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If you're a J.R.R. Tolkien fan, you recognized that headline reference. Or if you're a movie buff and watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you're familiar with the little jar of liquid that lit up when you talked to it. But in any case, if you're an electrician, you've been in dark places because of power outages or new construction. I've been in my share of them, for sure.

May it be a light to you … when all other lights go out

Steve Maurer, IME
If you're a J.R.R. Tolkien fan, you recognized that headline reference. Or if you're a movie buff and watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you're familiar with the little jar of liquid that lit up when you talked to it.

But in any case, if you're an electrician, you've been in dark places because of power outages or new construction.

I've been in my share of them, for sure.

In the early days, the mainstay was an inefficient flashlight or blazing hot floodlights.

Oh, another thing comes to mind.

Remember the long lengths of multiple power cords you needed to power your drill and saw?

Sometimes it looked like the snake pit in Indiana Jones' movies.

Enough with the movie and book references!

In this article, I'll talk about temporary power and lighting in today's jobsite world.

First, let's light up the workspace.

LEDs are lighting the way these days …
As you already know, LEDs are more energy efficient than standard incandescent or even fluorescent lamps.

For example, one temporary work light I researched puts out 9,000 lumens (measure of light intensity) while using 100 watts of power. A normal 100-watt incandescent provides only 1,600 lumens. It would take almost six incandescent bulbs to provide that much light … at 600 watts total.

Not only that, but LEDs are more rugged. In the old temporary light strings and trouble lights, you needed to install rough service bulbs because of the, well, rough service they were exposed to on the jobsite.

LEDs don't need that because they aren't filament-based bulbs … they're electronic diode chips.

In my opinion, the LEDs provide a cleaner light as well. Since most incandescents have a yellowish glow, there's somewhat of a tinge to their illumination. The LED work light mentioned above has a 5000 Kelvin color temperature.

Instead of "mood" lighting, it's more akin to working in daylight.

Many of the LED work lights are manufactured with SMD (surface mounted diodes) chips, often with three diodes per chip. The older technology (DIP or dual in-line package) is less efficient, with about 4 lumens per chip.

If you've seen LEDs that looked like tiny light bulbs, you've seen the DIP chip. They're often used in instrumentation as a single color indicator.

The SMD chips produce between 50 to 100 lumens in a smaller, more robust package. Grouped on a circuit board or strip, you get the amount of light you need more efficiently.

Whether used as light strings or area lighting, LED lighting is great for safe, efficient workspace illumination.

Let us now turn our attention to power distribution.

Power boxes cut down the clutter
I've been on jobsites where long extension cords snaked everywhere across the floor. They were fed from either a generator or temporary service entrance.

Of course, with the invention and improvement of battery operated tools, many cords disappeared. But chargers are still a necessity.

And there are situations where an AC-powered tool works best. So while we may never get away from extension cords, we can clean up on the clutter.

A temporary power distribution box accomplishes that and more.

With one heavy-duty power cord supplying the box from the source, the box provides multiple outlets for shorter cords, chargers, and other devices. The raised, flat topped box also allows you to keep your chargers, if necessary, in one place.

One that I looked at had a 50-amp inlet and 50-amp outlet at 125/250 volts. An L6-30 receptacle and six NEMA L5-20R 20-amp receptacles were provided onboard. The 20-amp, 120 volt receptacles were each protected with a dedicated GFCI module and circuit breaker. This satisfies both NEC® and OSHA requirements for worker protection.

And its bright safety-yellow case means you shouldn't trip over it … if you keep your eyes open, that is. Since it's constructed to satisfy NEMA wet and damp location requirements, it's good for new construction as well as indoor work.

Of course, you can combine the distribution box with an LED temporary light string. A 100' string (10 lights) can provide up to 10,000 lumens, at a minimal amperage draw. That ties up just one of the receptacles.

Using the power distribution box mentioned above, you'll still have power left for battery charges, some corded tools, and your radio for your rock and roll music.

Maybe even a coffee pot!

But be warned that the old java machine probably pulls a lot of power to get those grounds cooking.

Might leave it in the breakroom now that I think about it.
Photo courtesy of Voltec Power & Lighting
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