Lux or Lumens?

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Bulb brightness is a serious consideration when thinking about lights. You want something that is fit for purpose and does the job you want it to do. Being either too dull or bright will affect the performance of that light for your needs. The last thing you want is to get kitted out with new lights and for them to be wrong. So, how do you know how bright a light will truly be in practice?

Lux or Lumens?

Bulb brightness is a serious consideration when thinking about lights. You want something that is fit for purpose and does the job you want it to do. Being either too dull or bright will affect the performance of that light for your needs. The last thing you want is to get kitted out with new lights and for them to be wrong. So, how do you know how bright a light will truly be in practice?

The Lux or the Lumen Lux and lumen are both terms you might find on the packaging for lights. Used to describe the performance or beam of light, both terms are relevant. That might sounds unhelpful –how do you know which one you really need? Well they both describe different aspects of the same light. The lumen is the volume of light emitted from that light source. If we’re talking about LED lights, we would mean that set of individual lamps. The lux is the intensity or brightness of the light that actually hits the surface. Surprisingly, they do not actually amount to the same thing.

The Science

Lumen has a scientific definition that is pretty complicated. The key thing is that a lumen is an amount of light and that it is a small unit. In fact, its origins come from the past. A lumen was the light produced by and coming from one standard candle. Continue to think of it in these terms. It is a single unit of light coming from a given light source. Lumen makes sense – the amount of light emitted from a light source. Lux is a little harder to get your head around. The lux is one lumen of light, spread evenly on an area of 1m x 1m. So, in broad terms, how that single lumen of light, lights something up. This is complex science, yet with a sensible application for us in the real world.

An Illuminating Example

Take a standard 55w or 60w halogen globe that is the typical fitting for car headlamps. These output around 1,500 lumens and most of this makes it way out of the headlamp onto the road. In most cases the high beam and low beam functions produce about the same amount of lumens. Yet most of us would describe the high beam as much brighter than the low. We would say it certainly has a longer beam than the low beam. They actually start with the same amount light, but the low beam spreads the light over a wider area. The high beam focuses the light into a narrower beam to give distance and intensity. While both have about the same lumen, the high beam will have a higher lux at any given distance.

In light terms, the lumen refers to the total amount of light, while the lux is more about the focus. Now you will know what the values mean on the next set of bulbs you buy. Use these values to ensure you get the light you want, where you need it most.

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