Spotlights are a massively popular choice amongst lighting designers and specifiers. It’s reckoned that the low-voltage MR16 is being used in over a billion sockets within Europe alone, the MR16 being popular for its wide availability of different designs, compactness, low voltage safety, and also for its usual dichroic form of heat dissipation in halogen forms, which significantly reduces IR heat in the beam. Smaller and less common low-voltage spotlights such as the MR11 and even the MR8 are usually available from Lyco.
On the mains-powered side, the GU10 is the equivalent of the MR16, except that its name is derived from the distance between the two pins of its ‘twist and lock’ cap, rather than diameter. This again is an enormously popular lamp, in common use throughout the world. Unlike the MR16, a GU10 halogen bulb typically dissipates all of its IR heat through the front of the lamp, except in much rarer ‘GZ10’ models.
All of these spotlights employ a ‘multifaceted reflector’ design, which is intended to efficiently gather up the light and project it towards the front of the lamp. In LED designs this is redundant, since LEDs are naturally directional and therefore depend more on lens design to produce a desired beam angle.
You can break down spotlight applications into three main categories: accent lighting, task lighting, and general lighting. Accent lighting and task lighting is usually layered over an overall level of illumination (i.e. ambient lighting, or general lighting, which includes daylight and any widespread artificial lighting).
Accent lighting is display lighting, where the goal is simply to highlight interesting features such as paintings, photos, ornaments and urns, bookshelves, or furniture. Lit from a narrow angle, accent lighting is great for emphasising texture, and it’s also used to illuminate architectural features, such as recesses, niches, or alcoves.
With task lighting the advantage of a spotlight is in bringing a focused intensity of light to a working surface such as a desk, or kitchen worktop. Tasks can be writing, painting, typing, reading, sewing, assembly work, or chopping carrots – all can benefit from spotlighting!
Since spotlights are so versatile they can also be used to simply bounce light off of walls and ceilings, which has the effect of delivering a widespread level of ‘general lighting’.
MR11 & MR8: GU4
GU10 & GZ10: GU10