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What are PAR lights?

PAR38 flood light"PAR" stands for parabolic aluminized reflector and is a term applied to spotlights and floodlights commonly used by homeowners and small businesses.

PAR fixtures are typically mounted on a movable neck with which you can aim the light where you need it. They are one of the most popular home "security" lights.

Despite the name differences, floodlights and spotlights are not significantly different. A spotlight casts its light nearly as wide and far as a floodlight, even though the name might imply greater light control.

PAR38 bulb with rimThe Parshield® glare visor fits most outdoor PAR38 style bulbs, which have a 4.75" diameter with a rim as shown on the left. The Parshield® visor may not fit bulbs with a rounded rim, which is typical of indoor floods and many compact fluorescent bulbs even if labeled as "PAR38."

The Parshield® will clip snugly to the 24 watt (120 watt equivalent) PAR 38 LED flood from Home Depot and the Kobi Electric K6L8 15 watt (70-Watt equivalent) PAR 38 LED sold on Amazon.

The shield will also clip on to (at least) the following CFL floods:

Unfortunately, the Parshield® glare visor does not fit every PAR38 style bulb available. Indoor PAR bulbs, some compact fluorescent models, and some outdoor PAR bulbs, have a smaller diameter even though they're labeled PAR38. Specifically, we have found that the glare visor does NOT work with:


Aiming

Aim your spotlights carefully to avoid sending light where it's not wanted. Light that travels out of the intended area can trespass onto neighbors' properties, shine through windows, create glare, and otherwise cause annoyance. Be a good neighbor, aim your lights carefully.

Here are some recommendations:

  • Always aim PAR lights at less than a 45-degree angle--never straight out.
  • Aim your lights so that light does not shine through neighbors' windows or onto their property, to the best extent possible.
  • Do not aim lights so that they will shine in your eyes, or those of visitors. For example, don't aim a spotlight up the length of your driveway so that its light hits you in the eyes as you drive in. Otherwise, you might be blinded to something--or someone--in your driveway as you enter at night.
  • Make sure to buy a light fixture that can be aimed! Some fixtures cannot be aimed and often position the bulb pointing straight out, a direction you rarely want to aim a PAR light.

Mounting

Mounting height is critical for effective lighting, but how high you mount a light is a trade-off.

If you mount a spotlight low, it will shine in your eyes and those of visitors to your home or business. To fill an area with light from a low-mounted spotlight, you will have to aim it nearly horizontally. Such a light will shine off your property more easily creating light trespass.

Mounting a light higher makes it less likely that light will shine in your eyes. Furthermore, you can aim the light at a more-downward angle, reducing the likelihood of light trespass. But, mounting a light too high makes maintenance difficult. Since light spreads out as it leaves the bulb, you'll need a brighter bulb and use more energy the higher you mount a light.

Here are some recommendations:

Energy Efficiency

Operating your outdoor lights most likely costs more per year that it did to buy and install them. Keep these recommendations in mind to save energy and money.

Use a bulb of the appropriate wattage -- Don't use a 150-watt bulb if a 75-watt bulb would do the job. The 75-watt bulb uses half the electricity, thus costs half as much to operate. Try bulbs of different wattages in your lights to see which provides sufficient, but not too much, illumination.

Use a motion sensor control on your light -- Your lights will come on automatically when someone enters the area, alerting you and your neighbors to their presence. Furthermore, because lights will be on only when you need them, you use very little electricity.

Cost to operate a 150-watt bulb
Dusk-to-dawn each night$114.90 / year
Motion detector (one hour per night)$10.06 / year
(at NYS average residential electricity rate of 16.7¢ per kilowatt-hour)

(Calculate more lighting costs here.)

Use fluorescent PAR-style bulbs rather than incandescent bulbs -- A 23-watt fluorescent bulb puts out as much light as a 90-watt incandescent but uses less than a third of the electricity! Unfortunately, many of the new fluorescent PAR bulbs can't be used with motion detectors. Ultimately, you will probably use less electricity by adding a motion sensor control to your incandescent PAR fixture. But, if you need an always-on light, check out the new fluorescent PAR-style bulbs.