Lightbulbs, Floodlights and Spotlights: which bulbs to use?  An extremely brief and incomplete tutorial and review.

If you take a look at my Personal pages, you'll see that in 2001 we moved into a new house, the previous home and studio of architect Louise Lamar Shannon, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright's.  This is a pretty big house, though no mansion.  And there is track lighting everywhere.  So I had to learn about track lighting, and more importantly, about the reflector-type lights that go into the track lighting fixtures.  Here is the bottom line.

Floodlights and Spotlights

BR bulbs are relatively cheap non-halogen incandescent bulbs in the shape of a floodlight/spotlight (sorta cone-shaped).  The are fragile, can't be used outside, and can't be used with a "cowl" that fits over the halogen-type lights, they're not strong enough and they'll shatter.  They're not very efficient, either, and they make a fair bit of heat as a byproduct.  The only place I use them is in articulated-arm desk lamps, as the halogen bulbs are too heavy, and where there are some tiny lights in the kitchen, where I need 25W BR14 E17 intermediate base floodlights, as there are no halogens this size that I've found.

PAR (aluminized reflector) bulbs are halogen bulbs. Compared to regular tungsten incandescent bulbs, they

Why not use PAR bulbs everywhere?  Well, they are indeed more expensive, that's the only downside I can see.

What about sizes? To determine the diameter of any PAR lamp, divide the PAR # by 8 - ie: a PAR56 is: 7" in diameter, a PAR 38 is: 5.5" in diameter.   PAR38 is by far the most common for household use, we use a couple zillion in our new house..

What wattage and type?  There are longlife bulbs, HIR bulbs, 120V bulbs, and 130V bulbs.  I finally decided, for the PAR38 bulbs that I need throughout my house, to use only two kinds of bulbs:

Why these particular bulbs?  Well, "HIR" means that the bulb has a special coating that reflects infrared back onto the filament.  Results:  less heat escapes, filament burns hotter and more efficiently.  More expensive bulbs, but you probably make it back in long-term energy savings.  And why 130V bulbs?  Turns out if you get commercial 130V bulbs, and run them at 120V, although the wattage is a bit lower, they last several times as long as "plain" halogen bulbs.  And with these particular bulbs, the "60W" bulb makes a good low-luminance bulb, and the 100W one makes a good high-luminance bulb.  Remember, these HIR bulbs put out more light per watt than other bulbs, they're really pretty bright.

There are also wide floods (WFL), narrow floods (FL25) and spotlights -- for the most part I use the floodlights, except in a few locations where I use PAR20 narrow floods and spotlights.  Unfortunately, there are no PAR20 HIR bulbs, but you can get 130W ones for longer life:

* 50W (46W @ 120V) PAR20 130V narrow flood: 4000 hour life, 498 lumens @ 120Vs
* 50W (46W @120V) PAR20 130V Halogen Plus Narrow Spotlights: 5000 hour life, 448 lumens @120V

So that's the story on lightbulbs for track lighting, in brief and incomplete.  Hope it helps.

Halogen Lightbulbs for Replacing Standard "A" Bulbs

January 2003 big news. At the local hardware store, I found a new Philips halogen bulb (see the table below for the stats). This is a relatively inexpensive ($5), small, lightweight, very long-life, and very efficient bulb, available both in clear and in soft white, multiple wattages. Forget about the PEClamp and Feit bulbs, these new Philips bulbs are the ones to get, no question about it! You should be able to find these bulbs at many retail suppliers, including Home Depot.

I was also interested in possible advantages of halogen bulbs to replace standard "A" lightbulbs: better efficiency (and less heat generation in the summertime), or longer life, or both.

There are three main sources of halogen replacements for "A" lightbulbs:  Feit Electric, PEClamp, and GE.  None of the websites provide much if any information on efficiency, so I ordered some and checked the actual packages for efficiency numbers.  The details are below.  I found that the Feit Electric bulbs, while cheap and relatively long-lasting, are very infefficient.  The PEClamp lightbulbs are more efficient, and thus seem a better choice.  The GE lamps are most efficient, but are also most efficient.  However, they are a different design than the Feit Electric and PEClamp bulbs.  Feit and PEClamp halogen bulbs are very lightweight and smaller than a standard "A" bulb.  The GE halogen bulbs are very large and heavy -- slightly larger and much more heavy than a standard "A" bulb.  This is most likely for safety reasons (unlikely to explode if overheated).  However, this means you can't use the GE halogen bulbs in, for example, an swing-arm desk lamp, as the weight of the bulb will immediately cause the lamp to crash to the desk!  Also note that the PEClamp lamps come in both soft white and with clear bulbs. The soft white are probably better for most applications. Running 130V lamps at 120V is a common practice (see above) but PEClamp, unlike GE, doesn't provide figures for light output, power draw, efficiency or lifetime when running their 130V lamps at 120V, hence a few question marks in the list below.

So here is a listing of different kinds of lightbulbs with information on efficiency (given in Lumens/Watt or L/W) and estimated life (hours or H) based on manufacturer's figures. This includes the major halogen "A" bulb replacements as well as a smattering of "standard" A bulbs I found in my lightbulb box in the basement.  These are listed from brightest to dimmest.  Halogen lamps have an asterisk *, standard tungsten incandescents don't.

   2650L 150W GE Reader bulb: 750H (17.7 L/H)
* 2650L 150W Philips Halogena 3000H
* 1800L 100W JT bulb, 2000 hours (18 L/W)
* 1764L 100W JT soft white bulb, 2000 hours (17.6 L/W)
   1690L 100W GE A bulb: 750H (16.9 L/W)
* 1680L 90W GE (18.7 L/W) 90A/HAL 120V A-line bulb, 2000 hours, $9 incl postage from
* 1670L 100W Philips Halogena 3000H
* ?1600L 90W (100W@130) (?17 L/W) JT bulb, ?4000H
* ?1550L 90W (100W@130) (?16L/W) JT soft white bulb, ?4000H
* 1300L 100W Feit Electric (13 L/W) BPO 100A/W TB bulb, 5000H, $6 incl postage from
* 1280 90W Philips Masterline () 90PAR38/HAL/FL28/LL 120V 2500H flood
* 1220L 81W GE Halogen (90W@130) (15.1 L/W ) 90TB/H-130V, 4000 H at 120V $8.46 @ Graybar
   1170L 75W GE A bulb: 750H (15.6 L/H)
* 1120L Philips Halogena 75W 3000H
* 865L 75W Feit Electric (11.5 L/W) 5000H
* 840L 60W Philips soft white Halogena 3000H 14 L/W $5
* 900L 60W Philips clear Halogena 3000H 15 L/W $5

   800L 60W Sylvania DoubleLife (13.3 L/W) A bulb 2000H
* 650L 60W Feit Electric (10.8 L/W) 60W 5000H
* 570L 50W GE PAR20 Halogen Floodlight 2500H
   495L 40W Philips Longlife A bulb (12.4 L/W) 1250H

Sources include My experience with these bulbs has been very disappointing. Compared with the Philips bulbs, or even a standard incandescent, they are not very efficient at all. And, though they say they have a 2000 hour life, my experience has been that many of them only last a few days, and most of them only last a few weeks.

Hope at least one other person finds this useful!