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Floodlights vs. Spotlights: Which work light is right for you?

What’s the difference between a floodlight and a spotlight? What are the best situations for each? These are the questions you may ask yourself when deciding which light is right for your needs. In this article, INGEAR will explain the answers to all your questions.

What’s the difference between a floodlight and a spotlight?

Basically, spotlights and floodlights are two types of light patterns. This “pattern” refers to how light is projected.

In terms of a vehicle for the work lights, usually you will need to decide which particular feature you want more: breadth or depth. However, sometimes it is still too confusing for you to make a decision right away. You need then to think about which type of light will best meet your needs in various situations. To figure out the answer, let’s talk about the two lights from a basic level.

To help you understand the difference, we need to introduce a concept called “beam angle” or “beam pattern.” Beam angle or pattern is a measurement of the angles 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, just as the following picture shows.

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In the picture, we can clearly see that a larger beam angle means a wider spread of light across an area, and, likewise, a small beam angle means a narrower spread of 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. It is a particularly strong light source that produces a cone of light.

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

Spotlights are usually smaller in appearance than floodlights. In addition, they typically appear brighter than floodlights, even with the same wattage bulbs, because they produce more highly concentrated beams of light.

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By the way, when planning your lighting scheme, knowing the width of a light's beam in degrees isn't always helpful. Overall, it might be easier to think of a beam in terms of width by feet in a practical application. To convert beam angle to beam width, there is a simple formula you can use: 

Beam Width = beam angle in degrees x 0.018 x distance from the bulb or fixture. 

Spotlight scene

Spotlights are usually designed for highlighting specific small areas or points, like display objects, wall artwork, landscape features, or architectural details in one direction. If you need to see far down the path ahead, a spotlight will project a longer, narrow beam of illumination. Basically, we can often find such lights in gardens, theaters, above garage doors, and search and rescue vehicles, or other applications where focused light is demanded.

Spotlights initially originated in the theater world. They are used to highlight someone on the stage, so the world can see. In a similar way, spotlights now are used in many other places for emphasis.

Museums and art exhibitions

The applications for spotlights can be seen everywhere. In museums or art exhibitions, with proper spotlights, displayed objects and some of their special details can be highlighted more clearly.

Police and municipal vehicles

Perhaps one of the most common applications for spotlights is on police and municipal vehicles. These cruisers in particular often have a strong need to illuminate a specific narrow area at a long distance to help others in the distance see individuals or locations in time.

Your own house

A bulb with a spot beam pattern would be the best choice if you’re installing track lights in your kitchen and need to highlight the sink or stove, because it will shine exactly where you need it.

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Outside your house

When it comes to outdoor lighting, spotlights are often used when a landscape lighting design uses both light and shadow to create visual interest, because, with them, it will be easier to direct the light precisely where you want it. For instance, you can spotlight your trees and make them become impressive features of your landscape.

Floodlight scene 

A flood beam allows you to see a wider area at a closer distance. Therefore, when you want to illuminate larger areas like driveways, warehouses, parking lots, or any other area that needs wide, even light coverage, a floodlight can be an ideal choice, because it can cover more surface area. For this reason, it also can serve as a security light.

Slow-moving working vehicles

Floodlights are very useful across a wide range of work applications. You can find floodlights on slow-moving vehicles or those commonly performing tasks at night, like doing roadwork, street-sweeping, harvesting, and so on.

Special tasks

Floodlights can be used in a variety of unexpected special tasks. For example, they are highly useful in helping vehicles move through fog. They can also be used to illuminate underwater areas and are very common on boats for rescue operations and general night use.

In a word, spotlights typically illuminate more specific points, while floodlights, in contrast, work well to illuminate large areas.

How to choose the right light for your vehicle?

Knowing all of this, then, you may still face the problem of choosing a suitable light for your vehicle.
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From left to right: LED light bar using floodlight, spotlight, and spot/flood combo mode

For most driving situations, a spotlight beam pattern is a good fit, because a powerful spotlight is able to reach out and light up the road for a long distance. If you are driving a car on well-paved roads where there is not much to worry about regarding obstructions on the side of the road, then a spotlight can be a good choice.

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In comparison, for ordinary driving situations, a floodlight is not the best choice, since it does not reach far enough; however, there are still some scenarios where floodlights are optimum.

When confronted with off-road driving in rough terrain, you won’t be driving at very high speeds, since there is an increased likelihood of hazards, such as rocks. In this situation, the wider range of illumination becomes much more valuable. Floodlights are also the preferred choice in some work situations, when choosing a floodlight that gives you a wide, all-encompassing wash of light is the better choice.

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At last, the combination light bar is a light that is equipped with both floodlight and spotlight bulbs, which makes it suited for any type of situation. This level of versatility has made combination light bars the most popular choice today for most people.

If you are going to be using your lights for both on-road and off-road driving, or if you intend to have the light on your vehicle double as a work light, then it is worth considering choosing a combination light bar, because it will help you effectively handle almost any situation, even at night. It can serve as a beacon, a locator, and a tracking car emergency tool.

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INGEAR offers you various lights to satisfy the different demands in your life.

autoAssist COB Slide Worklight

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This is a mechanic’s dream: a flashlight/work-light combo that stays out of your way while it fills your work space—under the hood or under the chassis—with abundant light. If you want to illuminate a large space and have both hands free to handle repairs, this car emergency tool is exactly for you.

autoAssist Rechargeable LED Worklight

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It’s a light sabre for mechanics. This rugged handheld device features a four-inch (10.1cm) column of six high-power LEDs that cast a strong, clean, white beam of light—easily recharged using the included USB charging cable. Then grip it, hang it (with its attached hang loop), or anchor it by its magnetic base. It’s ready for action.

autoAssist COB Floodlight

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This type of light gives a big performance from a rugged, compact package. The autoAssist COB (Chip on Board) Floodlight measures just 6.8” x 5” x 1.9” (17.3cm x 12.7cm x 4.8cm), yet it can amply illuminate a garage-size workspace with clean, white light, and can help you work efficiently in tough environments.

If you want more information about your lighting needs, INGEAR is here to help you. We try our best to provide you with not only innovative products but also useful tips you might need for your driving.

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