Luminous efficacy is a property of light sources, which indicates what portion of the emitted electromagnetic radiation is usable for human vision. It is the ratio of emitted luminous flux to radiant flux. Luminous efficacy is related to the overall efficiency of a light source for illumination, but the overall lighting efficiency also depends on how much of the input energy is converted into electromagnetic waves (whether visible or not).

The luminous efficacy describes the efficacy of a lamp. It is expressed as the ratio of the emitted luminous flux in lumen and the power used in watts. The theoretically attainable maximum value assuming complete conversion of energy at 555 nm would be 683 lm/W. The luminous efficacies that can actually be attained vary depending on the lamp,
Luminous efficacy measures the fraction of electromagnetic power which is useful for lighting. It is obtained by dividing the luminous flux by the radiant flux. Light with wavelengths outside the visible spectrum does not contribute to the efficacy at all, because the luminous flux of such light is zero. Wavelengths near the peak of the eye’s response contribute more strongly than those near the edges.

In SI, luminous efficacy has units of lumens per watt (lm/W). Photopic luminous efficacy has a maximum possible value of 683 lm/W, for the case of monochromatic light at a wavelength of 555 nm (green). Scotopic luminous efficacy reaches a maximum of 1700 lm/W for narrowband light of wavelength 507 nm.

In some other systems of units, luminous flux has the same units as radiant flux. The luminous efficacy is then dimensionless. In this case, it is often instead called the luminous efficiency or luminous coefficient and may be expressed as a percentage. For example, it is common to express the luminous efficiency in units where the maximum possible efficacy, 683 lm/W, corresponds to an efficiency of 100%. The distinction between efficacy and efficiency is not always carefully maintained in published sources, so it is not uncommon to see “efficiencies” expressed in lumens per watt, or “efficacies” expressed as a percentage.

Lighting efficiency
Artificial light sources are usually evaluated in terms luminous efficacy of a source, also sometimes called overall luminous efficacy. This is the ratio between the total luminous flux emitted by a device and the total amount of input power (electrical, etc.) it consumes. It is also sometimes referred to as the wall-plug luminous efficacy or simply wall-plug efficacy. The overall luminous efficacy is a measure of the efficiency of the device with the output adjusted to account for the spectral response curve (the “luminosity function”). When expressed in dimensionless form (for example, as a fraction of the maximum possible luminous efficacy), this value may be called overall luminous efficiency, wall-plug luminous efficiency, or simply the lighting efficiency.

The main difference between the luminous efficacy of radiation and the luminous efficacy of a source is that the latter accounts for input energy that is lost as heat or otherwise exits the source as something other than electromagnetic radiation. Luminous efficacy of radiation is a property of the radiation emitted by a source. Luminous efficacy of a source is a property of the source as a whole.

The following table lists luminous efficacy of a source and efficiency for various light sources:



luminous efficacy (lm/W)

luminous efficiency

Combustion candle 0.3 0.04%
gas mantle 1–2 0.15–0.3%
Incandescent 100–200 W tungsten incandescent (220 V) 13.8–15.2 2.0–2.2%
100–200–500 W tungsten glass halogen (220 V) 16.7–17.6–19.8 2.4–2.6–2.9%
5–40–100 W tungsten incandescent (120 V) 5–12.6–17.5 0.7–1.8–2.6%
2.6 W tungsten glass halogen (5.2 V) 19.2 2.8%
tungsten quartz halogen (12–24 V) 24 3.5%
photographic and projection lamps 35 5.1%
Light-emitting diode white LED (raw, without power supply) 4.5–150 0.66–22.0%
4.1 W LED screw base lamp (120 V) 58.5–82.9 8.6–12.1%
6.9 W LED screw base lamp (120 V) 55.1–81.9 8.1–12.0%
7 W LED PAR20 (120 V) 28.6 4.2%
8.7 W LED screw base lamp (120 V) 69.0–93.1 10.1–13.6%
Arc lamp xenon arc lamp 30–50 4.4–7.3%
mercury-xenon arc lamp 50–55 7.3–8.0%
Fluorescent T12 tube with magnetic ballast 60 9%
9–32 W compact fluorescent 46–75 8–11.45%
T8 tube with electronic ballast 80–100 12–15%
T5 tube 70–104.2 10–15.63%
Gas discharge 1400 W sulfur lamp 100 15%
metal halide lamp 65–115 9.5–17%
high pressure sodium lamp 85–150 12–22%
low pressure sodium lamp 100–200 15–29%
Ideal sources Truncated 5800 K blackbody 251 37%
Green light at 555 nm (maximum possible LER) 683.002 100%
SI photometry units



SI unit



Luminous energy


lumen second


units are sometimes called talbots

Luminous flux


lumen (= cd·sr)


also called luminous power

Luminous intensity


candela (= lm/sr)


an SI base unit



candela per square metre


units are sometimes called “nits”



lux (= lm/m2)


Used for light incident on a surface

Luminous emittance


lux (= lm/m2)


Used for light emitted from a surface

Luminous efficacy

lumen per watt


ratio of luminous flux to radiant flux

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