Identifying Kitchen Floods: PAR38, R40, BR40?
January 1, 2016 3:34 PM   Subscribe

What bulbs should I use to replace the overhead flood lights in my kitchen? Special snowflake details inside.

I am renting a place (in California, in case lighting standards vary) which has a bunch of lights in the kitchen. The countertops are lit by 5-10 small G4 and G8 base bulbs, there are two big hanging overhead lights, and there are 3 recessed flood lights.

I am trying to replace the bulbs, but I find the whole process very confusing. The fixtures for the floods (picture) don't seem to have any identifying features (they're a little wider than 5 1/2 inches at the base). The bulbs that are installed vary. One seems to be a soft but otherwise unremarkable flood (overall, markings). The other has a bunch of spikes and has more details including the text FLOOD 28 (overall, front, markings). Both seem to be around 4 3/4 to 5" in diameter, but it is hard to tell for sure. My best guess based on Internet research is that the first is an R40 and the second is a PAR 38 bulb, but I really have no idea.

A few questions:
  1. What type of flood lights do I have, and what sort can (should?) I install?
  2. Are there dangers in installing the wrong type of floods here if they fit (e.g., halogen versus incandescent, too big a diameter, or too low or high wattage)?
  3. Should I prefer any particular features in replacement bulbs (incandescent vs halogen vs led vs cfl or particular color temperature) for either the floods or the small countertop lights?
posted by pbh to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We recently went through this in our rental house. I took the (halogen) bulbs to Home Depot and was able to find LEDs to match in shape and output wattage equivalency. LEDs (and CFLs) have the advantage over incandescent and halogen of not getting super hot. Given that we could feel the heat of the recessed halogen flood lights through the floor upstairs, I felt better replacing them with bulbs that don't get hot.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:00 PM on January 1, 2016

I just went through this as well, when replacing some indoor floods. I'm not an expert, but I'll share what my local light store salesman told me:

The last two digits are the bulb diameter, in eights of an inch. As such, the difference between a 38 and a 40 is that the 38 is a bit smaller.

As for R, BR, and PAR, it's mostly about bulb shape.

As for wattage and type, the concern is the heat the bulb will give off when running. You can safely use anything the same or *cooler* running than whatever you have. You can't screw this up if you switch to LEDs that are 60W equivalent. I have no idea how the heat from fluorescent, halogen, and incandescent compare to each other.
posted by whisk(e)y neat at 4:32 PM on January 1, 2016

One warning - if these are on dimmers, you can't simply switch in dimmable LEDs for incandescent/halogens. Even if the LEDs are labeled dimmable, they need to go with LED-compatible dimmers.
posted by mr vino at 4:48 PM on January 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Halogen is a more efficient type of incandescent, but it's still an incandescent. The big advantage of incandescents is color rendering. Even the best of the more efficient lighting types (LED and fluorescent in residential applications) have comparatively poor color rendering, i.e. they make it harder to distinguish similar colors from each other. Also, incandescents (including halogens) work better with most dimmers and occupancy sensors.

LED and fluorescent use a lot less electricity, generate much less waste heat, and last much longer.
posted by jon1270 at 4:53 PM on January 1, 2016

FWIW, the cheap house brand dimmable A19 LEDs I got from Home Depot worked fine with the old rheostat dimmer in our 1930 vintage house.

Anyway, the only real danger here is buying a too-high wattage bulb. All light bulbs emit heat essentially at their rated wattage (not the incandescent "equivalent" wattage, the actual wattage). There should be a label somewhere on the can stating the maximum allowed wattage for that fixture. Do not exceed that number, as it is a fire hazard.

If you do go with LED or CFL, be sure to get one that is rated for use in an enclosure (and upside down, which is often an issue with CFLs). The lack of air circulation makes the bulb get much hotter than in a basic ceiling fixture or floor/table lamp. This will lead to premature failure if you get a bulb that isn't rated for the excess heat. If you aren't sure, buy a cheap CFL so you are at least out less money when it breaks than you would be with a good LED.

The best option is to get your landlord to replace the cans with LED cans, which do not have a bulb, will actually last 10-20 years (and be covered under warranty) since they are operating within their design envelope, and will save a bunch of electricity.
posted by wierdo at 6:02 PM on January 1, 2016

• Get an LED bulb. Any LED bulb will be below the maximum wattage the fixture can handle.
• You don't have to use a floodlight bulb. A regular LED bulb, either in the regular incandescent shape or the GE Bright Stik LED bulbs will work. Having the white interior of the fixture will reflect the light down even it's not a flood light. Plus non-floodlight LED bulbs tend to be much cheaper.
• You can use a dimmable LED bulb on a dimmer made for incandescents. It's not ideal as there may be some humming when turned down, but it will work.

(In short, just buy some good inexpensive LED bulbs and see how they work.)
posted by ShooBoo at 2:52 PM on January 2, 2016

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