Five Things to Consider When Purchasing

Due to their wide and varied application, PAR light bulbs can consume a large portion of the energy used to light a home or business. Around a home or office you can find them in many places including: recessed can lights, track lighting, home security lighting, stage lighting and use as individual spotlights in art galleries and museums

These applications often use high wattage bulbs running for many hours a day which makes them prime candidates for replacement with energy efficient PAR LED bulbs. Depending on the application, a PAR LED bulb will typically last five to ten times as long as a halogen or incandescent PAR bulb while reducing energy consumption by seventy percent or more. PAR LED bulbs can vary widely in quality, color temperature, beam angle and a number of other factors. Here are five things to consider before you make your purchase:

1. Size of the PAR bulb: You can easily determine what size PAR bulb you’re trying to replace even if you’ve thrown away the packaging and/or your bulb is not clearly marked. The two numbers immediately following the PAR designation are a measurement of the bulbs diameter in eighths of an inch. For example, a PAR38 bulb will have a diameter of 4.75 inches (38/8 = 4.75). Here are some common PAR bulbs and their diameters:

PAR16 LED Bulb: 2″
PAR20 LED Bulb: 2.5″
PAR30 LED Bulb: 3.75″
PAR38 LED Bulb: 4.75″

2. Beam angle: Do you know the beam angle of the bulb you are replacing? The beam angle of a bulb is measured as the angle between the two directions opposed to each other where the luminous intensity is 50% of the maximum luminous intensity. In simpler terms, the beam angle gives one a sense of how wide the beam spreads out when emitted from the bulb and can range from a narrow spotlight to a very wide floodlight. A PAR LED spotlight will typically have a beam angle of twenty degrees or less while a PAR LED floodlight can range from the low twenty degree range all the way to forty-five degrees or more. It’s almost a guarantee that you’ll be dissatisfied with your purchase if, for example, you mistakenly buy a PAR LED spotlight when replacing a halogen PAR floodlight. Note: it can be difficult to find the beam angle on the bulb or packaging, but a quick search for the bulb model number on the manufacturer’s website will usually lead to this information.

3. Wattage: The good news is that most LED PAR light bulbs will consume much less power than the incandescent or halogen bulb you are replacing. In some cases the energy savings can be up to 80% or more! However, we have been conditioned through the long use of incandescent and halogen bulbs to associate a brightness (light output) with a particular wattage, but in the world of LED lighting that doesn’t tell the whole story. Wattage is really a measure of the amount of power a bulb requires and not a measure of actual light output. Therefore, it’s best to look at the wattage difference between the bulb you’re replacing and the new LED bulb you’re purchasing solely to determine the energy savings you can expect to receive. You will still find that most LED bulbs come with a reference as to what wattage of standard bulb they are capable of replacing, but be aware that many manufacturers and unscrupulous retailers overstate these claims by a wide margin. This leads us to take a closer look at the light output of a PAR bulb as measured in lumens.

4. Lumens: Lumens are a true measure of light output and will help a potential buyer of PAR LED light bulbs to more accurately calculate which particular bulb they’ll need to buy in order to get an equivalent amount of light. The scientific explanation of how lumens are measured is beyond the scope of this article, but the amount of light being output by a bulb, as well as the amount of light actually hitting the surface you are trying to light (measured as lux) are important considerations when purchasing a PAR LED bulb. Again, this information can be difficult to find on packaging but is typically available on manufacturer’s websites. If spending time trying to track down comparative lumen output data doesn’t sound like a lot fun you’ll need to make sure and purchase your LED bulbs through a reputable source that does in-house testing and provides comparison numbers you can trust.


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