Shopping for lighting, the new way

Typically, consumers buy items based on how much of an item they get. How much milk is in a container? How many eggs will you need? How much gas fits in a fuel tank? Buying based on how much we get is the way of the world, with one exception: the purchase of lightbulbs. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 established new lighting standards, forcing the lighting industry to make some major changes. A new product label and new way of comparing and selecting lightbulbs were among the changes debuted. 

Traditionally, consumers purchased lightbulbs based on how much energy they consume. This measurement is referred to as watts. New standards made the switch from this traditional way of thought to an updated process. Instead of consumers buying based on how much energy a lightbulb consumes, bulbs are sold based on the amount of light that you are getting from the bulb. This measurement is called lumens.  More lumens means it’s a brighter light, fewer lumens means the light is dimmer.

The brightness, or lumen levels, of the lights in your home may vary widely, so here’s is a good rule of thumb:

  • To replace a 100 watt (W) incandescent bulb, look for a bulb that gives you about 1600 lumens. If you want something dimmer, go for less lumens; if you prefer brighter light, look for more lumens.
  • Replace a 75W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 1100 lumens.
  • Replace a 60W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 800 lumens.
  • Replace a 40W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 450 lumens.

If you still aren’t sure, rely on the packaging to provide the information you need. The Federal Trade Commission requires the Lighting Facts label to be included on every box of lightbulbs. The label clearly provides the lumens – or brightness – of the bulb, estimated operating cost for the year and the color of the light.   Much like a nutrition label on food products, this label helps consumers understand what they are really purchasing and select the product that is right for them. 

For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s website.