PAR and BR are popular flood light options. These lamps are similar in many ways–they’re reflector lamps that emit focused and directional light suitable for outdoor lighting.

Due to their many similarities, choosing between PAR and BR light bulbs can be challenging.

When shopping for a flood light, it should meet your needs. For instance, you need a lamp with a wider beam angle to light a broad area with just one bulb.

In the rest of this article, I’ll compare PAR vs. BR lamps. I’ll go through each bulb’s features and applications to help you make the right decision for your needs.

Let’s get started!

What Are PAR Lamps?

PAR lamps are flood lights that emit directional light suitable for spotlighting. These lamps have narrower beam angles and smaller diameters, making it possible to spread light at smaller angles.

Usually, PAR lamps have 15⁰, 25⁰, 40⁰, and 45⁰ beam angles.

“PAR” is an acronym for Parabolic Aluminized Reflector. It’s the reflector material in these lamps that gives them directional light.

The Working of PAR Lamps

me holding up a white par38 bulb in my kitchen with a colorful abstract painting in the background
PAR lamps feature a parabolic aluminized reflector to create bright floodlighting. You can see in this PAR38 I bought that it’s designed to send as much light out in one direction.

The idea behind PAR lamps is simple–these lamps have a parabolic aluminized reflector made from a highly reflective material.

The shape of the reflector’s parabola directs light outward in a focused beam, like that of a spotlight.

Here are the main components of PAR flood lights:

Light source: Incandescent and halogen PAR lamps use a tungsten filament as the light source. LED PAR light bulbs rely on semiconductor light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as the light source.

A parabolic reflector: It’s mainly made from brushed aluminum surfaces and is responsible for the beam’s spread.

A lens: There’s a lens between the front part of PAR lamps and the light source. The lens is responsible for the beam angle and light intensity. It creates a light reflection that, in turn, enlarges the beam while maintaining the focus.

Types of PAR Light Bulbs

You can choose from different PAR lamps based on their diameter sizes in eighths of an inch. The number after “PAR” signifies the lamp’s diameter.

The main types of PAR lamps are PAR20, PAR30, and PAR38. The critical difference between these lamps is their diameter size.

While a PAR20 bulb has a diameter of 2.5 inches (20/8), a PAR38 bulb has a larger diameter of 4.75 inches (38/8).

Considering the above, PAR lamps are suitable for outdoor lighting in residential and commercial areas.

Replace these old PAR38 bulbs with new LED ones. We made a list of the best ones you can buy today. Click here to check that one out.

They’re also great options for stage and studio lights because they can produce focused beams with different angles.

The table below compares the main PAR lamps regarding wattage, beam angle, and lumen output.

Beam Angle40°40°40°
Diameter2.5 inches (6.35cm)3.75 inches (9.53cm)4.75 inches (12.07cm)
Wattage (LED)71113
Wattage Equivalency5075100

Table 1: Main PAR lamps comparison

A point worth noting is that you’ll come across three categories of PAR flood lights.

Incandescents: These PAR lamps generate light by heating a tungsten filament. Due to the heating process, the lamps aren’t energy efficient since they emit 90 percent of their energy as heat instead of light.

Halogens: These lamps generate light through the same principle as incandescent PAR bulbs but with improved efficiency. They have halogen gas which redeposits back the particles burning off the tungsten filament to facilitate reuse.

LEDs: LED PAR bulbs are the most energy-efficient choice in this category. Instead of heating a tungsten filament, LED PAR bulbs generate heat through semiconductor chips. As a result, they use approximately 90 percent less energy than incandescent lamps. You can confirm this from the table above, where LED PAR lamps use lower wattages.

Check out this article for four easy ways to tell if your light bulbs are energy efficient.

What Are BR Lamps?

BR lamps are a type of flood light with wider beam angles and larger diameters. Usually, these bulbs have beam angles between 45 and 120 degrees. Therefore, they are suitable for illuminating more expansive areas.

The acronym “BR” stands for Bulged Reflector. These lamps use a reflector material that gives them an even wider beam angle than their PAR counterparts.

The Working of BR Lamps

a man installing a BR30 light bulb in a ceiling light fixture
BR lamps feature a bulged reflector, allowing them to emit more light.

While BR lamps work the same way as PAR lamps, the former uses a bulged reflector to increase the amount of light they emit.

Therefore, BR lamps diffuse light in multiple directions instead of a fixed beam angle.

This makes them suitable for high-level lighting with a wider beam angle than PAR lamps. They’re also perfect for illuminating larger areas with softer light.

Types of BR Lamps

Like their PAR counterparts, BR lamps come in different types based on their diameter sizes in eighths of an inch.

The common types of BR lamps include BR20, BR30, and BR40. The main difference between these bulbs is their diameter sizes.

Regarding energy efficiency, BR lamps come in incandescents, halogens, and LED types. As with PAR light bulbs, LED BR lamps are the most energy-efficient option.

The table below compares the main types of BR lamps in terms of wattage, lumen output, and beam angles.

Beam Angle110°110°110°
Diameter2.5 inch (6.35cm)3.75 inch (9.53cm)5 inch (12.7cm)
Wattage (LED)71117
Wattage Equivalence5065100

Table 2: Main BR lamps comparison

Comparison Between PAR and BR Lamps

Let’s compare some BR and PAR lamps. This comparison will help you narrow down the best fit.

BR40 vs. PAR38

First, the main difference between these lamps is their diameter sizes.

While a BR40 lamp has a diameter of 5 inches (12.7 centimeters), its PAR38 counterpart has a diameter of 4.75 inches (12.07 centimeters).

The difference in diameter between BR40 and PAR38 is quite minimal (only 0.25 inches or 0.64 centimeters). This means you can use these bulbs interchangeably in the same recessed lighting can.

The beam angle is another significant difference to note between these lamps.

A BR40 light bulb has a broader beam angle of 110 degrees, while its PAR38 counterpart has a beam angle of 40 degrees.

One notable similarity between these lamps is that they can emit the same color light depending on your preferences.

Besides lighting, check out this article for 15 other reasons your electric bill is so high.

BR30 vs. PAR38

There is a major diameter variation between these bulbs.

With the BR30 bulb having a diameter of 3.75 inches (9.53 centimeters) and PAR38’s 4.75 inches (12.07 centimeters), expect to use these bulbs sparingly.

A one-inch (2.54-centimeter) diameter difference isn’t something to overlook.

The beam angle of a BR30 bulb is also wider than its PAR38 counterpart at 110 degrees against 40 degrees, respectively.

Therefore, go for the BR30 bulb if you want to illuminate a wider area using one bulb. Otherwise, a PAR38 light bulb will serve you better for illuminating smaller areas.

Energy efficiency is another factor you want to consider between these two options. Luckily, both have energy-efficient LED versions.

Here’s a video to help you differentiate PAR and BR lamps easily:

Final Thoughts

Concerning flood lights, PAR and BR lamps are your best bets. The main difference between these two types is that the latter has a wider beam angle due to its bulged reflector.

The beam angle is crucial when choosing between BR and PAR light bulbs. Due to their narrow beam angles, PAR lamps are suitable for directional lighting like spotlights, retail displays, and stage lighting.

On the other hand, BR lamps work for high-level lighting and wider area illumination like floodlights.

Finally, consider LED versions in both cases if you want to save on your electricity bills. LED BR and PAR lamps use the latest technology that makes them energy efficient.

Now that you know the differences between PAR and BR lamps, check out this article to learn how much energy each appliance in your home uses.

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