Flashlight choice depends on use. Typically, there is no one light that works well in all situations. Consider your applications and following basic questions:
Flashlights come with several kinds of bulbs. The biggest differences are the amount of brightness, longevity of the bulb, runtimes, and the cost. The following are choices you will encounter:
Incandescent Bulb Types:
Krypton Bulb – Incandescent bulb filled with Krypton gas. A very economical bulb, but usually not as bright or long-lived as a xenon or halogen bulb.
Xenon Bulb – Incandescent bulb filled with Xenon gas. Provides extremely bright, white light. Xenon bulbs are an excellent choice for long distance performance.
Halogen Bulb – Incandescent gas-filled bulb that blackens less when it ages than other type bulbs. May have longer life than a xenon bulb of equivelent performance.
Both xenon and halogen lamps provide high output for their size and a white, natural-appearing light. Both require periodic replacement and can fail on extreme impact. They are easily focused and are the most powerful, highest performance, top choices for long distances today.
LED (Light Emitting Diode) Types:
LEDs – A computer chip-like device that emits light when power is applied. The LED usually has a built-in lens and projects a wider, more dispersed light. Their solid-state construction makes LEDs very durable and long-lived – up to 100,000 hours of life. LEDs do not require periodic replacement as do incandescent lamps. LEDs are good for close work because of their wide dispersion and soft focus. Typically, LEDs provide much less power than incandescent lamps but offer the advantages of extremely long runtimes (up to 100's of hours at low illumination levels) unlike the much shorter runtimes of xenon or halogen lamps. Safer – solid state lamps make LEDs safer than incandescents in hazardous environments, provided the flashlight has a hazardous location rating.
LEDs come in a variety of colors for different applications. White LEDs are the most popular for general applications. Which color is right for you?
High Flux LEDs – High flux LEDs provide the reliability of an LED with the performance of an incandescent bulb and are the latest in high power LED technology on the market today. Provides a much greater light output than standard LEDs (10X's brighter) and can be focused with a reflector. High flux LEDs, like standard LEDs are durable and do not require periodic replacement like incandescent lamps – expected lifetime of a high flux LED can be from 10,000 to 50,000 hours.
Combination LED/Incandescent – LED/Xenon combination lights combine the long runtimes and durability of LEDs with the brightness of incandescent. Arguably, the best of both worlds.
LIGHT MEASUREMENT – TWO BASIC METHODS ARE USED TO RATE LIGHT OUTPUT:
Candlepower (Peak Beam Candlepower) – A measurement of the brightest spot in the focused beam. It is a function of both the output of the lamp and the efficiency of the reflector. The term "candlepower" (now candela) originates from an earlier unit, the "candle," and was based on the actual candle of specified dimensions and construction.
Lumens (Total Luminous Output) – A measurement of the total light output of the flashlight regardless of beam focus. It is almost entirely a function of the bulb or LED.
BATTERY CHARACTERISTICS: DISPOSABLE OR RECHARGEABLE?
Disposable batteries, either alkaline or lithium, have excellent storage life, 7 and 10 years respectively. They generally offer longer runtimes for a given bulb and are typically lower in initial purchase price and easier to keep spares on hand. Their operating costs are considerably higherthan rechargeables and they are seldom as bright. Lithium cells have high energy density but are even more costly.
Because rechargeables can be stored in a charger/holder when not in use, thet are always ready to deliver full output and full runtime. Rechargeable flashlights using nickel cadmium or lithium ion batteries feature extrordinarily low operating expense and are well suited for frequent use. They can support a brighter bulb or LED and store conveniently in custom charger holders. Their initial purchase price is higher but they are more economical to operate over the long run.
THE FOLLOWING ARE BATTERY CHOICES YOU MAY ENCOUNTER:
Alkaline – Readily available and fairly cost effective. However, their performance is affected by, and drops off very quickly, in cold. They are at their brightest the first time they are used and decline thereafter. 7 year shelf life.
Lithium – Recent price improvements have made these more cost effective, almost rivaling alkalines. They have much better low temperature performance than alkalines. Their flatter discharge curve maintains high light output longer than alkalines for equal power levels. 10 year shelf life.
Nickel Cadmium (orNiCd) – This is the most rugged rechargeable technology and provides the highest performance/cost ratio. Nickel Cadmiums can be recharged overnight with simple (economical) chargers to keep costs low, or fast charged with more expensive chargers. Good low temperature performance. Rechargeable up to 1000 times. Self-discharges in storage so must be periodically recharged or stored in its charger. Must be recycled or disposed of properly.
Lithium Ion – Delivers the performance of nickel cadmium with about half the size and weight. Very low self-discharge rate means it can be stored out of it's charger. Good low temperature performance. Rechargeable up to 300 times. No recycling requirements.
With the above information on bulb abd battery types, you can now ask yourself the following questions to help select the proper light:
Is the work close up, or is a long range beam required?
- If your work is close up, LEDs are probably a good choice.
- If long runtimes and bulb life are important, LEDs are probably a good choice.
- If you're looking for long range and high light output, super high flux LEDs, Halogen or Xenon lights, either disposible cells or rechargeable, are probably a good choice.
- Is cost of operation and continuous use a concern? If so, a rechargeable light may be a good choice.
Always take the following precautions with battery-powered products:
- Do not mix batteries of different brands.
- Do not mix old and new batteries.
- Do not mix alkaline with non-alkaline batteries.
- Do not use damaged batteries.
- Never charge or disassemble in a hazardous location.
- Observe proper polarity when installing batteries.
WATER RESISTANT/WATER PROOF:
Water resistant or weatherproof flashlights have o-rings and gaskets that allow the product to be used in wet environments, i.e., rain, snow, boating without allowing water to enter the case. Waterproof flashlights (not claiming a depth rating) have seal structures manufactured to sufficiently high tolerances to allow temporary submersion in water, generally 1 meter deep for 30 minutes, without allowing water ingress. Waterproof flashlights with a depth rating have endured submersion to the claimed depth for 30 minutes without leakage.
Two standards are commonly used to rate protection from water damage:
IEC 60529 "Degrees of Protection Provided by Enclosures" which assigns an "IP" code to a product. The code consists of "IP" followed by two numbers, the second of which is the water ingress rating. If the water rating only is being reported, the code is "IPX" followed by the water rating number. JIS C 0920:2003 also assigns a dust and water rating number. JIS numbers are often reported singly with a notaion of whether they refer to dust or water. Both systems use the same numbers for the same degrees of protection, ranging from 0 for no protection to 8 for indefinite immersion in liquids.
Any flashlight that will be used in a hazardous environment or confined space should be properly tested to meet or exceed all applicable safety standards for those locations. When selecting a flashlight, make sure it carries the proper approval ratings. Choosing the correct light for your application requires a thorough understanding of your working environment, and a realistic expectation of how a properly selected flashlight will operate in those conditions.
The National Electric Code (NEC) defines hazardous locations classifications and protection techniques. The basic designation is by "class" and "division". There are three classes characterized by the type of materials present. Class I locations are made hazardous by the presence of flammable gases, liquids, or vapors. Class II locations can be described as hazardous because of the presence of combustible dusts. Class III locations contain easily ignitable fibers or flyings. "Division" refers to the likelihood that ignitable concentrations of flammable materials are present in a given area. Division 1 designates an environment where ignitable concentrations of flammable gases, liquids, vapors, or dusts can exist some of the time or a under normal operating conditions or where easily ignitable fibers and flyings are manufactured, handled or used. Division 2 locations are areas where ignitable concentrations are NOT likely to exist under normal operating conditions or where Class III materials are stored or handled.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is a branch of the US Department of Labor. All equipment intended to be used in the U.S. mining industry must be approved by the MSHA. The basis for MSHA approval is intrinsic safety. A flashlight must not present a source of ignition, either thermal or by sparking, in the presence of flammable mixtures of methane gas and coal dust. Also they must be resistant to mechanical damage resulting drop and impact testing while maintaining a minimum amount of hermetic integrity.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS:
The following glossary of terms may also assist in selecting the proper flashlight:
AMP – The abbreviation for ampere or amperage. The unit used to measure electric current.
Ampere-hour – One ampere of current flowing for one hour.
Anodizing – The electro-chemical coating for aluminum. Hard, durable, and attractive. Anodized parts are highly corrosion resistant.
ATEX – European safety rating. ATEX products are rated for use in or around explosive atmospheres.
Bi-Pin Bulb – A bulb with two contact pins that plug into a socket allowing easy replacement.
"Black Dot" Bulb – The Black Dot prevents stray light and gives the beam the ability to shine through dense mist, fog, and smoke. Firefighters rely heavily upon this type of bulb for this reason.
Magellan 702211 Bike Mounting Bracket
CE – Flashlights carrying this symbol meet applicable European Community Directives and can therefore be sold in Europe.
Dual Filament – A dual filament gulb contains two filaments, which enables users to instantly switch to the second filament when back-up lighting is needed.
EX – Signifies conformance to European Standards for use in potentially explosive atmospheres.
FM – Factory Mutual Research Corporation is a third-party testing organization that approves products for use in specified hazardous locations.
High Temperature Lens – Typically made of borosilicate glass, which has low thermal expansion characteristics. Easy to clean, resists scratching, and has good shock resistance when properly mounted.
Intrinsically Safe – Not capable of igniting a flammable atmosphere under both normal and "fault" conditions.
Machined Aluminum – Flashlight components made from this material are lightweight, durable and can be held to tight manufacturing tolerances for superior performance in precision assemblies.
Non-Incendive – Not capable of igniting a flammable atmosphere under normal operating conditions.
Non-Conductive – Will not conduct electricity. Flashlights made with non-conductive case materials protect against electric shock should the flashlight touch an electrical source.
O-Ring – Used as a gasket to seal the flashlight case against dust and moisture.
Polycarbonate – Clear, tough, shatterproof, virtually unbreakable polymer used to make the lens in flashlights. Often hard coated for abrasion resistance.
Pre-focused Lamp Module – Lamp and reflector furnished and replaced as a unit. Permenantly adjusted for optimum focus.
Reflector – Surrounds the lamp and directs and focuses the light rays in one direction.
UL – Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. is a third-party testing organization that approves products for compliance to electrical specifications and for use in specified hazardous locations.
VOLT – Unit of electrical potential. The potential difference between two points in an electrical system is called the voltage between these two points.
WATT – Unit of power. Electrical power can be calculated by multiplying voltage time amperage.