Brightness of Edison Bulbs vs Other Light Bulbs

Brightness of Edison Bulbs as a Consideration

When choosing the right Edison Bulb for your project, there are several considerations to make. Aesthetic factors include the bulb shape and the filament type. Technically, you need the right base type to fit the fixture you have, or you can use a socket adapter to use a different sized base then your fixture. What people tend to overlook or make assumptions about is the brightness of Edison bulbs. Many folks are disappointed when they turn on their first Edison bulb.

The brightness of Edison bulbs isn’t as much as their traditional incandescent equivalents. This is actually desirable in one aspect. If a 60 watt Edison bulb provided the same amount of light as a typical incandescent, the filament would be too bright to look at and appreciate. But you still need enough light for the lamp to be useful, unless you’re using it strictly for decorative purposes.

Measuring Bulb Brightness

The amount of light, or brightness, a light bulb provides is measured in lumens. Don’t use wattage as a guide. Wattage is a measurement of how much power is consumed by the bulb. Lumens tells you how much light is created.

The lumen output of a light bulb depends on two factors: the amount of energy the bulb uses (watts) and how effective the filament is at converting that energy from electrical to light energy (efficiency).

How much light a bulb generates = How much power it uses (in watts) times how effectively the bulb converts electrical energy to light (efficiency).

While wattage is clearly labeled on light bulbs, their efficiency is not. Fortunately, often times the lumen rating is on the package or is available from the manufacturer’s website.

Different light bulb technologies have different efficiencies. If we were to put the typical light bulb technologies on a scale with incandescent as the least efficient technology, CFL and fluorescent would be the next most efficient, then halogen, and finally LED as the most efficient. As the efficiency increases, so does the cost which is why we don’t all use the most efficient lights in every fixture.

Light Bulb Brightness Example

Unfortunately it’s not as simple as creating an equivalency chart which would tell us “If I’m replacing a 40W incandescent, I need an xx watt Edison bulb”. Efficiencies, and therefore brightness of Edison bulbs vary by manufacturer even in the same type of bulb. Edison bulbs further complicate this by having different filament designs. More complex designs use more filament, therefore generate more light than simple designs.

To see the impact of filament design, let’s compare 2 bulbs from the same manufacturer with the same wattage. Take this 25 watt bulb from Bulbrite:

This bulb produces 50 lumens due to it’s complex filament design.

Here’s another 25 watt bulb
from the same manufacturer:

brightness of Edison bulbs

This bulb only produces 35 lumens.

The more complex filament is providing almost 1.5 times as much light at the same wattage.

Planning for Brightness of Edison Bulbs

If you’re replacing or upgrading an existing fixture to use Edison bulbs, take note of the light bulb currently in that fixture, a 60W incandescent, for example. Then determine how many lumens are provided and find an equivalent Edison bulb. You can determine how many lumens a bulb generates by looking it up on the manufacturer’s website.

You may decide it’s acceptable to have a little less light from that fixture, or you find you need more than one Edison bulb to provide the light you need.

I urge you to take the time to research the lumen output of the bulbs you’re buying and make sure you are getting what you want. As a rule of thumb, Edison bulbs will provide about one-third of the light of a typical incandescent bulb of the same wattage. But this is a rule of thumb only, so if you want to get exactly the impact you are looking for, take the time to do the research. There are links to various bulb manufacturer sites on our Resources page. The manufacturer should list the lumen output so you can compare the brightness of Edison bulbs to those which you are replacing.

Compare Brightness of Edison Bulbs Easily with Bulb-O-Matic

We have researched manufacturer sites and retail sites to collect the lumen output aka brightness of Edison bulbs. We’ve contacted manufacturer’s to ask when the information is missing. We have compiled all of this data at Bulb-O-Matic. Bulb-O-Matic will help you compare the brightness of Edison bulbs, as well as other factors.


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