The Work Light: Just Reliable Dependable Light|
The lowly work light. It’s like the guy that’s not much fun to have at the party but has the cool car and can always be counted on to show up for a ride to get you there when you need it. The work light gets shoved behind the seat in the utility truck, it gets jammed into toolboxes with a hundred pounds of tools, it gets buried under mounds of electrical cable and assorted fixtures on the floorboard and is then expected to work as intended when it gets dug out and plugged in.
Just about every utility worker, lineman, plant inspector and anyone whose job has ever required a work light can relate to the above scenario. It’s just the nature of the job in most cases. It’s not that the work light is not appreciated and the expense ignored, it’s more that when work has got to be done and the pace gets hectic, there is little time for worrying about babying your equipment. Certainly most professionals are far from unorganized and take above average care of their trade tools, but let’s be honest here and admit that when things really get busy, when those emergency calls start coming in fast and heavy, it’s all about getting the job done and being tidy can be taken care of later. Like the rest of the tools and equipment, the work light gets tossed inside and it’s then off to the next call.
Whether it’s a spotlight, a floodlight or a portable work area light, we ask a lot from our lighting equipment. When it’s the middle of the night in freezing cold temperatures and the power goes out in an entire neighborhood, the lineman called to get things back online doesn’t have the luxury of fooling with finicky plugs or replacing bad bulbs in his work light. When a security officer has to check on a report of suspicious activity he can’t afford to have his spotlight flicker on and off while in the middle of searching the grounds. When the emergency technician arrives at a crash scene his area lights had better work on demand. We often take our equipment for granted and when that equipment is only used under specific conditions and at irregular intervals the way work lighting is it’s easy to forget how much we can depend on it to get the job done when we do need it.
Lighting in almost any form has traditionally been at its core somewhat fragile in nature. Glass bulbs and lenses that can break from minor impacts, filaments that can break or burn out if jostled too much and plugs and connectors that have a habit of wearing out too soon often conspire to make providing adequate light for the job at hand a challenge. Tradition, however, can change and nowhere is this more evident than in the lighting industry today. Where we once only had a choice of more powerful bulbs and keeping several of them on hand for spares, we now have lights that can stand up to some of the worst abuse imaginable and still perform day in and day out without complaint. Modern technology has given us the compact HID bulb and the LED light emitter, both of which offer advances and improvements only fifteen years ago impossible to obtain. Perhaps the most promising and effective of the new lighting technologies though is the LED.
Very compact and highly efficient, the LED has received a great deal of attention as of late as the federal government and industry looks for ways to reduce energy consumption and improve the operating costs associated with doing business. Rapid development has improved the LED from a simple low power light source suitable only for use in small electronics and low power applications to a powerful and efficient replacement for almost every type of lighting application once the domain of the incandescent lamp.
Basically a semi-conductor that emits light when current is passed through it, the LED is solid state and has no toxic gases, no glass and produces a great deal of light from a very small area. With efficiency quickly approaching an average of 100 watts per lumen the LED is already being used to phase out the incandescent lights used in traffic signals, street lights, residential fixtures and automobiles. In the industrial and work setting, LEDs have had a somewhat tougher road to travel as many of these applications require a light that is capable of throwing well focused illumination for long distances. The problem has been the LEDs tendency to produce a lot of light with little energy but light that is difficult to concentrate well enough to project a far reaching beam.
New designs and fixture construction, however, has largely solved this problem leading to LED spot and floodlights that easily rival all but the most powerful incandescent and are only overshadowed by the sheer power of the HID lamp. The Larson Electronics LED10W-12EX 12 LED Light Emitter for instance produces 10,800 lumens and can project a beam of light over 7,000 feet. The real benefit for operators and professionals in the field however comes from the LED’s extreme ruggedness, durability and longevity.
While it’s certainly great that LEDs draw less amperage than normal incandescent lamps, which allows users to operate them for longer periods using only battery power, their ability to easily survive impacts, vibrations and shocks that would destroy a traditional light are their real shining attribute. If you drop your 100 watt incandescent work light on the pavement you can be pretty sure you’ll be at the least replacing the bulb, particularly if the light is on or still hot from use. Not so with the LED work light which will simply continue working as if nothing ever happened. Of course it’s not recommended, but in the real world this means that when you finish a job and chuck your LED work light in the truck in a hurry you won’t be hearing the pop of an exploding bulb or the crash of breaking glass. Even better, since LEDs run much cooler you won’t be burning yourself or melting the vinyl on your vehicle seats because you forgot to wait for your light to cool down.
LEDs further benefit the worker as there will be little or no need to replace a bulb for many years to come. LEDs typically have life spans rated at 50,000 or more hours while an incandescent bulb will be ready for replacement in less the 3,000. This means no more showing up on the site at 3:00 am and finding that your spotlight has decided it’s time for a new bulb. Even better, the LED produces a whiter cleaner light than the halogen lamp, which means no more squinting and trying determine if a tiny wire is yellow or white or if the shirt a suspect is wearing is actually blue or green.
Although their initial costs are higher, when you consider that you will not be needing to purchase another work light for several years, it becomes obvious just how sensible upgrading to an LED work light really is. No more breakage, no more bulb replacements, longer work time with less battery drain, more light with better quality and extreme durability all add up to an improvement in the performance of the job. Isn’t that what it’s all really about?