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During my 35 year stint as a maintenance technician and electrician, I've used temporary work lights a good portion of that time. I've used all the various types or configurations: Hand-held (aka, flashlight) Hands-free Portables Tripod mounted, and Trouble lights

Temporary Work Lights: Types, Tech, and Lumen Output

Steve Maurer, IME
During my 35 year stint as a maintenance technician and electrician, I've used temporary work lights a good portion of that time. I've used all the various types or configurations:

  • Hand-held (aka, flashlight)
  • Hands-free
  • Portables
  • Tripod mounted, and
  • Trouble lights
I don't think I really have a preference, and own all of those configurations to use a work and at home. But through the years, I have come to really appreciate a particular technology: LED.

Just for giggles, I'd like to mention this one more time. Watts do not equal lumen output. Hopefully, the need for explaining this distinction will soon fade away.

But it bears repeating, if only to shed light on it.

Watts are units of power. Lumens are all about brightness. While most of us in the trades understand it, many consumers haven't quite wrapped their heads around the concept.

That's why a lot of packaging still has the comparison chart included on the label. Homeowners still think that the wattage is the measure of light output. And I get that. A 100-watt incandescent bulb does put out more light than a 40-watt.

But when comparing with LED lamps and fixtures, you really need a conversion to lumens to get the correct data. Thus, the need for the charts for clarification.

'Nuff said.

A closer look at work light lumen output
Obviously, the higher the lumen rating, the brighter the light. And what you want depends on what you need it for. Normally, a portable or tri-pod mounted light will have a higher lumen output than hand held lights or hands-free lamps. They need to illuminate a larger area, so they need to be brighter.

Battery powered LED portables often run between 1000 to 1800 lumens. Even though LED are notorious power misers, they do consume it. The higher the lumen rating, the more quickly the battery will discharge.

Fortunately, many models are rechargeable, even by plugging into a computer. So while they may drain a battery, you won't be headed for the store to buy and other pack.

Portables and tri-pod mounted lights over 1800 lumens are normally powered by AC. I've seen AC powered LED portable work lights in ranges from 3300 lumens to 6600 lumens. Some tripod LED work lights go as high as 6600 to 13200 lumens for dual heads.

Interestingly, a lot of halogen work lights are still described using watts. Common wattages are 500 for singles and 1000 for doubles.

So, why do lumens matter?

Precise work demands precision lighting
I've found that precision work is much easier when I have enough light. Sounds fairly straightforward. A no-brainer, right?

But after working with portable lighting for decades, I've come to love the new lighting options.
Maybe it's because my eyesight is not as clear as it once was.

Or maybe the work I've done in recent years has been done in lower light settings with smaller and smaller parts.

And instructions, too.

But I've discovered LEDs are not just brighter … the color rendering mimics the daylight I love to work under. The glow is more of a clean white than a grungy yellow color.

And here's another bonus that comes built-in with many LED rechargables. An increasing number of them not only charge up with USB technology, but also allow USB devices to be hooked up to them for charging.

And with mobile device use on the rise in many troubleshooting and construction scenarios, that means important apps will not go dim or out on us.

And our digital "work" music plays on.

Shine On Silver Moon!
Photo courtesy of Voltec Power & Lighting
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