The lumen (symbol: lm) is the SI derived unit of luminous flux, a measure of the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source. Luminous flux differs from power (radiant flux) in that radiant flux includes all electromagnetic waves emitted, while luminous flux is weighted according to a model of the human eye's sensitivity to various wavelengths. Lumens are related to lux in that one lux is one lumen per square meter.
The lumen is defined in relation to the candela as
1 lm = 1 cd⋅sr.
A full sphere has a solid angle of 4π steradians, so a light source that uniformly radiates one candela in all directions has a total luminous flux of 1 cd × 4π sr = 4π cd⋅sr ≈ 12.57 lumens.
If a light source emits one candela of luminous intensity uniformly across a solid angle of one steradian, the total luminous flux emitted into that angle is one lumen (1 cd·1 sr = 1 lm). Alternatively, an isotropic one-candela light-source emits a total luminous flux of exactly 4π lumens. If the source were partially covered by an ideal absorbing hemisphere, that system would radiate half as much luminous flux—only 2π lumens. The luminous intensity would still be one candela in those directions that are not obscured.
The lumen can be thought of casually as a measure of the total "amount" of visible light in some defined beam or angle, or emitted from some source. The number of candelas or lumens from a source also depends on its spectrum, via the nominal response of the human eye as represented in the luminosity function.
The difference between the units lumen and lux is that the lux takes into account the area over which the luminous flux is spread. A flux of 1000 lumens, concentrated into an area of one square metre, lights up that square metre with an illuminance of 1000 lux. The same 1000 lumens, spread out over ten square metres, produces a dimmer illuminance of only 100 lux. Mathematically, 1 lx = 1 lm/m2.
A source radiating a power of one watt of light in the color for which the eye is most efficient (a wavelength of 555 nm, in the green region of the optical spectrum) has luminous flux of 683 lumens. So a lumen represents at least 1/683 watts of visible light power, depending on the spectral distribution.
Lamps used for lighting are commonly labeled with their light output in lumens; in many jurisdictions this is required by law.
A 23 W compact fluorescent lamp emits about 1,500–1,600 lm. Many compact fluorescent lamps and other alternative light sources are labeled as being equivalent to an incandescent bulb with a specific wattage. Below is a table that shows typical luminous flux for common incandescent bulbs and their equivalents.
Electrical power equivalents for differing lamps
|Minimum light output (lumens)||Electrical power consumption (watts)|
On September 1, 2010, European Union legislation came into force mandating that lighting equipment must be labelled primarily in terms of luminous flux (lm), instead of electric power (W). This change is a result of the EU's Eco-design Directive for Energy-using Products (EuP). For example, according to the European Union standard, an energy-efficient bulb that claims to be the equivalent of a 60 W tungsten bulb must have a minimum light output of 700–750 lm.
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