The light-emitting diode, or LED, has been in existence for a while — your digital clock and flashlight have been using it for years, but only recently have LEDs been considered as the primary source for household lighting. Incandescent light bulbs — those inefficient, energy-sapping bulbs that have been the standard for years — are on their way out and quickly being replaced with energy-saving alternatives like LED lights. To make the lighting switch a little easier to understand, here are five factors to consider when choosing LED reflectors.
LEDs offer somewhat of a spotlight compared to incandescent bulbs and compact florescent light bulbs (CFL). LED lighting is more directional, emitting light in only one direction. This directional lighting, referred to as “beam types” or “beam angles,” is described in degrees. Simply put, this tells you the how much area the light will cover (e.g. 360 degree beam is a full beam type. Some lights offer narrow beams, such as 15-30 degree beams or even less).
PAR and BR: Angles and Size
There are two types of LED light bulbs: Parabolic Aluminized Reflector (PAR) and Bulged Reflector (BR).
BR light bulbs have “wide flood” beam angles, meaning they light an area at an angle higher than 45 degrees.
PAR light bulbs range in angles from 5 to over 45, specifically:
- Narrow spot, 5-15 degrees
- Spot, 16-22 degrees
- Narrow flood, 23-32 degrees
- Flood, 33-45 degrees
- Wide flood , over 45 degrees
The numbers after BR and PAR (like 30) represent 1/8th of an inch, which is the diameter of the bulb. To find the diameter, just divide the number by 8. For example, the size of a PAR 30 bulb is 30/8, or 3.75 inches in diameter.
Sometimes you want a specific type of white color lighting a room. Luckily, LED bulbs offer the same color temperature as incandescent light bulbs but do so without using as much energy. They come in:
- 2700K – 3000K (warm white)
- 4100K – 5000K (cool white)
- 6500K+ (daylight)
The brightness level of LED reflectors is measured in lumens, not wattage. Watts measure how much energy the bulb uses, while lumens measures the brightness of the bulb. What makes LED lighting so attractive is that it uses much less power to deliver the same amount of light as an incandescent. The conversion from incandescent wattage to LED lumen rating for everyday bulbs include:
- 40 watt = 380 – 460 lumens
- 60 watt = 750 – 850 lumens
- 75 watt = 1100 – 1300 lumens
- 100 watt = 1700 – 1800 lumens
The base of LED lights and incandescent lights sometimes are not the same. Make sure that you switch out bulbs of the same base before purchasing LED lights.
It may seem like a lot of information, but it’s best to understand what you’re getting with LED lighting before making a purchase. All-in-all, LEDs last longer than incandescent lights, save a lot more energy, and are a smart long-term investment in conservation.