How to choose a BR30 LED lamp

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You may be looking to replace some of the older lighting in your home, and come across a form factor called BR30. What does this mean and how do you shop for an LED retrofit replacement?

Below is a 5-step guide to purchasing a BR30 LED lamp!

1) Defining a BR30 lamp

BR30 lamps are a type of lamp approximately 5 inches long and slightly less than 4 inches in diameter. They belong to category of directional lighting types, with typically a "wide flood" beam angle.

First, let's dissect the acronym. BR stands for "Bulged Reflector" - a reference to the bulge outward as one travels away from the socket, or flared shape of the lamp body. This is contrast to a PAR or MR shape bulb.

The reason for the bulge in incandescent versions of the BR30 lamp is to enable a wide flood beam of 120 degrees or more. By having the reflector flare out, the light emitted from the filament is able to be emitted across a wide angle.

Next, we look at the number "30." As in most other lighting products, the number refers to the lamp diameter in eighths of an inch. So, the "30" indicates a lamp diameter of 30/8 inches, or 3.75 inches.

LED lamps have carried on the BR30 form factor name. Although they are similar in size to PAR30 LED lamps, BR30 LED lamps primarily differ in their wide beam angle. Mechanically speaking, this is typically accomplished with a slightly bulged and frosted diffuser cover on a BR30 LED lamp, as opposed to a clear, collimating lens on a PAR30 LED lamp.

2) Determine how many lumens (or wattage equivalent) you need

First and foremost, you will want to ensure that when you replace your incandescent BR30 lamp with an BR30 LED, you are getting just as much brightness as before.

You might be accustomed to thinking of bulb brightness in terms of watts - a 40 watt bulb is brighter than a 60 watt bulb.

But don't forget that watts are a measure of electrical energy in, not necessarily the total light output.

This was an acceptable way to estimate brightness because most incandescent bulbs have the same amount of efficiency.

BR30 LED lamps are far more efficient than incandescent BR30 bulbs. What this means is that watts is no longer a useful measure of brightness.

...use much more energy (in watts) than...

to generate the same amount of light output.

Instead of focusing on watts in, you will need to focus on the light output, which is measured using the lumens metric.

Not sure how many lumens you need? You can estimate what you need based on what you had installed before switching to LEDs.

This can be calculated using an approximate conversion factor of 10 lumens per watt:

Lumens = [watts in incandescent] x 10

For example, if you had a 65W incandescent BR30 bulb, you can can estimate the number of lumens by multiplying 65W by 10 = 650 lumens.

You will find the number of lumens listed alongside the product specifications.

In many cases, manufacturers will list the wattage equivalency (e.g "Equivalent to a 65W incandescent") for your convenience. But unfortunately, there is no enforcement of wattage equivalency claims, and some manufacturers will be quite liberal in their justifications for claiming high wattage equivalency.

While we recommend using the 10 lumens-per-watt conversion factor for simplicity and convenience, according to Energy Star standards, a more accurate conversion factor would depend on the wattage of the lamp, ranging from 10 lumens per watt at low wattages, up to 15.0 lumens per watt at the highest wattages. If you have a higher wattage lamp installed (e.g. 100 watts or higher), you may want to use a higher conversion factor in-line with Energy Star standards.

Keep in mind that these conversion factors are lower than those used for A-style lamps, which is consistent with the fact that incandescent reflector lamps tend to be slightly less efficient.

Below is a table showing the luminous output equivalencies for various wattages in 5 watt increments:

40 watt = 400 lumens*
45 watt = 450 lumens*
50 watt = 500 lumens*
55 watt = 605 lumens
60 watt = 660 lumens
65 watt = 650 lumens*
70 watt = 875 lumens
75 watt = 938 lumens
80 watt = 1000 lumens
85 watt = 1063 lumens
90 watt = 1260 lumens
95 watt = 1330 lumens
100 watt = 1400 lumens
105 watt = 1470 lumens
110 watt = 1540 lumens
115 watt = 1610 lumens
120 watt = 1740 lumens
125 watt = 1813 lumens
130 watt = 1885 lumens
135 watt = 1958 lumens
140 watt = 2030 lumens
145 watt = 2103 lumens
150 watt = 2175 lumens
155 watt = 2248 lumens
160 watt = 2400 lumens
165 watt = 2475 lumens
170 watt = 2550 lumens
175 watt = 2625 lumens
180 watt = 2700 lumens
185 watt = 2775 lumens
190 watt = 2850 lumens
195 watt = 2925 lumens
200 watt = 3000 lumens
205 watt = 3075 lumens

*These wattages, in particular, are specified with a conversion factor of 10 lumens per watt.

3) Confirm that the beam angle is approximately 120 degrees (wide flood)

When reviewing the specifications of a BR30 LED lamp, ensure that the beam angle is approximately 120 degrees, sometimes also defined as a "wide flood"  beam angle.

Why is this important?

The apparent brightness of an object is primarily determined by the quantity of light particles that falls on a surface (illuminance, measured in lux). Lumens, on the other hand, measures how much light is emitted from a light source, but it doesn't give us any information about where that light is going.

The lamp's beam angle is an important specification that tells us how spread out the emitted light is, and will ultimately influence how much illuminance it provides on how wide of an area.

We discuss this in further depth in our article about the difference between lumens and lux.

If you suddenly change beam angles to something narrower (e.g. 60 degrees) you may inadvertently cause lighting "hotspots" where certain areas are very bright, and others are dim.

4) Determine light color - CCT and CRI

With incandescent BR30 lamps, color was never an option - pretty much all products from all manufacturers had the same color temperature (2700K) and color quality (100 CRI).

With BR30 LED lamps, however, many color temperature and CRI options exist, making it more difficult to ensure that you pick the right one for your needs.

Color temperature: pick 2700K BR30 LED Lamps

Color temperature is a number that describes how "yellow" or "blue" a light's color is.

  • 2700K is considered the same color as the classic incandescent light bulb

  • 3000K is slightly bluer and is similar to halogen bulb light color, but still has a warm, inviting yellow color to it.

  • 4000K is often called "neutral white" because it is neither blue nor yellow - and is the middle of the color temperature scale.

  • Anything over 5000K will appear blue-ish and would not be recommended for standard residential applications, but is often preferred for art and studio applications.


Lighting for your home is ultimately a personal choice, but we recommend starting with 2700K BR30 LED lamps to test. If you think it casts too much of a "yellow" hue, you can consider switching to 3000K. Keep in mind that the 3000K will run slightly "cooler" or "crisper" than an incandescent BR30 lamp.

CRI: pick 90 or above

CRI is a bit tricky to understand because it is not immediately visible from just simply looking directly at a BR30 LED lamp.

CRI is score ranging from 0 to 100 which measures how accurate objects appear under a light. The higher the score, the more accurate.

What does accurate really mean, anyway?

Let's say you are trying to light up a painting. A perfectly accurate BR30 LED lamp would make the painting look exactly the same as it does under a halogen bulb.

An inaccurate (low CRI) BR30 LED lamp, however, would make the painting look "off" - the colors might appear mismatched, washed out, or indistinguishable.

This is not limited to paintings or artwork. The appearance of furniture or food can also appear to be lacking in color and dull, if the LED lamp has insufficient CRI.

Well, what is a sufficient CRI number?

  • We recommend purchasing BR30 LED lamps with a minimum of 90 CRI.

  • For enhanced appearance, we recommend 95 CRI or above.

How do you know what a BR30 LED lamp's CCT or CRI is? Virtually all manufacturers will be able to provide this to you on the product specification sheet or packaging.


Waveform Lighting's BR30 LED lamp features 95 CRI

5) Do you need a dimmable BR30 LED lamp?

A traditional incandescent BR30 is a simple device that heats up a filament to such a high temperature (2700 degrees Kelvin) that it emits light. Dimming such a bulb is fairly straightforward - simply limiting the amount of electricity flowing to the lamp allows the lamp's filament to cool down, resulting in a lower amount of light output.

Most dimmer circuits that are likely installed in your home operate using this principle (known as TRIAC).

BR30 LED lamps are not as simple, as they are true electronic devices. Unless specialized electronic circuits are integrated into the lamp, they are not automatically compatible with dimmer systems.

Attempting to dim an LED that is not labelled as dimmable can result in erratic flickering or buzzing sounds, and in rare cases can result in safety hazards.

If you have a dimmer installed, or require dimmability, ensure that the BR30 lamp is labelled to be compatible with dimmers.

Where do I purchase a high quality BR30 LED lamp?

Waveform Lighting carries a range of dimmable BR30 lamps in 2700K and 3000K for residential applications. Our lamps feature 95 CRI for excellent color rendering, and emit 800 lumens to replace 60 Watt incandescent equivalent bulbs.

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