Have you ever wondered how many LED lights, or LED lumens, you need to light a room? 

A lumen is a lumen. So, strictly speaking, 600 LED lumens provides the same amount of light as 600 incandescent lumens.

Though it’s true that a lumen is simply a unit of measurement, one can argue that, because LED lights provide a higher Color Rendering Index (CRI), one could use less lumens and see with the same clarity.

How much light is enough? The question itself may be challenging and, when faced with having to calculate how much LED lighting you need to create a well lit space, it can get even more complicated. Here’s how to determine how many lumens you need to properly light a space. 

Key Terms 

Lumens
Lumen output, also known as brightness or light output, is a measure of the total quantity of visible light emitted by a light source per unit of time, weighted according to the human eye’s sensitivity to wavelengths of light, the study of which is known as luminous efficiency function. The reference point: a standard 100-watt incandescent light bulb produces about 1,500 – 1,700 lumens.

Watts
Not a measure of brightness; instead, it’s a measure of how much electricity (or energy) a light 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.

Efficacy 
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 been designated with the ENERGY STAR label are deemed high efficacy, meaning they have been determined to deliver the same features while using less energy.

The Breakdown—How Much Light is Enough? 

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.   

Suggested Foot Candles Needed By Space 

Commercial Requirements
Room Foot Candles Needed
Offices: Average Reading and Writing 50-75
Offices: Hallways 10-20
Offices: Rooms with Computers 20-50
Auditorium / Assembly 15-30
Hospitals: General Areas 10-15
Labs / Treatments Rooms 75-100
Libraries 50-100
Schools 30-100
Residential Requirements
Room Foot Candles Needed
Living Room 10-20
Kitchen General 30-40
Kitchen Stove 70-80
Kitchen Sink 70-80
Dining Room 30-40
Bedroom 10-20
Hallway 5-10
Bathroom 70-80

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.11 See PDF and complete foot candle index

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 (to see, not examine, food), 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. 

Preferred LED Lighting Layout

 

LUMENS/WATT CALCULATOR

Measurement Unit



Illumination Intensity
Wall Color
Light Placement

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kenandsue.mcintyre@gmail.com'
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Sue

I saw some lights with 60 watt bulb capacity and want a well lit dining room. Would three pendant lights work or would 4 be better for a space with no outside light coming in?

turkeysneck@hotmail.com'
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Edward

I’m not sure if the manual calculation or the calculator is incorrect, but when I compare results, they differ. I checked and recheck so I don’t know which result to believe!

arnoldjami07@gmail.com'
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Jami

In a roughly 20×20 office space we have 6 2×2 flush led ceiling lights. They are 4,000 lumens. Is this too much?

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Jennifer

I am finding your answers to others thoughtful and beneficial so I decided to throw my questions out there. We were at a store today looking at lighting and I found myself getting quickly overwhelmed. We are building our house and are just beginning the wiring phase and no light… Read more »

drgassnermm@hotmail.com'
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Doug

Hi there,I have a 13 x18 kitchen with 1 window,light colored walls and 8′ ceilings
Want to use led lighting,os 5200 lumens good?

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JAMES F VAN DOVER

I have a shop that is 16 x 32 x 14 high I bought 8 2×2 4 tube led lights which are 5000 lumens each I believe 4000k. I plan on hanging them in 2 straight lines, in each line they will be @ 4 foot apart and @ 8… Read more »

john2beach@gmail.com'
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How much LED lights would I need for a 25 foot fla

How much LED light would I need for a 25 foot flagpole

amylsutton@gmail.com'
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Amy

Is 2300 lumens enough light to properly illuminate a 12 x 15 foyer with 16 foot ceiling?

mearyaeldabaa@hotmail.com'
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Mary

Wow! Thank you so so much I really needed to read this and know more. Also I have a question if you can help, so you know the deference between the led light and the grow light for plants? Can I use the normal led let ( with high Lumen)… Read more »

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John

Great.

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Scott

Perhaps I missed it, but if a measured kitchen space needs 4000 lumens and has 6 recessed ceiling lights, do you divide 4000 by 6 to get a per-fixture lumen level ? Or buy 6, 4000 lumen recessed (retrofit) fixtures (with dimmer?)? Thank you in advance.

EDHarden@juno.com'
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Elizabeth

Thank you for this helpful article. There is a diagram at the end entitled “Preferred LED Lighting Layout” that suggests LED lights should not be placed in corners. Does this apply to any type of LED lights or only to downlights?

Petersundstrom@outlook.com'
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Peter

Wow. Consise factual and easy to understand. Plus imbedded calculator.
Good job

tfbjr25@hotmail.com'
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Timothy Brady

This is great information. My wife and I are struggling right now trying to get the right lighting in a home we bought. We just recently had installed 4x LED can lights but we are unsure of the Lumens but are pretty certain it is not enough. Our estimation is… Read more »

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Kathi

I have a 3200 sq ft large party room (an almost square space) with 10-12 ft ceilings (slight vault). I’d like to do recessed downlights as the main source of light. The walls are a light color. If my fixtures each provide 1200 lumens, how many fixtures will I need?… Read more »