As their name suggests, reflectors are bulbs that use an interior mirrored surface to project light to the front of the lamp. As a generic term, ‘reflector’ can be applied to any type of spotlight, but spotlights are often further categorised as having a particularly focused, narrow beam.
The classic ‘reflector lamp’ terminology traditionally refers to an incandescent bulb with an internal aluminium coating that gathers up the omnidirectional light of the filament and projects it towards and out of the front. As is the case with many spotlights, the diameter of the lamp is used in the name, so an R50 has a 50mm diameter, an R80 measures 80mm in diameter, and so on.
With PAR lamps, the diameter is also used to name each lamp, except with an imperial measurement in 1/8th inch increments. Thus a PAR 30 lamp measures 30 x 1/8th = 3.75-inch diameter, for example. The acronym, ‘PAR’, stands for ‘Parabolic Alumnised Reflector’, which refers to a bowl-shaped lamp again with an aluminium coating to reflect and project the light forwards.
Between them, these two styles of reflector are available across all of the lighting technologies, including incandescent, halogen, energy-saving halogen, low-energy fluorescent, and LED. It’s worth noting that LED reflectors tend to look different to any other; their directional nature means they rely less on reflector design and more on the modifying influence of lenses and diffusers to create a specific beam of light.
Reflectors are typically used in track lighting systems in shops, art galleries, or the home. The classic ‘R’ reflector lamp (e.g. R80) is also often used in desk lamps, where their focused beam is useful. PAR lights in their largest form are a common type of stage lighting, and can be used in outdoor luminaires for architectural lighting as well as underwater in low-voltage versions.
PAR lights: E14 Small Edison Screw (SES); E27 Edison Screw (ES); GX16d; screw terminal; medium side-prong; screw terminal; slip-on terminal
Reflector lamps (R): E14 Small Edison Screw (SES); E27 Edison Screw (ES); B22 Large Bayonet (BC)