New FTC Lightbulb Labels Still Won't Explain What A Lumen Is

If all of the new lightbulbs — CFLs, LEDs and more — have left you wondering whether switching technologies is a bright idea, the government is here to help. Sort of. Starting next year, the Federal Trade Commission plans to mandate new labels for all lightbulbs, modeled after the nutrition labels on most packaged foods. There’s just one problem: If you don’t know what a lumen is, or how it relates to a watt, the labels may not shed much light on the subject.

Consumer Reports flipped the switch on the new label and found that it does generate more light than heat:

The front of lightbulb packaging must emphasize the brightness of bulbs, measured in lumens, instead of the current wattage information that’s now prominently featured. The goal is to help you choose the best and most efficient lighting for your particular needs.

The Lighting Facts label, says the FTC, will show the bulb’s brightness (lumens), light appearance (on a warm-to-cool scale), wattage, estimated life expectancy, and estimated annual energy cost, akin to the EnergyGuide label that adorns many appliances. …

The emphasis on lumens is key since there’s confusion among consumers about all the different lighting types they see in stores—incandescents, CFLs, LEDs, halogens. While wattage represents how much power a lightbulb uses, lumens indicates its brightness and is a more useful measurement when you’re choosing bulbs.

So, get ready to start learning your lumens, and forgetting everything you knew about how “bright” a 60-watt or 100-watt bulb is. By the time your first batch of new bulbs burns out (these things last like 10 years, right?), you’ll forget all about watts.

Lightbulbs to get a Lighting Facts label, says FTC [Consumer Reports]