Watts Up? Lighting, Labels and LEDs

We’ve come along way since Thomas Edison invented his first light bulb. Light bulbs are making big changes and knowing which ones to buy is confusing.

Most of us buy light bulbs based on their watts.  A 40-60 watt bulb is good for table lamps.  25 watt bulbs for night lights, 100 watt bulbs for the kitchen, bath and laundry.  However, watts has nothing do with how much the bulb will brighten a room, it is a measure of how much electricity it takes to power the bulb and it directly affects your monthly power bill.  The technical term for how much light a bulb puts out is Lumens (latin for Light).

In June 2010 the FTC wrote new rules for lighting packaging, hoping to end consumer confusion on which bulbs to buy.  By mid 2011 light bulb packaging will show more than just watts.  This is really good news.  I find standing in the bulb section at any retail store confusing.  I want to change all my bulbs to LED.  Yet trying to figure out which ones will brighten my rooms like my incandescents is really hard to figure out.  Here is the new label you should start seeing in July.

While this label is self-explanatory, I need to point out that LED bulbs, CFL’s (fluorescent), and incandescent bulbs all differ in their energy consumption (watts) and their lighting output (lumens).  Without knowing the lumen output of standard incandescent bulbs, it’s difficult to know if the LED or CFL bulbs will put out the same amount of light as the standard incandescent bulbs we are so used to.  To help figure this out I created this chart to carry with me in my wallet.

With this chart now all I need to do is match lumens for lumens and my LED bulb should brighten my room as well as my old incandescent, while consuming less electricity.  I should note that when doing my research I came up with differing calculations on lumen output for standard incandescent bulbs.  I choose to go with the info found at Wikipedia.

This post is my attempt to keep it simple.  I hope this chart will help you buy adequate environmentally friendly lighting for your home.  Next week I will blog about the difference between LED and CFL bulbs and why I prefer LED.

Here is a PDF file for you to download of the above chart if you’d like to carry it with you in your wallet.

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