Which LED Light Bulb Beam Angle Should I Use?

Have you ever tried to walk into a dimly lit building? You always end up bumping into something or worse, someone. Frustration can begin to boil up and you begin to think, ‘I am never coming here again!’ This is one of the reasons why beam angles are so important. Even for car dealerships you are going to need the right type of light to show off a car’s detail. They will determine how visible an area or object is. So what is a beam angle, and why should I care?

Beam Angles

What is a beam angle?

A beam angle is the angle of light that spreads across the floor when a ceiling light fixture is turned on. It can also be referred to as a beam spread. And having the right type of beam angle can give your building the right type of ambience and visibility. But for any commercial setting there are things that you are going to want to take into consideration.

Things to Consider:

Considerations for a beam angle

Building Type

It is important to take into consideration the building type where you plan on installing the light fixtures. Not only will it tell you how many fixtures you are going to need but also which beam angle. Because depending on the height of the ceiling your beam angle can change affecting the illumination and visibility. For example, a warehouse with high ceilings will need a light bulb with a different beam angle than a retail store.

Number of Light Fixtures

If you have a 50,000 square foot building, how many lumens will give you your desired brightness? The industry standard, used for general lighting purposes for a commercial space, is 70 foot candles per square foot. Foot candles is a unit of illumination that is equivalent to one lumen per square foot.

You also want to make sure that you make a lighting layout design plan if you want to have specific areas brighter or dimmer than others.

Types of Lighting:

  • Task Oriented Lighting – used in areas that need high productivity and are well lit.
  • Accent Lighting – this type of lighting highlights a certain space or object.
  • General Lighting – makes occupants feel safe and comfortable.
Types of lighting

So how do you figure out how many light fixtures you will need?

1. First multiply the area of your building and the industry standard to get a number in lumens.

50,000 (length x width) x 70 lumens = 3,500,000 lumens (Lumens total)

2. Then multiply the total lumens by the constant 1.40. This number is calculated by adding the light loss factor (.75) and the coefficient of utilization (.65) together. You should always take this into consideration when calculating total lumens for a specific space.

1.40 x 3,500,000 (Lumens total) = 4,900,000 lumens (Second Lumen total)

3. Lastly you want to add your lumen total and additional lumens together. This will show you the total amount of lumens needed to brighten up your commercial space.

3,500,000 (Lumens total) + 4,900,000 (Second Lumen total) = 8,400,000 lumens

Height of Ceilings and Light Fixtures

The reason that you want to make sure of your ceiling’s height is to make sure that the beam angles are overlapping. If you don’t you may end up with a dark, dim area in your building. Overlapped beam angles will ensure that light is fully covering your space and will prevent injury.

The standard height of a ceiling is around 7.87 to 8.86 feet so a wider beam angle, 60 degrees or more, should be sufficient. If your ceiling height is more than 8.86 feet than you are going to need a narrow beam angle which is less than 45 degrees.

In either case you need to accommodate for your ceiling’s height to ensure that you have a bright work space. When you’re working with high bay lights in an industrial setting, for example, that has a high ceiling an easy fix would be to use reflectors that can better disperse the light accordingly and make the beam angle more narrow.

Warehouse ceiling light

The Type of Ambience

You also need to decide what type of ambience you want in your building. This mostly relies on what the building is going to be used for. Accent, task oriented, and general lighting are ways that can help specify what your building is going to be used for. Color temperature, for example, will also determine how white or yellow the light is going to appear.

The color rendering index (CRI), which is a measurement of how well a light bulb shows an items true color, is another consideration. Are there going to be pieces of art or products on display in this building that need to capture people’s attention?

Bulb Type

Depending on the application, the type of light bulb you will to need will vary. In industrial settings with high ceilings, for example, the higher the light fixtures the narrower the beam angle will be. The lower the ceiling, the wider the beam angle will be. If you are using highbay lights, you may consider using a reflector to reflect the light.

It is important to note that there is not a general bulb type standard when it comes to suppliers. This makes it even more crucial that when you are choosing the bulb type that it is right for your application.

What are the different beam angle types?

Since there are quite a few different beam angles some manufacturers have decided to simplify it a little bit. Beam spread is identified by putting them into one of the three groups: narrow, medium, and wide.

Different Angles:

  • Very Narrow Spot
  • Narrow
  • Spot
  • Narrow Flood
  • Flood
  • Wide Flood
  • Very Wide Flood
different types of beam angles

(*Note*: These are the beam angle for one bulb type (MR16). Remember that the bulb type can vary depending on your application.)

What is the difference between a floodlight and a spotlight?

The main difference between a floodlight and a spotlight is that a floodlight has a very wide beam while spotlights are narrower.

low bay fixture

Floodlights are good for illuminating driveways, warehouses, or parking lots. Spotlights, on the other hand, are great for displaying objects, architectural details, and landscape features.


Lumens vs Beam Angle:

When we don’t get the beam spread that we want for our room or for our products, we may think that it is because the bulb is not bright enough.

Lumens are responsible for the brightness of a light bulb. So while you might think you are not getting the right type of ambience or angle for your application just remember that one of the factors you need to take into consideration, is the height of the ceiling. The lumens or brightness of the bulb is not going to change due to the ceiling’s height, the beam angle however will change.

beam angle chart

To be sure that you have the right angle and number of lumens you can check the manufacturer’s box.


If you are not able to find the information on the box then you can check out their website. This will give you any additional information that you may need.

Which is better: LED or Incandescent?

LEDs are perfect for task lighting and targeting particular areas. They can emit light in one direction which makes them more energy efficient.

LED light

Incandescent lights send lights in all directions making them great for general highlighting. These light are not going to be as energy efficient though. So for those who still want to save energy without using LEDs there is a way. Reflector lamps will limit the amount of light that is wasted. These can also give you greater control and a narrower beam. “CFL’s vs. Halogen vs. Fluorescent vs. Incandescent vs. LED

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Will Owen
Will Owen

B.A. in English from Kennesaw State University. Will takes what he's learned and writes about all sorts of things from artists to electrical supplies and LED light systems. You name it and he can probably write about it.

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