The Language of LED Lighting

One of the most common comments we hear when speaking to people about LED lighting is that it’s like learning a new language. All you want to do is buy a replacement LED bulb and now you’re faced with a whole new way of thinking about light. One term you will frequently hear is the word Lumen. A lumen is the measurement of the amount of visible light emitted from a light source. We have never thought of lumens when buying the trusty 60 incandescent light bulb. You know that a 100 watt bulb was brighter than a 60 watt and a 40 watt was not a bright as either. Watts were thought of as a measurement of the amount of light a bulb produced.

When looking at finding a comparable replacement LED bulb watts and lumens are tossed about without the buyer having any viable point of reference. LED bulbs use a lot fewer watts to produce light. I think everyone will agree with this. It gets interesting when you start to compare lumens. How can manufacturers claim that a bulb that produces 475 lumens and a bulb that produces 800 lumens are both be equal to a 60W incandescent bulb. They can’t be, so which one is the right one?

There has to be a standard that all LEDs are measured against so the consumer can make the right choice when choosing an LED bulb as a replacement. We live in Canada where right now anyone can claim anything about an LED bulb and there currently is not a standard to measure it against. One of the first questions we ask our callers who are trying to compare something they see on the web from parts unknown to a bulb that we may sell is always about comparing lumens. This is one good measure for comparison but there is a critical piece missing. The missing piece…what was the distance from the light source when the lumen output was measured. Without this distance being consistent from one manufacturer to another it is not a reliable measurement. Canada has already started to implement requirements that will closely follow standards already in effect in the US. You can read about the program here.

Our suggestion is to look for a bulb that was designed to meet or exceed Energy Star standards. One of the standards set by our friends to the south is a 3rd party test that all manufacturers have to pass to obtain the certification. Part of this test is measuring lumen output at the same distance from the light source. LED bulbs have been part of the Energy Star program since 2012. The European Union has now set standards to control some of the outrageous claims being made about LED light output. What can we do now? Be sure you understand what you are buying and if the salesperson you are discussing LEDs with does not understand how this all comes together it might be time to move on.

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