The Ultimate Guide to PAR and BR light bulbs by VIRIBRIGHT (Charts, Tables, and more)

We get it, not everyone is a light bulb expert. It’s fairly simple, after all. You screw it in and expect it to omit joyous light into the intended room or area. Although PARs and BRs sound fairly similar, they have both many differences and similarities. This guide will help you to understand the primary differences and best applications for each bulb in a respective setting.

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What does PAR and BR and MR stand for?

PAR stands for “parabolic aluminized reflector” and is best used in settings that require a focused, narrow beam of light. Most PARs do not exceed a beam angle of 45 degrees in most cases. BR stands for “bulged reflector” and is considered a wide-angle floodlight often exceeding 100-degree beam angles. MR means “multi-faceted reflector” and the most narrow of the bulb types mostly used as a spotlight.

What’s the main difference?

The primary difference between the three bulbs aside from the internal engineering is really just the angle of the beam. See the example below:

BR PAR MR Comparison Illustration Diagram Image

Size comparison of PAR vs BR floodlights

It’s actually even easier grasp than you might think. The difference between a BR20, BR30, and BR40 is actually the size or diameter of the light bulb. The number represents increments of an 8th of an inch. For example, a BR30 is 30/8ths of an inch or 30 divided by 8 which equals 3.75″ in diameter. The same example applies to a PAR38. Divide 38/8ths of an inch or 38 divided by 8 which equals 4.75″ in diameter. Check out the comparison chart below. Don’t worry… we’re visual learners too.

PAR comparison chart

PAR38 PAR30 PAR20 PAR16
Image
Size
Brightness 1200 – 1400lm 800 – 1100lm 500 – 700lm 300 – 400lm
Watts Incandescent – 75W
CFL – 35W
LED – 15W
Incandescent – 65W
CFL – 22W
LED – 9W
Incandescent -40W
CFL – 15W
LED – 7W
Incandescent -35W
CFL – 8W
LED – 4W

BR comparison chart

BR40 BR30 BR20
Image
Size
Brightness 1200 – 1400lm 800 – 1100lm 500 – 700lm
Useage Incandescent – 75W
CFL – 35W
LED – 15W
Incandescent – 65W
CFL – 22W
LED – 9W
Incandescent -40W
CFL – 15W
LED – 7W

Are there color differences between PAR and BR bulbs?

No, there are no intrinsic color differences between PAR and BR bulbs other than the actual color you’re purchasing. Think of it like clothes… the same clothes might be available in an array of different colors. Light bulbs are no different. All PARs and BRs can be manufactured in any color. The most common colors are soft white and daylight. Warm or soft white (2700K – 3000K) is typically more suitable for home use in the family and bedrooms. Daylight (5000 – 6500K) is more often used to light kitchen areas. See below the Kelvin scale that illustrates the range of colors available. Learn more about color from Energy Star.

Lighting and Application

PAR bulbs are used in a wide variety of applications due to their more narrow beam angle. Common uses include (indoor/outdoor) security lighting, theatre, performance sets, spot-lighting signs and can be used in some restaurant applications as well. BR lights are most commonly used indoors in household ceilings with recessed cans. These can be seen most often in kitchens, family rooms, and stair lighting with high ceilings. The broad beam angle allows for a less concentrated light offering better coverage and eliminating shadows in the intended area.

BR / PAR (LED VS CFL and Incandescent)

Light bulbs have come a long way in recent years and the majority of the growth has been in the LED sector. In terms of overall value, LEDs take the cake in providing good looking, energy saving, long life bulbs. For a complete look at BR and PAR LEDs vs CFL and Incandescent, take a look at our light bulb comparison guide.

Comparing LED vs CFL vs Incandescent Light Bulbs

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