What Makes a Good Spotlight?|
The time was when buying a spotlight simply meant looking for a brand that had the highest candlepower rating. The more batteries a flashlight used the better, and if the light could be used as a club well, that was considered a selling point. These days however, buying a spotlight requires a little more consideration. Advancements in technology coupled with a more knowledgeable public have caused spotlight manufacturers to literally revolutionize the way flashlights, and spotlights in particular are designed and manufactured. Gone are the days when simply buying a flashlight with 6 D-cell batteries and a Krypton bulb would meet almost any expectations. Modern technology has produced equipment that for all intents and purposes has made the alkaline battery and the filament based bulb adequate for only the most basic applications. Where aluminum bodied three cell flashlights were once the high end light of choice for professionals and homeowners alike, units with rechargeable lithium ion batteries powering HID or LED lamps now represent the top of the line.
The leading reason for these changes is the vast improvements these new technologies represent. While the standard Krypton bulb may have produced a whopping 45 lumens of light when powered by 3 D cell batteries, basic HID and LED lamps routinely exceed 100 lumens when powered by a small lithium-ion battery pack. As well as being capable of producing a great deal more light in a small package, these new lights provide light for a longer amount of time, and their batteries can be recharged up to a thousand times before needing replacement. To see what represents the best in portable lighting technology, let’s first look at the power sources being used.
It used to be that when it came to rechargeable batteries that ni-cad or, “Nickel Cadmium” batteries ruled the roost. However, although they were an economical alternative to typical disposable batteries, they were quick to lose their charge when not in use, were drained quickly when used in high draw applications, and required careful charging procedures to avoid damaging them. Although improvements have been made, typical ni-cad batteries still remain a less then optimal power source for energy hungry electronics. Lithium-ion batteries on the other hand are a major leap forward in rechargeable battery technology. They can retain their charge much longer when not in use and do not require special procedures for recharging; unlike other batteries, lithium-ion units do not need to be fully discharged before being recharged and in fact work best when left with a small charge when placed in the charging unit. Lithium-ion batteries have a greater charge density than other rechargeable batteries, which means they can hold a larger amount of stored energy in a smaller size. High power lithium-ion batteries can provide both low and high discharge rates, allowing them to last twice as long as the ni-cad batteries they are edging out. In modern portable electronics, all of the aforementioned traits have helped the lithium-ion battery become the power source of choice for achieving the best all around performance.
Although the power source in a portable light is critical, making the best use of that power is what sets new spotlights and flashlights apart from their predecessors. The improvements in lighting technology have been focused on producing bulbs that produce light in wholly different ways than standard filament based bulbs. New materials and methods have resulted in lamps not only producing more light, but producing it more efficiently as well. For high intensity spotlights HID, or “High Intensity Discharge” bulbs have emerged as the top performers when it comes to sheer power and brilliance. Unlike tungsten filament bulbs which produce light by heating a metal wire, HID bulbs produce light by creating an electrical arc between two electrodes which then heats and evaporates metallic salts within the bulb. As theses salts are evaporated, they create plasma which intensifies the light created by the arc. Once the plasma reaction within a HID lamp is started, very little energy is needed to sustain it. HID lamps produce less heat than filament based bulbs, so less energy is wasted. HID lamps require an initially high electrical charge to get their arc started, but once the process has started the electrical requirements drop drastically. Since the power requirements of HID lamps vary during their operation,( high voltage is need to strike the arc, less to maintain it), HID lamps make use of a ballast to provide the initial high voltage needed for startup and then regulate the voltage to a lower level once the lamp is started. Although the ballast adds complexity to a spotlight, the ballast components in portable spotlights are solid state and very reliable.
When a lithium-ion battery is paired with an HID lamp, the result is an intensely bright spotlight that will outperform traditional spotlights in every manner. Lamps like the Larson Electronics 15 Million Candle Power Rechargeable HID Pistol Grip Handheld Spotlight use this HID lamp - lithium-ion battery combination to produce a 15 million candlepower beam of intense light that can reach for over 2800 feet. The use of a large reflector further focuses the light produced by the HID bulb and an adjustable lens allows the light to be configured as a spot or floodlight simply by turning the lens housing. By pairing the efficient HID lamp with the powerful lithium-ion battery, extreme effectiveness is guaranteed and a runtime of over two hours is achieved on a single charge. The high energy storage ability of the lithium-ion battery allows the manufacturer to design a smaller, more compact unit that is light in weight, yet still outperforms any comparable conventional lamp available.
An added benefit of HID lamps is their inherent durability. While tungsten filament lamps contain a thin wire element that is prone to breakage from impact and vibrations, HID lamps have no such filament and are much more resistant to damage. Where a typical incandescent bulb may last only 1000-2000 hours, HID bulbs like those used by the Larson Electronics are designed to last 4,500 hours reducing the need for changing bulbs. Taken as a whole, it’s no wonder why new technology is making the common flashlight obsolete. For work, recreation, emergencies, and everyday use, you simply can’t do any better than an energy efficient HID spotlight paired with a lithium-ion battery.