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Spotlight vs. Floodlight: What’s The Difference? Comparisons and FAQs

Spotlight vs Floodlight - Featured Image

There are two main types of lights that appear when researching indoor and outdoor lighting options. Some lights bill themselves as spotlights, and others claim they are floodlights. Many times, the light fixtures themselves look very similar, so what is the difference between these two types of lights? These two lights are very similar in appearance and functionality, but they have some critical differences that make them suitable for different tasks.

Here is a comprehensive comparison between spotlights and floodlights.


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At a Glance

Spotlight vs Floodlight - Visual Differences
Image By: Left – Spotlight (xiaoyun huang, Unsplash) | Right – Floodlight (Aron Yigin, Unsplash)
  • Concentrated beam of light
  • Uses less power
  • Wide range of indoor/outdoor applications
  • Good for concerts, statues, and landscapes
  • Provides illumination for a large area
  • Uses more power
  • Wide range of outdoor applications but limited indoor applications
  • Good for yards, security purposes, driveways and parking lots

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Overview of Spotlights

halogen spotlight
Image By: Mondisso, Pixabay

Spotlights produce intense spots of light in a very small and focused area. Think of them as a large flashlight. Spotlights are used to highlight individual features or people and are not used to illuminate a large area.

Spotlights are typically much more maneuverable and movable than floodlights. Spotlights use less energy than floodlights because the illuminated area is typically much smaller than a floodlight. Spotlights can be used indoors or outdoors. Indoor spotlights can be used for commercial purposes, like during a hockey game or Broadway show, or they can be used in residential homes to highlight an accent wall or favorite piece of artwork.

Spotlights have a big drawback over floodlights in that areas under constant spotlight illumination can become hot or even faded. Large spotlights, like the ones used for plays, can get very hot. The intense light can also be blinding and disorienting for people looking into a spotlight, much more so than a floodlight.

When to Use a Spotlight

You want to use a spotlight when you want to highlight something small. Spotlights are used to bring attention to something, and they can be used in conjunction with floodlights. Spotlights generally light up an area roughly the size of a person but rarely anything larger. If you are looking for interior accent lighting, you want to choose a spotlight over a floodlight.

Typical Uses for Spotlights

Spotlights are used in a variety of different ways. Spotlights are commonly found in indoor productions like plays, sporting events, special events, and concerts. The lights that follow people around on stage are all spotlights. Spotlights are also used to illuminate specific things like memorials, flags, or statues.

  • Very focused light
  • Can be used indoors or outdoors
  • Uses little power
  • Movable and maneuverable
  • Can’t be used to illuminate a large area
  • Can make an area hot
  • Can be dazzling or disorienting

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Overview of Floodlights

floodlights at night
Image Credit: Aron Yigin, Unsplash

Floodlights provide angled light over a wide area. Floodlights provide even lighting meant to illuminate very large spaces. They can light up places as small as a driveway or as large as a NASCAR superspeedway. Floodlights bathe an area in even lighting and are primarily used to provide lighting in the dark or at night. Floodlights are often used for safety and security purposes by keeping areas well-lit to prevent tripping or criminal activity.

The downside to floodlights is that they use a lot more power than spotlights because they produce a lot more light. Floodlights are not very maneuverable, and they cannot really be tailored to fit a specific area very well. Floodlights cannot be used indoors unless you are putting them into a very large building like a warehouse. Floodlights also typically produce only one color of light, whereas spotlights can use filters to create different colors of light.

When to Use a Floodlight

You want to use a floodlight when your primary goal is the illumination of a large area. Floodlights are often used to illuminate treacherous areas like dark driveways or uneven sidewalks. Floodlights can also be used to light up a patch of lawn or garden. If you want to highlight a specific tree or plant, you will want to use a spotlight instead.

Floodlights also make better security lights than spotlights. Motion-activated floodlights can light up an area so cameras can capture the motion more accurately. It also lets people look outside and see through the darkness as to what is happening. Floodlights can also be used as a deterrent against animals and criminals since they are very bright and prevent things from sneaking around in the shadows.

Typical Uses for Floodlights

Floodlights are used in a variety of applications. Floodlights are used to illuminate residential driveways, pathways, and yards at night. Floodlights are used to light up sporting events like football games, baseball games, and races. Floodlights are also used to brighten airports, construction sites, and industrial sites like ports and railyards.

  • Very bright
  • Can be used in a wide variety of applications
  • Great for safety and security purposes
  • No real indoor applications
  • Only one light-color
  • Uses more power than spotlights

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FAQs on Spotlight vs. Floodlight

Do I Need a Spotlight or Floodlight?

Whether you need a spotlight or a floodlight will entirely depend on your goals. Do you want to illuminate or light an area? Do you want to highlight or accent an area? Floodlights will be used for illumination purposes. If you are trying to light up a dark area and make it brighter and more navigable, you want a floodlight. If you are looking to highlight something like a palm tree, architectural feature, or piece of art, you want a spotlight. Spotlights draw the eye; floodlights fill the eye. Your goal for your lighting will determine which type of light you need for your application.

spotlight from lamp illuminating a framed picture
Image Credit: StockSnap, Pixabay

Are Floodlights or Spotlights More Expensive?

Floodlights are typically more expensive than spotlights. Floodlights are larger, brighter, and use more power than spotlights. Industrial and commercial spotlights can be quite expensive. Ordinary people are more likely to encounter industrial spotlights than they are to encounter industrial floodlights. Residential spotlights are very small and manageable, and affordable. Residential spotlights also use less power than residential floodlights. However, some residential floodlights can use solar power to reduce their power consumption considerably.

Are Spotlights or Floodlights Better for Indoor Use?

Spotlights are much better for indoor use. Floodlights have very few indoor uses because their wide-angle illumination generally just washes everything out inside. Spotlights can be used to highlight artwork, accent walls, and more inside. Spotlights are also used inside in a variety of commercial applications.

Image Credit: ANTIQGRA, Pixabay

Are Spotlights or Floodlights Better for Outdoor Use?

Floodlights are typically better for outdoor use. Spotlights do have outdoor applications, but they are relegated to highlighting something specific, like a tree or statue. In most cases, outdoor lighting is some sort of floodlight. Floodlights provide much of the outdoor nighttime illumination that people are used to, including streetlights and stadium lights.

When to Use a Spotlight vs. When to Use a Floodlight

When to Use a Spotlight
  • Highlighting an indoor or outdoor accent
  • Spotlighting a performer or athlete
  • Illuminating a flag or flagpole
  • Accent lighting during a concert, play, or show
  • When you want focused multicolored lighting
When to Use a Floodlight
  • Illuminate a yard
  • Illuminate a driveway, sidewalk, or area of the road
  • Light up a construction site
  • Light up a runway or other high traffic areas
  • When you generally want bright white light

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Floodlights and spotlights are two common types of lights that are found in both residential and commercial applications. Floodlights fill a large area with bright light to beat back the darkness. Spotlights use a narrow beam to light up a very small area for accent purposes. Both of these lights are commonly found outside and sometimes they are even used in concert with one another. The light that is best for you will depend on your individual goals and applications.

Featured Image Credit: Left – Spotlight (Nick Fewings, Unsplash) | Right – Floodlight (kengkreingkrai, Pixabay)


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