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How To Determine How Many LED Lumens You’ll Need To Properly Light Your Space

How To Determine How Many LED Lumens You’ll Need To Properly Light Your Space

What is enough light? The question is difficult enough but when faced with having to calculate how much LED lighting you need to create a well-lit space, it can become a bit more complicated.

Whether it’s architectural LED lighting for commercial applications or residential applications, here’s how to determine how many LED Lumens you’ll need to properly light your space.

© Alcon Lighting
© Alcon Lighting

Key Terms


A measurement of light emitted by a source, whether it’s LED, Fluorescent, Halogen, or Incandescent. This is also known as “brightness” or “light output.” Your reference point: A standard 100-watt incandescent light bulb produces about 1,500 – 1,700 lumens.


Not a measure of brightness; instead, it’s a measure of how much electricity (or energy) a bulb consumes to reach its claimed brightness. Each type of light source, LED, Fluorescent, Halogen, or Incandescent has a different lumen-per-watt ratio. Below we’re going to use lumens as a measurement to make sure we have enough light for a space.

Wattage Equivalence

Since we’ve conflated watts and lumens, it’s easier to talk about bulbs in terms of watts. So if a 100-watt incandescent produces 1,500 lumens, and a 10-watt LED does the same, the 10-Watt LED may advertise “100-watt equivalent” on its label.

Here’s a wattage equivalence chart but note that lumen-per-watt ratios can range mildly, even from LED to LED products, ranging across architectural lighting applications such as linear led suspension lighting, trimless led recessed lighting, or linear recessed lighting.

© Alcon Lighting
© Alcon Lighting


The number of lumens a bulb produces for each watt it consumes. The higher the number, the more efficient the bulb. For example, lighting products that have earned the ENERGY STAR label are high efficacy, meaning they deliver the same features while using less energy.

© Alcon Lighting
© Alcon Lighting

The Breakdown— How Much Light is Enough Light?

Determine Room Square Footage

Multiply the Length times the Width of the Room to get the Room Square Footage. For example, if the room is 10 feet wide and 10 feet long, the Room Square Footage will be 100 square feet.

Determine the Foot Candles by Room Type or Room Purpose

A foot-candle is how bright a light is one-foot away from its source. Lighting requirements/needs vary depending on the type of room being lit. For example, a bathroom or kitchen will require more foot-candles than a living room or bedroom.

© Alcon Lighting
© Alcon Lighting

Determine the Needed Lumens

A lumen is a unit measurement of light. To determine the needed lumens, you will need to multiply your room square footage by your room foot-candle requirement. For example, a 100 square foot living room, which needs 10-20 foot-candles, will need 1,000-2,000 lumens. A 100 square foot dining room, which needs 30-40 foot-candles, will need 3,000-4,000 lumens.

Courtesy of Lesser Architecture
Courtesy of Lesser Architecture

A Quick Summary

For the average space of 250 square feet, you’ll need roughly 5,000 lumens as your primary light source (20 lumens x 250 square feet). In your dining room, you’ll want about 30 lumens per square foot on your dining table (you want to see your food, but not examine it), so if your table is 6 x 3 feet, that’s 540 lumens.

Keep in mind, however, that these numbers are for typical conditions. If you have especially dark colored walls and furniture or if you’re using fixtures with shades, you’ll need roughly an additional 10 lumens per square foot. We based our calculations on 8-foot ceilings. Finally, personal preference will play the largest part in your decision. If you like the room to be especially bright, you may want to add an additional 10 to 20% to our numbers. In fact, the best approach for most spaces is to aim high and install dimmers to bring the light level down to desired levels.

Courtesy of Lesser Architecture
Courtesy of Lesser Architecture

About the Author: 

David Hakimi is a lighting specialist and one of the co-founders of Alcon Lighting. A graduate of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), David works on the front lines of the energy-efficient lighting revolution, enabling architects, designers, and lighting engineers to transition from outmoded halogen and fluorescent lighting to what David calls “the ideal replacement for all lighting applications,” —LEDs. David takes particular pride in Alcon’s design, energy, and green building knowledge, tracing his and Alcon’s commitment to quality, innovation, accountability and value back to the lessons learned from his father, a Southern California lighting salesman and consultant for more than two decades.

This article was originally published on July 02, 2018.

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Cite: "How To Determine How Many LED Lumens You’ll Need To Properly Light Your Space" 02 Jul 2018. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/897277/how-to-determine-how-many-led-lumens-youll-need-to-properly-light-your-space> ISSN 0719-8884
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