Lumens? Watt you talkin’ about?


Before you commence reading this eye-opening entry, I must apologize for the horribly “punstastic” title. I’m nearly 100% certain that it would’ve received a few snide stares during “pun wheel” (a warm-up exercise commonly used by my improv group). Moving forward, let me shed some light on the subject (shucks, I did it again) of lumens and the future of lighting.

I bet last time you visited your friendly neighborhood hardware store in search of light bulbs, you made your selection (regardless of bulb type) based on the watts prominently displayed on the package. The watt, named after Scottish engineer James Watt (for some reason I can’t help but to think of Mike Myer’s character in So I Married An Axe Murderer), will soon no longer be the primary way in which you choose bulbs. The lumen, which measures brightness, is designated to be the new standard in which we identify light bulbs. Along with the Federal Trade Commission, manufacturers created a new label that educates consumers about the bulbs they’re purchasing. It actually resembles nutrition labels commonly used on food packaging, but appears to provide much more concise information.

The labels include:

– Brightness (in lumens)

– Estimated Yearly Energy Cost

– Life-expectancy (the bulb’s, not yours)

– Light Appearance

– Energy Used (in watts)

In addition to the fancy new label, manufacturers have also given bulb packaging a makeover. For example, the CFL (pictured to the right) is a replacement for a 60 watt bulb with a lumen (or brightness) output of 950. This particular bulb will use 15 watts and cost an estimated $1.78 to user per year. Pretty useful stuff, huh?

So thanks to the lumen and the advent of info labels, you won’t be left in the dark next time you purchase light bulbs.

Article by Billy Draper, appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.



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