How Bright are LED Bulbs?

Back in the day, the wattage of the bulb was an easy measure of its brightness — the higher the wattage, the brighter the bulb. This is still a perfect tool when you're referring to incandescent bulbs, but unfortunately this doesn't carry over to the brightness of LED bulbs. Below we have provided the definition* and some explanation to help understand our crazy world of decorative LED lighting.

What is a Watt (W)?

Definition: The watt is the power which in one second gives rise to energy of 1 joule.*

We could go much deeper and explain energy usage, but for the purposes of this article and the world of LED string lights — watts measure energy, not light output! With the more widely used, energy-efficient LED bulbs, we can no longer rely on a bulb's wattage to give us an indication of brightness. So, an LED bulb that is 2W compared to another LED bulb that is only 1W, does not mean the latter bulb is not as bright ... it just means it uses less energy. Knowing the lumens (or a listing of an incandescent equivalent) is the best way to know the brightness of the bulb.

What are Lumens (lm)?

Definition: The new lumen is the luminous flux emitted in unit solid angle (steradian) by a uniform point source having a luminous intensity of 1 new candle.*

In short, lumens equals brightness. It measures the amount of visible light to the human eye and is a much more accurate comparison of the brightness of a bulb. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light will be. Now that the industry has so many LED bulb options, more wattage does not actually mean more light.

Manufacturers are pretty good for listing lumens for standard household bulbs, however in our world of outdoor string lighting, we don't always get the lumen ratings. When available, we list the lumens under detailed description of String Lights (light sets) and Bulbs Only > LED Bulbs products.

When the lumens rating is not available, our suppliers will list their incandescent equivalent (e.g., "equivalent to an 11W incandescent bulb"). In these scenarios, below is a rough guideline we use since most people remember the brightness of incandescent bulbs. This will help you determine if your space will be bright enough for your liking.

Number of bulbs x Wattage of Incandescent Equivalent = Total Wattage (Incandescent Brightness)

To give you an example, if you were purchasing 100 feet of our Commercial Grade String Lights & LED S14 Professional Bulbs (2700K bulb option). There are 50 bulbs in the set, and the bulb's brightness is equivalent to an 11W incandescent.  

50 bulbs x 11 watts = 550 total watts of incandescent equivalents
(equaling about seven, 75-watt bulbs)

With this example, imagine your space being lit by a little more than seven, 75-watt bulbs (550 ÷ 75 = 7.33). It's a visual rule of thumb, and we have found many people can more easily understand and relate this number to their space.

What is Color Temperature?

While color temperature does play a factor in the visual brightness of LED bulbs, it really is a reference to the coloring that it emits. For more details, see our LED Bulb Color Temperature Guide.


The takeaway of all this is ... don't confuse wattage and brightness when buying LED bulbs. Feel free to contact us for any additional help deciding the right brightness for your space. Reach us Monday-Friday 10 am-3pm at 713-861-3400 or email us at


*Official definitions by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures.