Did you ever look to purchase LED lamps or fixtures for a lighting project and notice that there are clear and frosted lens options for the same thing? Choosing the right option is important because each one is dependent on both personal preference and the application that you’re using them for. We’ll break it down for you in this article.
Clear and frosted lenses each have their benefits and drawbacks. We are going to look at each one to see which is best for you to use. These lenses have different lighting effects and each one has pros and cons depending on its application. There is a market for both types, though it is often more about the style of lighting and how you want the area to look.
- Clear lenses are transparent. You can see the LED components inside of them. They are the standard lens that comes with most lighting fixtures.
- Frosted lenses are opaque. You can’t see the LED components inside of them. You can look directly at the light, and it will not hurt your eyes.
There are some ways that frosted and clear lenses are the same (or there’s very little difference):
- There is not really a difference in price between them, so cost is not a factor. However, with certain applications, such as high bay lighting, there may be a small difference in price between clear and frosted lenses.
- Color Rendering (CRI) – CRI measures the capability of a light source to correctly replicate the colors of an object that it illuminates. A CRI of 90 provides excellent color rendering. A CRI of 100 is the maximum.
- Color Temperature (CCT) – CCT describes the appearance of light on a spectrum. For lighting purposes, this spectrum goes from warm white to neutral white to cool white.
Main Differences Between Frosted and Clear Lenses
- Clear Lens: This lens produces light that is stronger and more enhanced. Clear LED lamps will provide a light that is sharp and easy to spot. This makes it the best option when you have an area that should catch the eye. These clear options are good as exposed light sources. They can light up even a large room with some of the sharp light that you require.
- Frosted Lens: This lens produces an even light distribution. These types of lights are good if you need a uniform and more diffused light option. These are easier on the eye and will not pop out as much or cast a filament shadow at all.
- Clear Lens: Creates a bright light, which may be too harsh on the eyes. Directly looking at the LEDs may cause issues from day to day.
- Frosted Lens: Creates a light that’s more subdued and easier on the eyes. No direct glare.
- Clear Lens: Casts a sharper, more direct shadow but can look a little unpleasant.
- Frosted Lens: Casts a subtle, more diffused shadow that is soft on the eyes.
- Clear Lens: Produces 3-5% more lumen output than frosted bulbs. This means that clear lenses will provide the highest level of lumens and efficiency over frosted lenses.
- Frosted Lens: Produces 3-5% less lumen output than clear bulbs. This is the best option when you want to hide the intensity of the LED diodes without losing much in the way of lumen output.
- Clear Lens: Glass or polycarbonate with a transparent cover
- Frosted Lens: Glass or polycarbonate with an opaque, frosted film sleeve
- Retail display
- Task lighting
- Construction areas
- Large shop lighting
- Parking lots
- Study areas
- Home kitchens
- Small shop lighting
Types of Lighting Fixtures or Lamps That Have Clear or Frosted Options
Specific types of LED lights are going to offer various results depending on how you intend to use them. For example, the type you would use in your workshop are different than the ones you may use in your home or in an office. Here are a few examples:
High Bay and Low Bay Lights
High Bay LED lights are used to light up areas with high ceilings, typically 20 feet to 45 feet. Because a high-ceiling location has more space to fill, a high bay light is a powerful light source that can brighten up a large area. Low-bay lights, on the other hand, are used for ceilings 20 feet and under.
- Clear lenses are suitable for high bays when they are mounted for higher applications like warehouses. This is especially the case where light diffusion is not wanted or needed. The clear lens would also be suitable for applications where the fixture is pointing away from the floor such as wall washings.
- Frosted lenses would be the choice if you are concerned about glare and/or if you prefer to increase the light beam coverage to soften the beam fall-off. For low bay lights, you’ll want to use the clear lens for task lighting. Otherwise, since the light isn’t mounted as high, frosted lenses are the way to go.
Shop lights are linear and round fixtures with a small lighting footprint. They are used in showrooms, workshops, factories, hallways, and retail spaces. They are commonly used because of the consistent light it delivers and distributes.
LED shop strip lights have two general options for your light source. Some of them use LED tube lights as we discussed above. Others have an integrated LED array.
The various mounting styles available for shop strip lights allow them to be used in many ways. These styles include surface mounting, and chain or cable hanging.
- Use a clear lens for performing tasks or for illuminating merchandise at a store.
- Use a frosted lens for general lighting such as aisles or hallways.
LED tube lights are normally used for indoor applications like workshops, schools, and offices. They are available in assorted lengths which range from two to eight feet. The most common length is four feet. They are also available in two diameter sizes: T8 and T5.
LED tubes can replace traditional fluorescent tubes in linear high bay, troffer, and direct/indirect lighting fixtures. They can also be used in strip light and shop lighting fixtures. The fixtures that they are installed in are typically mounted from ceiling heights of 7 to 10 feet.
Because of their versatility in the types of fixtures that they are used, opting for a clear or frosted LED tube will depend on their application.
- If they are used in troffers or direct/indirect lighting fixtures it is recommended that frosted tubes are used.
- If they are used in strip light or shop light fixtures, it is recommended that clear tubes are used, particularly if they are used for task lighting.
- If they are used in high bay fixtures, you can use either clear or frosted tubes. It depends on the application. If you want to reduce glare, then frosted tubes are what you want.
Frosted LED lenses are a more popular option in most cases. Due to the glare of exposed LED lights, it’s common for many customers to opt for frosted lenses. They provide a more even light output and cast less shadow, making rooms feel brighter and larger. Frosted lenses are ideal for fixtures that are mounted in lower applications such as parking garages or offices. They are also best suited for areas where glare is a concern.
To maximize light output, clear lenses may be a better option. Clear lenses are best suited for higher applications such as warehouses or gymnasiums. They are also ideal if you are lighting specific areas that may not be used for general lighting such as display areas or for task lighting
About the Author
Cory Peterson is Director of Sales & Marketing at LED Lighting Supply where he focuses on improving customer experience and revenue operations. Cory writes about commercial & industrial lighting, along with topics important to contractors and facility managers. In his free time, Cory enjoys traveling, snorkeling, exercise and cooking.