How do you ascertain the illumination level needed for various applications to achieve optimal light and safety as well as visual comfort? We often buy our light bulbs according to their watt consumption without knowing the amount of light they project. How do we measure light? In the lighting industry, we often speak of foot-candles, lumens, and lux. The following are basic references that will help you measure light.



Here is a simple illustration that will help you understand the foot-candle measurement. Imagine setting a candle at a distance of 0.30 meters (1 foot) from a flat wall on which we’ve drawn a square shape measuring 0.09 square meters (1 square foot). One lumen per square foot will illuminate this surface.

Foot-candle is the most widespread lighting measurement in the industry. Why do we still use the word “candle” to measure light in this day and age? The explanation for this choice dates back to the origins of the candle itself. When people began to measure the intensity of light, candles were the most common light source available.

At that time, the candle-making industry provided a consistent, steady, clean, and efficient way to measure light. Thus, we use this well-known expression, even to this day.

Lumen and Lux

The lumen is a significant entity: it measures the total amount of visible light emitted by a given source. All other measurements are based on the lumen.

The lumen measurement originated from the basic concept of foot-candles. It might be illustrated, more or less, by the image shown here. A more scientific definition exists today, but this drawing helps visualize the lumen.

Picture a candle set in the middle of a sphere measuring 0.60 meters (2 feet) in diameter. If we cut a hole that measures 0.09 square meters (1 square foot) in the centre of this sphere, the light that shines through is what we define as a lumen.


A foot-candle equals one lumen per square foot. This is a British measurement. Using the metric system, a lumen is measured by a square meter or a lux. Thus a foot-candle is equivalent to approximately 10 lux or 10.57 lux.

A higher number of lumens are indicative of a brighter, more intense light, whereas a lower number of lumens represent dimmer, more subdued lighting.

How to Measure a Lumen or a Lux

In reality, lumens are quite difficult to measure: laboratory tests are usually required. Consequently, if you want to know the number of lumens projected by your lamp or fixture with integrated bulb, you may want to refer to the product packaging or consult the luminaire catalogue.

Transition from watts to lumens

It does make any sense to evaluate the amount of light according to the watt consumption of the lamp. When you want to replace a light bulb, follow this simple rule of thumb to convert watts to lumens, and vice versa.

The difference between lumens and watts

How many Lumens to replace my bulb

How Much Lighting Do You Need?

Ordinarily, we establish the optimal lighting requirements based on the need for appropriate foot-candles. How can you determine the best amount of lighting for your particular application? The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES) has set a number of guidelines that you may wish to consult.

The following is an infographic that sets out a number of guidelines to determine the amount of lumens you need to light the various rooms of your house:

House lighting in lumen

Do not hesitate to contact one of our lighting experts. This evaluation service on industrial or commercial application is free of charge.

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  1. Can any one tell me if a 260 LED parking lot light at 27,800 lumens and 5000 kelvins will supperceded a 400 Watt Metal Halide exterior parking lot light please. The foot candle is ranging between 5 and 11.9 in most areas.

  2. This is highly acceptable and useable information for me, but still, I have a query regarding different street light illumination level. If I would get that information about the streets as per the context of India, then it would be grateful for me.

  3. Thank you for explaining the different ways that you can measure light. I can imagine that having the equipment to do that for you would be helpful. I am really interested in learning more about measuring light.

  4. Hello,
    I would like to know what should be the amount of light needed for 280 square feet for a mini hair salon.

    Thank you

  5. love this and needed night lighting under our counters, saw here another idea that you put tube lighting under counters near baseboards, so I used a string of lights under my island counter for night lights, and it’s great, so thanks for the idea and all the ideas here are very helpful. 😀

  6. chandraprabha says:

    I bought an 18WLED milky bulb online with which I was disappointed as its brightness is not as expected. I want to measure it’s brightness at home. Is there any typical method apart from the lumens and Watts printed on the carton?

  7. That is very helpful data, though I am not sure how you derive the numbers for kitchen and living room. How ist ist, that you need around 5 times more lumen compared to a living room? A living room usually is much bigger?

    Would be happy for your answer.

    • Gaëlle Boulais-Dupas says:

      Is it because your kitchen is a working area: you need to make sure that you have enough light to cut the vegetable properly without injuring yourself. As the living room need more ambiance than clear lighting.
      These are more recommendations than norms: you are the one living in the house, so you are the selecting the level of that you need!

  8. This information about measuring light is something different but i was searching for this for so long because i love to search unique things thanks for sharing this stuff

  9. Raymond El Jamal says:

    Thank you for this
    I have been doing lighting business since the eighties & was ignorant of all of this .Thanks again for illuminating my knowledge

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