Understanding the importance of lumens for lighting

When shopping for lights for a vehicle, you may encounter several terms, including the all-important one known as lumens. In fact, the term “lumens” may be the single most important term to help you make a more informed decision when purchasing lights. 

What are lumens?

Lumens are a unit of measurement for light. A lumen is the light measurement equivalent of an inch for measuring lengths, a pound for measuring weight and a quart for measuring liquid. Just like it’s easy to know a 10-pound bag of apples will have more than a 5-pound bag, it’s simple how to figure out which bulb will produce more light by comparing lumens. 

Many people look at watts when shopping for lights, but watts are not really the most relevant measurement if you want to know how bright a light will be. Watts are a measurement of how much energy the light will use, but not how much light the bulb will produce. With different lighting technologies, bulbs with similar watts ratings can produce significantly different lumens output. To know which bulb will produce brighter light, lumens are more accurate.

Terminology about lumens 

When comparison shopping for vehicle lights, it’s good to know terminology related to lumens. You might hear the terms “raw lumens” and “effective lumens.” Here’s the difference between the two types. Raw lumens measure the light output at initial startup, while effective lumens measure the brightness after 30 minutes of operation. When comparing lights based on lumens, ask the seller which method is being used for a truer apples-to-apples comparison. 

Lumens related to lighting technology

It was mentioned earlier than different lighting technologies can produce different lumens output with similar wattage. Newer light technologies like HID and LED produce more lumens based on similar wattage ratings than older technology like halogen, However, LED lights will reach full brightness instantly, while HID lights require a warm-up period. Based on these facts, the overall best choice for vehicle lighting is LED.


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