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Par36 VS MR16

Discussion in 'Unique Lighting' started by nate mullen, Nov 20, 2007.

  1. nate mullen

    nate mullen LawnSite Member
    Posts: 47

    Hey Everyone,

    I put this post togeather after reading the debate a month or so ago regarding Par36's vs MR16's. This is a topic that has been discussed for years and will continue to be relevant and discussed for years to come. Enjoy!

    Wow, what a great topic. Par36 VS MR16. I felt like I had to jump in on this one. As some of you know I am and always have been a big proponent of the Par36 well light, I personally have installed 10’s of thousands of Par 36’s, but I have also installed 10’s of thousands of MR16’s, T3 Halogen, T3 Astro-Bright, T5 Halogen, T5 Astro-Bright, and 1156 lamps at the vary least.

    Now what I have found out over time is something I like to call documented wisdom. Which are facts, problems, installation errors, pissing off homeowners and of course having to go back 2 or 3 times to the same job. (For as we know there is always enough time to go back the 2nd time but never enough time to do it right the first time). The key to Documented Wisdom is proper evaluation; you have to look deep at the source of the problem. (More on this later)

    Some of you have stated here that you do very well on your maintenance records and your as-builds. So I assume you too are building your own documented wisdom files. When you go back to your jobs and re-lamp. Some of you may or may not group re-lamp. I know I read one of the comments that somebody hate’s to go out there to replace one lamp after one year because they know when they leave the site, 4 weeks later more lamps go out. I am a big believer in group re-lamping because we all know that regardless of the lamp rating whether its 2, 3, 4, 5, even 10 thousand hour lamps some of them last way short of there rated lamp life. The reason for this is all lamps are rated as an average lamp life. How they get this average life is they stick 100 lamps in a room at 12v. 30 die at 1000hrs, 10 die at 2000hrs, 9 die at 3500hrs, then 1 lamp or the 50th lamp burns out at 4000hrs and there you go. 4000hrs is now the Average Lamp Life.

    I find it very interesting that all the arguments being presented regarding the Par 36 could be made for the MR16. For example the post Eden made regarding 2 types of contractors, “Those who spec Par's out of attempt to gain market share from being the cheapest guy around.” VS “Those who spec MR's out of attempt to provide quality outdoor lighting that they plan on standing behind and are providing their clients with a far superior product even though it may mean only doing the front yard instead of the front and the back yard due to budget constraints. In 3-5 years the price savings of Pars will long be forgotten and MR systems will become the least expensive system.” Well I know plenty of contractors who install “home store quality” fixtures that come with cheap $.29 MR16 lamps, matter of fact I know contractors that use so called name brand lights that have cheap lamps in them. I always say and state it is the lamp that does the lighting but make no mistake YOU HAVE TO USE THE BEST QUALITY LAMP OUT THERE. Name brand on lamps may or may not mean anything. So let’s look at a few facts.

    Lamp reliability:

    This has a lot to do with the way you treat your lamps. As you know lamps are very sensitive, there are so many factors that go into how long a lamp will work.


    This is one of the things that really affect a lamps life. All lamps are rated at an ambient temperature; they do not like to get too hot. When you install an MR16 inside of some small housing they get very hot, for the most part they do not like this. The MR16 lamp was originally designed and made for the interior environment. Actually for track lighting with open faces and open fixtures to allow the heat to escape. We as manufactures have take taken this lamp into a vary unfriendly environment. The weather also plays a role. Hot then freezing cold helps diminish lamp life.


    Water as we all know to a lamp is an enemy as well. Water can enter a fixture in many ways and destroy the bi pins and the socket as well. If you’re using a Par lamp are you greasing the contacts at the lamp? Most of the Par lamps we see fail in the field are usually right at the back of lamp where no one has greased it properly. This leads into a bigger problem if you have not also greased your fork connection which will lead to wicking of the wire lead. So if care is taken with the lamps and you are doing the extra things necessary to help prevent pre mature burn out such as greasing the pins and connectors it isn’t to far fetched to say that you can get almost the same amount of lamp life from either an MR16 or a Par 36. Water or what’s in the water is left on the lens which then blocks light output.

    Cycling on and off

    How long are they going to be on? This too effects a lamps life. Filaments are very sensitive, they get fractured very easy.

    Physical abuse

    This too will take a toll on a lamp. These Filaments are very sensitive and get fractured very easy. An MR16 or especially Halogen T3 or T5 lamps do not like to be touched or moved when hot. (This is why I do not use T3 or T5 Halogen lamps, we use Astro-Brights, and the lamp life is usually 5 to 10 times as long. They are also safe to touch.)

    All of this being said you have to use the best quality lamp:

    Lets take the Par 36 lamp I only use, sell, and install GE Par Lamps. Why? Because they are the only flamed sealed Par 36 lamp out there, have the best reflector, Great QC, great color rendition through out the whole lamp life, and seem to all live closer to the expected life range and have proven themselves for over 12 years. It is also the only lamp made to go outside. Pretty powerful statement.

    For the MR16 dollar for dollar you just can’t beat the Ushio lamps. They are reasonably priced, they use the same coatings in their manufacturing process as the GE constant color which is also a great lamp but costs more. The one big advantage of this lamp is the wide range of wattages and beam spreads available.

    Ultimately you have to look at every job in almost the same light, which is overall you have to have your design strategy. Your design strategy is going to include lamp reliability, lamp maintenance, how mature your landscape is at the time of installation, landscape growth, view points, and of course all your visual objectives that you’re going to come up with. When all of these things are established you will make your decision on lamps because it is the lamp that ultimately does the lighting and the fixtures are chosen based upon the application.

    Some of you know that at the end of this month we will be performing an advanced training class in La Jolla, CA. Some of you are attending which I am very excited about! The job will be somewhere around 80-100 fixtures, it’s going to use about 25 MR16’s, 30 Astro-Brite Lamps, and around 40 Par36 lamps give or take. We are using a combination of lamps to achieve our visual objectives and our overall what we like to call “A Lighting Portrait”.

    I think it’s important to go back to our design strategies from which one of them is landscape growth and where the maturity of the landscaping is onsite today. There are many times where we go out to a jobsite and the landscaping is not very mature. So your lamp selection today is going to be vastly different from your lamp selection tomorrow. You’re not going to put a 35w lamp in something that only needs to shine up 3 ft today so maybe you’re only going to utilize a 20w, well a lot of times logistically this can be very hard to keep up with as time goes on. Are you going to go back to the job to do maintenance or are you going to go back and completely re design the job as time goes on to make sure you have the right lamp in place as the landscape changes and matures? That’s where our designer lenses come in. You can install the 35w lamp today and you can soften the lamp, spread the beam, narrow the beam, you can do all these things today then when the landscape has changed you can remove that lens and utilize the lamps full output.

    One last note, don’t forget about glare. One fixture that has glare can ruin a lighting portrait. Use hex lovers and correct position to avoid this.

    So it is easy to see that you can make the same arguments for either lamp especially when it comes down to design. There are areas that an MR 16 is the right choice and areas where the Par 36 is the right choice. It really comes down to your design process and the desired effect you are trying to create. Both lamps have a place in landscape lighting it is up to you the designer to select which one works best.


    To A Brighter Future,

    Nate Mullen

    P.S. I will be trying to monitor this topic. If any of you would like to discuss this topic or any other topic relating to lighting or Unique you may feel free to email me at nate.mullen@uniquelighting.com or call me direct on my cell @ 760-580-4980.
  2. nate mullen

    nate mullen LawnSite Member
    Posts: 47

    Here is an excerpt from my book on lamps.

    Attached Files:

  3. Mike M

    Mike M LawnSite Bronze Member
    from usa
    Posts: 1,946

    Thank you so much for taking the time to post here, Nate.

    I'm still in the beginning stage, and just the other night I was studying the photometrics comparing PAR 36's with MR 16's, and I was wondering where the missing light is with the MR's. There are quite a lot of footcandles missing in the MR's. I would imagine the fixture housings are transfering spilled light into heat energy, but aren't the photometrics measured without fixture housings? If so, then I guess the MR's have a lot of unfocussed ambient light outside of the primary beam. I am amazed not only with the PAR's tight beams, but also the distances they can cover. I assume this could be handy for tall structures and for tall trees like palms and tall pines.

    Thanks again,

    Mike M
  4. Eden Lights

    Eden Lights LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 805

    Thanks for your comments Mr. Mullen. I would like to discuss this topic more after our lighting season is over and things back to normal around here.
  5. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,113

    Eddie, when is the end of season in Nashville. Our nights are getting really long here it is the perfect time to sell for me.
  6. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,113

    I truly do like the par. The only thing I don't like about the well lights is the unprotected screws that are very susceptible to corrosian. I wish there was a watertight par in a well light situation like the MR has.

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