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My husband and I just moved into a new home and have found that we have two different types of recessed light fixtures. One of types only works with a specific type of halogen flood light bulbs and multiple attempts to buy new bulbs have not resulted in finding a new bulb that will work in the fixture.

The label inside the fixture says " Use only PAR-30 Reflector type lamps 75 watts maximum". The bulb that works says PEC PAR38 FL 130V 90W and appears to be halogen with a large brass base. We haven't been able to find replacement bulbs that work in this fixture. Does anyone have any advice on how to figure out what bulbs will work in this fixture?

We'd really appreciate any help. Thanks.

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    What types of bulbs did not work? Regular incandescent? CFL? LED? Also, on bulbs that didn't work, check the tip. Some bulbs are poorly manufactured and the little metal contact at the tip is missing or lacks enough height to make good contact in the socket. – fixer1234 Apr 29 '17 at 3:19
  • The label was written at the time when you would simply buy an incandescent bulb of that type. PAR30 refers to a specific type of bulb and envelope size. And that bulb that works is in violation of that label as it's a 90W bulb. The label is a warning about the heat level the can is designed to safely deal with. With respect to your problem, we need more info. I'm assuming these fixtures have common Edison screw sockets. As fixer noted, the sockets may have a poor base contact (turn power off before trying to fix that) or the bulbs may not be screwed in deep enough to touch it. – DaveM Apr 29 '17 at 3:38
  • What's more, the PAR38 has a larger radius and blocks much more airflow than the PAR30, impeding cooling. Pi/4x38x38 vs pi/4x30x30. – Harper Apr 29 '17 at 15:09
  • Thanks for the information. We had tried various types of regular incandescent indoor flood lights without it working. We found one yesterday that works, its a halogen PAR 30L with a long neck. I'm not sure if its the long neck that caused it to work or the halogen. Any idea? – Megan May 16 '17 at 16:26
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It may be a dimensional issue.

Incandescent/halogen typically have a long narrow stem. CFLs put a pudgy power converter module right at the bottom. Some LEDs unnecessarily do the same since CFLs do.

Often the socket proper is recessed behind a shield or something. When you're screwing in a CFL, it grabs a couple of threads then the power converter strikes and binds against that shield. It feels like the socket has bottomed out snug, when actually the bottom contacts are not touching. And the bulb just doesn't turn on!

Check out your fixtures, but I bet that's what is going on. You can change the fixture, alter the fixture, or shop smartly for long-neck LED "bulbs".

You probably won't find them in CFL, nor should you look. CFLs are entirely obsolete. What's more, CFLs are particularly unsuited for aimed PAR lighting since they make a blurry clump of non-directional light which cannot be focused via reflectors or lenses. LEDs are the ideal case, as they inherently make a cone of light which is easily focused further via optics, which are near 100% efficient.

  • I think you are right about the bulb wasn't connecting to the base. Thanks for the information. We had tried various types of regular incandescent indoor flood lights without it working. We found one yesterday that works, its a halogen PAR 30L with a long neck. I'm not sure if its the long neck that caused it to work or the halogen. I think its the long neck. Does that make sense? – Megan May 16 '17 at 16:29
  • @Megan i'm sure it's the long neck, but a look inside the fixture would tell definitely. – Harper May 16 '17 at 16:33
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You have in that fixture a PAR38 halogen bulb that is working. It is a larger bulb than the PAR30.

Both of these types use the same Socket Style and so can be interchanged as long as the lamp fits - typically the larger PAR 38 bulb will be available in higher wattage versions - such as your 90 Watt bulb which is way too much for a 75 Watt Max fixture.

PAR-30 should not be a problem but given the neck length and the internals of your recess might not be allowing the bulb to seat all the way in the socket and therefore not work.

  • Verify the bulb is able to be screwed in all the way to the bottom of the socket to seat.
  • Thanks for the information. We had tried various types of regular incandescent indoor flood lights without it working. We found one yesterday that works, its a halogen PAR 30L with a long neck. I'm not sure if its the long neck that caused it to work or the halogen. Any idea? – Megan May 16 '17 at 16:30
  • @Megan yes you are using a Long Neck and so it works. With the short neck lamps, the bulbs fat portion butted up against the recessed lamp assembly and your bulb was not seating all the way down.The problem is the Recess Assembly prevents the short neck lamp from screwing in completely where the metal tip on the bottom of the lamp can make electrical contact; that is the reason you screw all bulbs in until they stop. You can fix this by changing the recess assembly or using the Long Neck bulbs. – Ken May 16 '17 at 22:14
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I switched all of my light bulbs to CFL bulbs and they work fine. Since my hall, living room, and family room ceilings are 10 feet high I chose the 23 watt ( 100 watt equivalent ) bright white bulbs for the recessed lights. I chose the 18 watt (75 watt equivalent) bright white for all the ceiling fans. Also, I use the "daylight" bulbs for work areas since the light is a brilliant white and great for working. I do not like the yellow cast of the soft white bulbs so they are only used outside. All the fixtures, including ceiling, and table lamps are on/off. Only 2 light fixtures use incandescent bulbs since they are chandeliers and cannot use CFL's or LED's do to their unpleasant look and my wife's opinion, which is OK by me. This may not be the kind of information you are looking for, but it was my solution to my lighting needs and reduced energy use.

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I had a similar problem. I found that using a BR-30 (particularly the Phillips 65 w equivalent led) instead of an R-30 resolved it. Most of the comments I have seen on-line suggest that the bulbs are interchangeable, but obviously that is not necessarily the case for all fixtures. Apparently, BR-30 bulbs are a bit longer and that additional length evidently allowed the bulb base to make good electrical contact with the center of the fixture.

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