EGEE 102
Energy Conservation for Environmental Protection

How Lighting is Measured


When most people buy a light bulb, they look for watts (W). Recall that watt is a unit of power, (i.e., the rate at which energy is consumed from the electricity supplier). It does not say anything about the light.

The most common measure of light output (or luminous flux) is the lumen. All lamps are rated in lumens, as shown in the figure below, and every bulb has 3 parameters listed on the package:

  • Lamp lumen output or light output
  • Power consumption in watts
  • Life of the bulb in hours
Light bulb boxes showing lamp lumens, watts and life of the bulbs
Parameters listed on a light bulb.

Watch this movie below to find out more about lumens.

Enegy 101: Lumens


A footcandle (fc) is the Standard unit of measure for illumination on a surface. It is a lumen of light distributed over a 1-square-foot (0.09-square-meter) area.

Diagram of a 1 candle source emitting one footcandle on a flat surface. Described in text above.

The average footcandle level on a square surface is equal to the amount of lumens striking the surface, divided by the area of the surface.

FC = Lumens of Light / Area in Square Feet


A 40 watt bulb produces about 505 lumens and has a life of about 1,000 hours. When this bulb is used to light a room of 10 x 10 feet, these 505 lumens are distributed over 100 square feet of floor area. What is the illumination?

Image of a 40 W bulb (505 lumnens) sitting in a 10ft by 10 ft room.
505 lumens of light/100 ft2= 5.05 lumens per ft2 or 5.05 fc
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1 Foot candle = 1 Lumen / f t 2  = 1 Lux ( metric )

Now watch a 1:15 movie that shows how a light meter is used to measure lumens per ft2. Remember, 1 lumen/f t 2  = 1 footcandle .

How is Light Measured?

Click here for transcript of Light measurement video.

Using a Light Meter

I put this 60 watt bulb here. And this 60 watt bulb is producing 865 lumens of light. When I hold this bulb very close to this surface area here, where the light is being measured, all this 800 is falling on a small area. Obviously, if we try to measure the lumens that are falling on this small area, we'll see that the number of lumens per square foot is very, very high. As you can see roughly there, we have about 1200 lumens/square foot -- very highly concentrated. As I move this bulb away, the value goes down because the same number of lumens are being distributed over a larger area, as you can see here. Now, it is about 100 lumens. And if I go further up, it’s going to reduce.