Mobile Light Tower Options: Modern Outdoor Lighting Systems|
Article- August 2012 By Larson Electronics.com
Maganlight Solar Power Generator with Light Tower Mast
Light towers are one of the most effective ways to provide large scale outdoor illumination. Whether it be a job site, sporting or entertainment event, or an emergency scene, light towers provide the best possible lighting coverage of large outdoor areas. There are a wide variety of tower types available, and most are designed according to a fairly broad range of application specifications. Lighting needs vary according to a host of factors including possible OSHA regulations and rules related to work or job site lighting, the size of the area to be covered, and the availability of power and how easily a given location is accessed. Choosing a tower lighting system must thusly take into account the specific requirements of the intended application if it is to be of the most effectiveness.
For most mid to large scale worksites, the most popular light towers are by far mobile lighting systems mounted to towable trailers and equipped with their own diesel generators. These systems are ideal for continuous use, and depending upon the size of the generator capable of illuminating anywhere from three to ten acres effectively. Masts for these towers are generally folding or telescoping designs, with some incorporating a combination of both for both excellent height adjustment and compact transport size. These towers can range from 12 to 30 feet in height and typically incorporate anywhere from 2 to 16 metal halide lamps of 500 to 1,000 watts each. As well as high mobility and high light output, these mobile lighting and generator packages provide additional benefits by being able to also provide an onsite power source for other equipment. Mobile generator powered light towers are popular because they allow operators to simply tow the entire tower into position, extend the mast, and begin operation, all of which can usually be performed in a matter of minutes. Even the smaller units are often capable of operating for 60 hours without refueling, and larger versions with additional tanks even longer. Finally, these high powered systems are the most capable of providing the minimum lighting levels required for work sites by OSHA, allowing operators to provide not only effective lighting, but safety regulation compliant lighting as well.
Another type of tower that has been gaining quickly in popularity is similar to the more traditional lighting systems described above, however, these make use of LED lighting technology rather than metal halide lamps. These LED light towers are currently not quite as powerful as metal halide equipped towers, however, they bring several improvements that make them an attractive alternative for illuminating smaller and medium sized areas. LED light towers offer an operational efficiency and reliability that other systems simply cannot match. While metal halide towers are indeed efficient, they are susceptible to slow warm up times and require several minutes for the lamps to reach full output. Also, operators must wait several minutes after shutting down metal halide lamps to allow them to coolr before attempting to restart them. Finally, metal halide lamps are made of glass and run quite hot, making them prone to damage if subjected to excessive stresses such as hard impacts or vibrations. LEDs on the other hand are also very efficient, however, they do not require any warm up period, can be switched on and off quickly without any cool down period, and reach full output immediately. LED lamps are also much more durable as they have no glass in their construction, making them much more capable of withstanding operation in rough conditions.
The most outstanding benefits though come from the long life and efficiency of LED lamps. LED lamps provide a lot of light output from less electricity, making them ideal for mobile light tower use where a standalone generator is used. Since they use less power, LED light towers can run longer on a single tank of gas, reducing operating costs and making them more cost effective. Further benefit is had from the long operational life of LEDs. While a typical metal halide lamp realistically can operate for about 5,000 to 15,000 hours, and LED lamp can operate for over 50,000 hours, meaning less downtime, lower maintenance costs, and less lamp replacements. All of which adds up to less money spent by operators to provide effective lighting. As LED technology continues to progress, there is little doubt that LED light towers will eventually be capable of the same extreme lumen output as their metal halide counterparts.
Another type of tower that is also gaining in popularity does away entirely with the diesel generator and taps into natural and free sources of power, specifically solar energy. Solar powered light towers are still a relatively new addition to the outdoor lighting markets, but so far show more than enough effectiveness to make them a viable alternative to traditional generator powered towers. Solar powered light towers carry an array of batteries in place of the usual generator, and rely on an array of foldable solar panels to replenish the batteries as they become depleted. These towers are quite often paired with LED lamps in order to maximize efficiency, and can operate for around 10 to 14 hours before they must recharge their battery banks. Besides the obvious savings from not requiring fuel to operate, solar powered light towers are an excellent choice for entertainment and event lighting as they produce no noise or fumes. Whereas a typical diesel powered light tower must be located well away from spectators or performers in order to avoid problems with noise and exhaust, solar powered towers can be located much closer, which in turn allows operators to use the light they produce more effectively and efficiently as well. These systems require more setup time and a little more knowledge to maintain properly, but provide returns on the order of 4-6,000 dollars a month in reduced fuel costs alone.
Modern work lighting has grown by leaps and bounds within the last ten years, and operators on outdoor sites have more options than ever for providing illumination. Depending on factors such as power needs, costs, regulations and mobility, operators can choose from a wide array of light tower systems to easily find the system best suited to their needs.