LED Light Bulb Brightness and Illumination

EagleLight’s LED University: Light Bulb Brightness Explained

Various Definitions of LED Brightness: lux, lumen and watt

In this lesson we are going to define some of the many terms used in LED light bulb brightness such as watt, lumen, and lux.

In this LED university course we will discuss:Bright LED lights save electricity

  • measuring the amount of light produced from an LED light source
  • measuring the amount of light we see from an LED light source
  • measuring the amount of usable light produced from an LED light source

This discussion is not a rigorous scientific analysis. However, it is intended to offer an understanding of a few of the various terms used related to LED light bulb brightness.

Watt as a measure of LED light bulb brightness

A measure of brightness used in the past was the wattage of a light. With more efficient lighting products like CFL and LEDs, use of the watt is no longer an accurate means of determining brightness across multiple lamp technologies. For example: a 75 Watt incandescent bulb, 18 watt CFL and a 9 watt LED may all produce the same amount of usable light. Obviously watt is not longer a viable means to measure the brightness of a light source across differing technologies.

LED Lumen as a measure of brightness

Bright EagleLight LED Light Bulbs

The LED lumen measures the total amount of visible light from a light source. Unfortunately some light may be used to light areas not even visible to the viewer. Such as the lighting of the inside of a fixture. This is why the measure of the light found on the projected surface is often a much better measure of applicable light. LED lumens often times are less than the lumen measure of another light technology for the same brightness on a working surface. This is due to the directed nature of LED packaging. This direction of the LED lumen results in greater use of the available light.

LED Lux as a measure of light bulb brightness

The measure of the amount of visible light on a surface, like the lux, is a good way to determine the amount of “usable” light created by a light source.

Light Measurement Definition Form of Measure
Radiant Flux the total power of light: visible and non-visible light watt (W)
Luminous Flux or Luminous Power the perceived power of light adjusted to reflect the varying sensitivity of the human eye to different wavelengths of light lumen (lm)
Luminous Intensity the amount of lumen on a square meter lux (lx)
Luminous Efficiency the amount of visible light produced per each watt consumed lumen/watt (lm/W)
The radiant flux is the total amount of light generated, this includes light that is not visible to the naked eye like infrared and ultraviolet.
The luminous flux is an adjustment to the measurement of radiant flux that measures only that light perceived by the human eye. The LED lumen (Lm) is a measure of the amount of LED light produced that we can potentially see.
The luminous intensity is an adjustment to the luminous flux that measures the amount of light on a surface. Think of this as the usable light.

What to compare when buying LED lightbulbs

When purchasing LED light bulbs you may see that the lumen listed on the LED does not match that of an incandescent.  Yet the lamps offer the same about of light on your desk or table. This is because the light from LEDs are often “directed light” where an incandescent light shines light in all directions: only a part of which is used to light up what you are intending.  The use of the lux gives you a measure of the light hitting the surfaces you are trying to light, unfortunately most bulbs will not offer a LUX specification.
When choosing a LED light bulb brightness, determine the appropriate lux or lumen required and then select that bulb with the fewest watts. Lower wattage means lower electricity bills. Checking LED lumens directly against traditional bulb lumens is only appropriate under certain lighting conditions and certain light bulb shapes and fixture designs.

For the Scientist:

For more technical information, physics and some math on the topics in this lesson you can refer to the Wikipedia definitions.