost”™ Technology to increase your boat’s standard 12V power supply. This helps achieve next-level performance in terms of lumen, lux and candela output.

Continue to Part 2 of this series: What is Candela?

Contact us today to learn more about lumens and how their radiant power is helping us reinvent recreation.

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