What is a spotlight? What is a floodlight ? Knowing the difference between the two is important for properly lighting any application. Before you can understand the difference, you must know what a beam pattern is. Beam angle or pattern is a measurement of the angles that are formed between a cone of light’s brightest point (the center) and the points on both sides of the center where the light’s intensity is 50 percent as bright.


beam angle

While it depends on the angle and individual light retailers, small beams are often referred to as spot beams, and larger angles (usually anything above 90 degrees) are considered flood beams. Bulbs and fixtures might not always be labeled as spot or flood specifically, but their beam patterns define them as such. Floodlights and spotlights come in many different styles. Sometimes bulbs or fixtures may look the same but emit completely different beam patterns.

First, Let’s Cover The Basics:

What Is A Spot Light ?

A spotlight casts a narrow beam of light, usually no wider than 45 degrees. This beam is more concentrated and easier to point and control.

spot light

Spot Light mainly stresses on the ‘spot’ whose function is focusing light. The spot light output a narrower, long-reaching beam pattern. It’s not as focused as a searchlight, which often puts out a more or less parallel beam, but less than 45° is common. Most of the light in a spot light is focused onto a relatively small area generating a bright spot. Spot light also have the ability to accommodate a variety of bulbs and beam sizes.

In contrast, spot light typically illuminates specific points like artwork and architectural details. For most driving situations, a spot light beam pattern is the best bet because the light is able to reach out and light up the road for a long ways, making it the best bet for on road driving. This gives you plenty of time to react to any potential hazards that might be down the road.

It also can add drama and draw attention to prominent structures such as fountains, trees and statues, place a spot light at the base of the specific structure.

What Is A Flood Light?

A floodlight can have a beam spread of up to 120 degrees. It can illuminate a larger amount of space with the same wattage and lumen output as a spotlight.

Flood light is the opposite of spot light. It cast a wide, all-encompassing wash of light that does not reach for a very long distance. Typically, the light produced by a flood light has an angle of around 120 degrees --- a big difference from the much narrower 45 degrees of a spot light.

For ordinary driving situations a floodlight is not the best choice since it does not reach far enough, however, there are scenarios where flood light is optimum.

LED flood lights

Flood light work well to illuminate large areas and can effectively illuminate a work area or serve as security lights. Like with off road driving, long distance illumination isn’t all that useful when you are setting the light directly in front of the area you want to illuminate.Floodlights most often have a beam spread of more than 45 degrees and up to about 120 degrees; however, some lights that are labeled as floodlights may have a beam spread as narrow as 25 degrees. With this in mind, if you are looking for floodlights with a beam angle that narrow, you are probably better off to look at spotlights instead.

Aside from lighting your driveway, guest parking area or outdoor living spaces, floodlights are also the perfect choice for using downlights installed high up in trees or on structures to create the look of moonlight bathing your garden, lawn or patio.

Using Spotlights And Floodlights:

When highlighting specific points like display objects, wall artwork, architectural details, or landscape features, use a spotlight.

When illuminating larger areas like driveways, stages, warehouses, parking lots, or any other area that needs wide, even light coverage, go with a floodlight.

LED flood light

Determining Beam Width:

When planning your lighting scheme, knowing the width of a light’s beam in degrees isn’t always helpful. It would be much easier to know the beam width in feet, from a given distance away. Luckily, there’s a simple formula that can help you figure this out:

Angle of Beam x 0.018 x Distance from Light Bulb = Beam Width

So, if you have an 80 degree floodlight, and want to know how wide the beam will be from 10 feet away, just do the math:

80 degrees x 0.018 x 10 feet = 14.4 feet wide

If you have a 30 degree spotlight, and want to know how wide the beam will be from 15 feet away, here’s how you calculate it:

30 degrees x 0.018 x 15 feet = 8.1 feet wide

For more information, check out this infographic about light bulb beam spread, featuring a table with common beam widths.

beam angle-1

What's The Difference between flood and spot light ?

At the most basic level, spotlights and floodlights are two types of light patterns, a term which refers to how light is projected. As a rule, the narrower the pattern, the further the distance the light travels.

You can see this in action with vehicle headlights; high beams are a narrow pattern that projects light further, while low beams are a wider spread that doesn't travel as far.

Floods and spots are more or less on the opposite ends of this spectrum. Floodlights are short, wide patterns, generally used to illuminate a wide area; conversely, a spotlight is designed to travel a longer distance but in a much narrower beam.

For optimal visibility in different situations, many work vehicles incorporate both types of lighting patterns. To determine which combination of lighting patterns is right for your work vehicle, consider how and where lights will be used.

A simple Google image search for floodlights will reveal hundreds of large square fixtures that are typically used for landscape lighting, parking lots, tree uplighting, architectural lighting, work lighting, and other applications that require wide light spread. These lights not only have flood beam patterns but are usually referred to as actual floodlight fixtures.

Spotlights are usually significantly smaller than floodlight fixtures and are designed for highlighting small areas. These lights are often found in gardens, theaters, above garage doors, on police and search and rescue vehicles, or other applications where focused light is needed.

If you’re offroading and need to see far down the path ahead of you, a spotlight will project a longer, narrow beam of illumination. A flood beam would allow you to see a wider area at a closer distance.

A bulb with a spot beam pattern would also be the best choice if you’re installing track lights in your kitchen and need to highlight the sink or stove as it will shine exactly where you need it.If you want to illuminate the front of your house, you will need a floodlight because it can cover more surface area.

In the end, it’s up to you to choose which light is best for your application. Just keep in mind what large and small beam patterns are designed to do, and you should have no problem creating the look you’re aiming for.

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