I've walked into many a dark room to work… on purpose. As a facility electrician, the darkness was usually why I was there in the first place. Something had gone wrong, and the power to the lighting was out.

Temporary Lighting – I Can See Clearly… Now

Steve Maurer, IME
I've walked into many a dark room to work… on purpose. As a facility electrician, the darkness was usually why I was there in the first place. Something had gone wrong, and the power to the lighting was out.

And it was my job to troubleshoot the problem and fix it ASAP.

Often that meant setting up a stand-mounted light, running a cord to it, and getting to work. But sometimes a flashlight was all that was necessary. I even have a set of magnifying eyeglasses with LEDs mounted in the frame.

But no matter what I used, it was a temporary solution. The main lights had to be fixed… the quicker the better.

I've used many kinds of temporary lights over the years. Honestly, my illumination of choice, whether temporary or permanent, revolves around LEDs. They're bright, rugged, and energy efficient. But that's my personal preference.

Temporary lighting comes in several shapes, sizes, and technologies. Lamps or bulbs can be any of several types:

  • Incandescent bulbs
  • LED bulbs that look like incandescents
  • CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps)
  • HID (high intensity discharge lamps)
  • LED lamps that take the place of CFLs and HIDs
  • Halogen floods
And of course, the luminaires themselves come in all kinds of configurations:

  • Stand lamps (warning! I've tipped more than one of these over)
  • Single luminaires
  • Single luminaires that can be daisy-chained with other luminaires
  • And the ever popular, always useful stringers
I even have a compact floor-stand temporary light that sports one main bank of LEDs and has two "wings" that fold out and can be tilted in various directions. Talk about lighting up a room! And it's lightweight, to boot.

Of course, what you use depends, for the most part, on why you're using it and where. I was driving down the bypass the other night and off to the west, a new multi-story building was going up. Each floor was lit up with stringers, strategically place for optimal illumination.

By the way, last time I checked, OSHA 1926.56 requires a minimum of 5 foot-candles for general construction projects. But it doesn't hurt to have more, of course.

Most fluorescents, incandescents (other than HID lamps, which is also a form of incandescent bulb), only require 120 VAC to light up your life. However, HID fixtures will normally have a multi-tap ballast so you can choose the voltage. You match it to the building voltage.

They normally come factory wired for 120 VAC, and some for 277 V (for many construction sites). But the ballast allows you to tap into 208 V and 240 V, too.

Word of caution here: Don’t forget to change the tap to the correct existing voltage. Not saying I've ever forgotten. Just sayin'…

Many forms of temporary lighting will have a protective, yet accessible cage completely surrounding the bulb. Of course, HIDs will come with a metal cage. But stringers can be made with plastic cages as well.

While most temporary lighting is designed to be, well, temporary, some fixtures are also designed and labeled to be use as a permanent luminaire as well. If using them for eventual permanent use, make sure their rated for the environment where they'll live.

As mentioned, I love LEDs. My house is about 95% LED lit, both inside and out. And I'm glad to see that LED retrofits are available to take the place of most types of lighting, permanent and temporary. There are even stringers with LED lamps pre-installed.

And yes, there are even LED replacements for HID fixtures and luminaires. When that old HID bulb finally burns out, you might consider replacing it with a more energy efficient and longer lasting LED retrofit.

Whatever your lighting preference, make sure you're using temporary lighting when the situation calls for it. When troubleshooting, repairing, or working on new construction, there's no reason to go…

Dancin' (or stumbling) in the dark!
Photo courtesy of Bergen Industries
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