LEDs: Realizing the Trouble Lights True Potential|
If you’ve ever worked underneath a vehicle or had to repair equipment in a confined space, then you have probably at one time or another used a classic trouble light. For the uninitiated, trouble lights are those lights you often see hanging from reels or coiled up in a corner of your local mechanics shop. They are usually nothing more exotic than a long electrical cord, at the end of which is attached a handle with a reflector and bulb on the end. The common trouble light is very simple in design and in usual practice only about adequate for the jobs it was designed for. Their basic design hasn’t changed much in the decades that they’ve been in service, which is somewhat surprising considering the most common complaints which have plagued their use.
Most trouble lights are intended for applications which involve working in tight spaces or around equipment. Because of this they are usually constructed with a metal reflector housing which surrounds the bulb. While this housing may be durable, it also gets quite hot while the light is in operation. As you can imagine, combine this hot housing with working in a confined space and you have the recipe for frequent and painful burns. Switching the bulb out for one of a lower wattage is usually not a viable option because in addition to being prone to causing burns, these lamps typically do not produce a very good quality of light, so switching to a lower wattage lamp further reduces their effectiveness. This leads to most users of trouble lights installing the highest practical wattage lamp and resigning themselves to the fact of occasional mishaps despite however much care they may practice.
Another of the most common problems associate with trouble lights are the bulbs used. They typical trouble lamp is equipped with the same bulb you can find in your household table lamp. These bulbs are very fragile and cannot withstand a great deal of vibration or impacts. As trouble lights are by nature intended for work environments, they are then subject to a great deal of opportunities for dropping and being banged around. With a typical incandescent light bulb this results in very frequent bulb replacements as filaments tend to break very easily, and in more annoying instance broken glass all over the workspace as the bulbs themselves shatter. Some trouble lights make use of fluorescent lamps and generally tend to be somewhat more durable since they have no filament that can be easily broken by minor impacts. However, these lamps are still very fragile as their tubes are made of glass and anything greater than a minor drop is almost guaranteed to cause breakage.
Still yet another problem associated with trouble lights is their inability to safely withstand exposure to moisture. When working underneath vehicles or heavy equipment it is very common to encounter oils, water, antifreeze and other liquids that drip, leak, or spill while work is being performed. Should these fluids contact a typical trouble light while it is in use, there is then a good chance for shattering of the bulb, or worse electrical shock to the worker. Rounding out the problems is the most common issue of light quality and intensity. The average incandescent bulb produces a soft yellowish white light that while pleasing in a relaxed setting, is not effective in applications that involve close or detail oriented work. The typical response as noted earlier is to simply install a higher wattage bulb, but this then leads to the aforementioned occasional burns when a second of carelessness occurs.
Given all of these issues, it truly is a wonder that the typical trouble light has remained so little changed since its original design. Recent developments in lighting technology however have introduced significant improvements that promise to eliminate every single problem that’s been covered here. With the rise to prominence of solid state lighting technology, or LEDs, trouble lights are now becoming a truly effective and user friendly piece of utilitarian work illumination.
LEDs offer a lighting solution that drastically improves ruggedness and durability while eliminating the potential for accidental injuries from burns. L EDs are able to accomplish this feat because they produce light in an entirely different manner than the traditional incandescent bulb. Rather than heating a wire filament to high temperatures to create light, an LED produces light through electroluminescence. This is a process whereby electricity is passed through a semi conducting material which then emits this electrical energy in the form of photons or, light. This process is very efficient and produces very little heat. Where an incandescent bulb may produce only 15 lumens of light per watt while also radiating copious amounts of heat, an LED produces 50 or more lumens per watt and produces only a fraction the amount of heat. This means that an LED bulb of much lower wattage can be used and still provide a similar amount of light compared to an incandescent lamp. The result is no more chances for burns with an LED equipped trouble light.
LEDs are also solid state in their construction. Trouble lights like Larson Electronics’ s Vapor Proof (Waterproof) LED Trouble Light utilize LEDs that are practically impervious to damage from dropping or impacts. This is because LEDs have no filament or fragile parts in their construction. The light emitting portion of the LED is little more than a tiny piece of semi conducting material solidly affixed to a durable base. Additionally, the trouble light retains the protective housing and reflector which adds even further ruggedness to an already durable unit. The problems associated bulbs shattering are also eliminated with LEDs. There is no glass tube or globe in an LED lamps design. Shatterproof acrylics and composites make up their protective lenses and round out an extremely rugged unit.
In units like the Larson Electronics trouble light the entire assembly is both waterproof and vapor proof. While not explosion proof rated, this adds an extra degree of protection should the light come into contact with liquids in the workspace. As can be seen, the addition of LEDs to the venerable trouble light design is an excellent answer to the longstanding problems once associated with their use. No more breakage and frequent bulb replacements, no more high heat and burns, and a highly efficient source of light all add up to finally make the trouble light everything it should be; safe, effective and durable.