Designing with Beam Angles 

Just as a sprinkler system has nozzles with different spray patterns and precipitation rates, a good lighting system uses projection lamps in many wattages and with different beam angles.

Beam angles in projection lamps are normally available in three styles: 15-degree, 30- degree, and 60-degree. Some manufacturers now offer the option of 100-degree and 120-degree lamps.

Replacement lamps are not the only source for beam angles. Back in the halogen days, contractors were taught to design with the lamp and beam angles to create the effect. Many manufacturers now offer integrated LED fixtures with built-in and exchangeable optic packages.

Thinner objects such as pillars, some statuary, and topiary trees may need a tight 15- degree beam angle or optic. This beam angle may also be used in some contemporary applications to create light beam sculpture on walls. Flagpoles and tall trees may need a 30-degree lamp or optic depending on the height. The beam spread of the lamp will widen and soften as it rises. Wider trees and walls may need a 60-degree lamp or optic.

Contractors often use the 60-degree lamp to achieve a dramatic “V” pattern on a wall. Wider beam angles such as a 100-degree or 120-degree can be used as a wall washer to create backlighting effects. Since these wider beam angles were introduced, contractors can now use a simple adjustable uplight for many applications.

A recommended best practice is to purchase a few samples from your local supplier and try them out. An understanding of how different beam angles create effects will set the designer apart from local competition. With these innovative tools, any contractor should be able to find what they need for a creative lighting system.