Cool Tools: Portable Lighting
Published: April 2012
Installing security, alarm and control systems often requires working in confined, sometimes dark spaces, making compact, portable light sources a necessary tool of the trade.
Installers typically carry flashlights, and corded single-lamp worklights with clamps or stands have been available for ages. However, both categories of temporary, personal lighting have changed dramatically in recent years.
A surprisingly wide array of flashlights are available that are more compact, brighter and more durable. Many use light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The selection of portable worklights for small spaces has increased with more cordless models available in many configurations. Sources for personal lighting products also have diversified with well-known tool-makers now offering flashlights and worklights in their product lines.
The emergence and evolution of LEDs and lithium-ion batteries have driven the changes in personal lighting products. While there has been a proliferation of lighting products employing continually advancing LED technology, flashlights and personal worklights with incandescent or fluorescent lamps remain in wide use and are readily available. However, Rob Bresnahan of Larson Electronics (Magnalight) said that LEDs are the future.
“For lighting efficiency,” he said, “LEDs now rival or surpass almost every other form of lighting. They can match most forms of lighting in output and intensity with few notable exceptions, such as high-intensity discharge lamps. LED lifespan is many times that of all other forms of lighting, and they have an inherent durability that is unmatched.”
Beginning with providing light for small, hard-to-access areas that simply cannot be illuminated any other way, flashlights have innumerable uses for security, alarm and control installations and maintenance. LED flashlights have flooded the market, ranging from inexpensive pocket lights to rugged professional models. Inexpensive pocket or keychain LED lights are popular give-away items at industry events. However, whether LED or incandescent, professionals expect more output than these low-end lights can deliver, and there is a wide selection of quality LED flashlights in a variety of sizes. These types are attractive because LEDs can last tens of thousands of hours and can withstand bumps and drops better than fragile incandescent bulbs. Because LEDs draw less power, compact models use conventional alkaline batteries that last longer, although some make use of lithium-ion batteries.
LED flashlight offerings include the following:
• Greenlee (www.greenlee.com) has a new line of LED flashlights that features 50,000-hour life and a digitally regulated beam for constant brightness. The FL2D comes with two brightness settings to extend battery life. It has an aircraft-grade anodized aluminum casing with anti-roll feature design.
• Klein Tools’ (www.kleintools.com) recoil LED Grip-It 90-degree LED flashlight provides 10,000 hours of 21-lumen test light output with 100 percent of light focused forward in a white collimated beam. It has a rugged ABS body with stainless steel clip for hands-free operation and a durable polycarbonate lens.
• Maglite (www.maglite.com) has introduced a Mini Maglite LED flashlight powered by two AA alkaline batteries. It weighs 4.15 ounces with batteries. Maglite also offers two larger LED flashlights that use D-cell alkaline batteries. All have anodized aluminum cases, spot-to-flood beam adjustment, and two power settings.
• Makita (www.makita.com) offers 16 models of cordless LED flashlights, ranging from 9.6 to 18 volts (V). The newest six-LED, 18V LXT model runs up to 50 hours per charge of an 18V LXT lithium-ion battery. In total, it is less than six inches long and weighs only 1.85 pounds.
Compact personal worklights supported by a base, pedestal mount, small tripod or other method of mounting are a step up from flashlights. Some larger one-lamp lights can be mounted on a frame with wheels. Most smaller models are cordless, but as the size and the lighting intensity increases, a power connection usually is required—either from an outlet or portable generator. Both cordless and corded models that use incandescent or LED light sources are available. Many cordless models still use nickel-cadmium batteries, but lithium-ion powers many newer products. The number of LED models is increasing steadily.
Designers Edge’s Eco Zone rechargeable worklight uses 180 50,000-hour rated LEDs with a high-output mirror reflector that produces 1,600 lumens output. The tough polymeric housing is cool to the touch and suitable for indoor and outdoor use. The on/off switch is weatherproof (www.designersedge.com).
DeWalt’s (www.dewalt.com) popular 18V nickel-cadmium cordless “snakelight” has a flexible neck that allows the direction of its wide-angle Xenon beam to be easily adjusted. The flexible neck can wrap around objects for support. The 12V Max LED worklight produces 130 lumens of output. It is powered by a 12V Max lithium-ion battery pack that charges in 40 minutes and has no memory and virtually no self discharge.
Husky’s 180 LED portable worklight has 180 super-bright LEDs producing 100,000 hours of light. The durable lightweight polymeric housing remains cool to the touch and is mounted on a sturdy stand. The weatherproof dual-level switch has a power-saver mode. It runs four hours on one charge (www.homedepot.com).
Magnalight from Larson Electronics offers a wide selection of portable lighting products, including personal worklights. The RL-85-10W1 LED pistol grip spotlight is a rugged and effective spotlight producing 800 lumens and generating a light beam approximately 800 feet long by 175 feet wide. The light contains a single 10W LED rated at 120,000 hours. It runs for 4 hours on a 90-minute charge of its lithium-ion battery pack (www.magnalight.com).
Milwaukee Electric Tool’s M18 lithium-ion LED cordless worklight provides more than 500 times the life of conventional incandescent lamps. A sealed aluminum head rotates 135 degrees to allow the 160 lumen LED beam to be directed at a work area. An integrated hook permits hands-free use (www.milwaukeetool.com).
Molex offers a wide selection of Woodhead worklighting, including hand lamps; light strings; tube lamps; wide-area portable lights; and general-purpose, wet-location, and hazardous-duty lighting. String lights provide convenient, economical, temporary lighting and are packaged for easy storage, handling and installation. A durable, nonmetallic guard eliminates the need for grounding and is quick-opening for easy bulb access (www.woodhead.com).
GRIFFIN, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at email@example.com.