The days of referring to a particular brightness by wattage are running out. The Federal Trade Commission has proposed that labels for all light bulbs put brightness – measured in lumens – at the top, with watts below under "energy used". While lumens have been listed on light bulb packaging since 1994, it hasn't changed the way people talk about light bulbs
The new labels will also identify the bulb's estimated annual energy cost, its life, and how warm or cool the light is. A change in labeling has become necessary with new energy efficient options like compact fluorescent light bulbs and LED light bulbs. The FTC hopes to help people start picking light bulbs based on the brightness, rather than the wattage.
It won't be a simple transition; previously a person could buy a 60 watt light bulb and expect a certain brightness. Now instead of being used to levels of light denoted by 40, 60, or 100 watts, people will need to become accustomed to much different numbers, like 800. Brightness varies by manufacturer, with the range of 60 watt lumens being as low as 750 lumens or as high as 1049.
Eventually people will be used to the lumen ranges just as they are used to wattages. The more times a person sees 800-1000 lumens associated with brightness levels they've been using all along, the faster they'll be able to judge higher or lower lumen levels. As time goes on, wattages and lumen ratios will get smaller and smaller, so a standardized brightness measurement is important.
You may wonder why this didn't happen sooner; it's simple. Until recent energy efficient light bulbs, there was no change in technology or terminology for over a hundred years. There was no reason to change. Peter Soares, director of consumer channel marketing for Philips Lighting put it best, "What other industries can you find where the product developed a hundred years ago is still the number one seller?"