Are Higher Wattage Lights Brighter?

- Mar 01, 2021-

Are Higher Wattage Lights Brighter?

These days, businesses and consumers have numerous options, when it comes to purchasing energy efficient lights. In addition to decreased power consumption, buyers usually also want the brightest available light.

Unfortunately, the practice of using wattage levels to gauge the brightness of a lighting product may no longer be effective. This article aims to answer the question: Are higher wattage lights really brighter?

Watts = Energy Consumption

The term wattage or watts refers to energy needed to create a specific amount of light or brightness level (defined by lumen ratings of the luminary). Taking this definition into consideration, low wattage bulbs consume less energy, compared to high wattage bulbs, which are associated with high energy consumption.

In application, it is possible for different types of lights to offer the same brightness level, while consuming different amounts of power to achieve the brightness level:

80W Incandescent = 62W Halogen ES = 21W CFL ES

The reason for the confusion can be traced back to the era of incandescent lighting. Previously, incandescent lights were top choice, during a time when CFLs and LEDs were unavailable and non-existent. People only had to adhere to one lighting standard (the incandescent), making it possible to determine the brightness level of a light bulb by comparing wattages.

As new lighting technologies, with energy efficient features, were introduced to the market, buyers must also evolve and look at other specifications to determine the brightness of a light.

Lumens and Color Temperature

The brightness of a light can be effectively measured using lumens, which is defined as the amount of light (brightness levels, not energy) a specific lighting product provides. A lumen is an international standard that can be applied to all types of lights sold commercially. In most cases, the lumen output rating of a fixture or bulb can be found on the label.

When purchasing lights based on brightness levels, it is important to factor in color temperature, which is measured using Kelvin. Low-color temperature lights appear yellowish-warm and slightly dim – a common feature of incandescent lights. High-color temperature variants appear bluish-white and sharp, which are typically associated with fluorescent and LED fixtures.

Buying Energy Efficient Lights (Equivalents)

In order to streamline the transition from outdated lighting technologies to LEDs, some lighting manufacturers include an equivalent on the label of the product. For instance, a 20-watt LED may have a ‘100-watt incandescent equivalent’ specification on the label. The phrase compares the lumens output of the two products, suggesting that (based on the example) the 20-watt LED offers the same brightness level as a 100-watt incandescent light, while consuming considerably less energy.

To summarize, higher wattage lights are not always brighter, since wattage is associated with energy consumption. It is possible for a low-wattage light, such as LEDs, to consume less energy, while outshining a high-wattage incandescent light. Ultimately, individuals should factor in lumen output to gauge brightness levels.