Latest options for Jobsite Lighting
Lighting up your jobsite has never been easier as manufacturers are taking advantage of LED bulbs, offering a wide selection of construction and jobsite lighting products.
By Peter Fabris
Go to any construction jobsite today and look around. You might notice a whole new approach to an important category of tools: jobsite lighting. A powerful one-two combination of Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs and lithium ion batteries is changing how contractors illuminate jobsites.
“There’s been a revolution inside the jobsite lighting space in the past 12 to 18 months,” says Tom Simeone, VP, product management for Milwaukee Tool. A new generation of LED bulbs has improved the appearance and performance of previous LED products. Prices have dropped as well, so the construction industry is rapidly replacing older technology with the latest options. In addition, lithium ion batteries work well with power-efficient LEDs to provide a lightweight, portable power source that changes how lights are used at work.
Industry experts expect a fairly rapid transition to the new technology, though many contractors will likely hang on to older models until they break down. “There are a lot of construction lighting products still in use that are using fairly outdated technology,” Simeone says. Contractors are unlikely to trash lights that still work.
Metal halide and halogen incandescent bulbs have been the standard for many years. The most popular models have been 500 watt halogen floodlights and 1,000 watt halogen tripod lights. These products provide bright lighting, but they have major drawbacks: They emit a lot of heat, use a lot of power, and require frequent bulb replacement.
LEDs don’t have those disadvantages, but they usually cost more up front. Manufacturers point out, though, that when you look at the total cost of LED products over a lifespan, the new models save money in the long run. That message is starting to get out, and it seems that LEDs are destined to soon take over the market.
A construction jobsite presents many hazards that can destroy a light. Workers moving ladders can break a bulb on an overhead light or knock over a ground-based portable unit. LEDs are a lot tougher.
“LED’s make new lights virtually indestructible,” says Jason Swanson, VP of communications/PR for TTI Power Equipment, which manufactures the Ryobi and RIDGID branded power tools. “You rarely need to replace the bulbs.”
LED bulbs offer more hours of operation than do incandescents and compact fluorescent lights. They can provide up to five years of non-stop use or at least three times that, if only used a few hours a day. That means they last as much as 50 times longer than incandescents and as much as seven times longer than fluorescents.
LEDs need far less power to provide the same amount of light as incandescents and fluorescents. The most efficient LED bulbs use about 85 percent less electricity than do incandescent bulbs and about 40 percent less than do fluorescent bulbs.
Cordless jobsite lighting options
By using less electricity, LEDs make it more practical to power jobsite lights with batteries than power-hungry incandescents. Lithium ion batteries, which have been largely adopted in the cordless tool market, provide a great pairing with LEDs. They provide a lightweight, cordless power source that tool brands have been offering with other tools for years and have recently adopted for lighting.
For instance, Milwaukee Tool recently introduced the M18 Radius LED Compact Site Light, a high-output cordless jobiste light. When a construction light is powered by batteries, Simeone points out that you don’t have to plug it into temporary power. So, you are not consuming juice that may be limited and is better reserved for other tools.
When you eliminate cords, you reduce the risk of trips and falls, so cordless options are a better choice from a safety perspective. Another safety advantage of LEDs is that they emit much less heat than do incandescents. The brightest incandescents can reach temperatures of up to 500 degrees, which can cause severe skin burns. Touch an LED, by contrast, and you likely won’t even feel it. What’s more, in close quarters on a hot day, a high-temperature light can add to the misery, while an LED will have no impact.
It’s important to take jobsite lighting seriously, says Sean Fitzgibbons, product manager for DeWalt. Workers have to be able to safely traverse through or work in many types and sizes of spaces. “It’s even more important now, as different areas of the jobsite are subject to minimum illumination requirements from OSHA,” Fitzgibbons says.
After a site is adequately lit, additional lighting is needed exactly where work is being performed. There are numerous types of light forms that provide task lighting, including those on tripod stands and those that can be hung overhead or placed on the ground. “The guidelines for task illumination levels are published by Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) and others,” Fitzgibbons adds.
Lower total cost of ownership
When you add up all of the advantages, LEDs offer a better value over time, despite the initial cost premium. In some cases, they can eliminate hidden costs. For instance, Simeone says one electrical contractor customer has been able to use new cordless site lights as a replacement for corded lights that had to be powered by generators when a power source wasn’t available on site.
In the future, that contractor will be able to avoid the upkeep and replacement costs for generators, and the company also won’t have to replace extension cords for lighting. This is one reason that LEDs can pay for themselves many times over during the life of the product, Simeone says. Some models come with lifetime warranties, due to their improved durability over old technology. This could save money in the long run, as well.
New generation of LEDs
It’s important to understand that new LED models have improved upon earlier generation bulbs, and continue to evolve. “LEDs are improving and have overcome initial drawbacks such as flicker, unpleasant color temperature (being too ‘blue’), and not being dimmable,” says Fitzgibbons. Simeone adds that some area LED models that illuminate large areas provide 400 percent brighter light than the first LED models that were introduced a few years ago. Some newer models today can provide brighter light than comparable incandescents.
Adding to the convenience offered by newer models is that some can be powered by the same batteries used with other cordless tools. Some models can be plugged in when the battery needs a recharge. Milwaukee’s M18 ROCKET LED Tower Light/Charger, for example, has an integrated AC plug, allowing a user to plug in the light with a standard extension cord while charging any M18 REDLITHIUM battery pack simultaneously.
Some jobsite lighting models take advantage of wireless connectivity so that overhead lights can be adjusted for brightness and turned on and off without climbing a ladder. DEWALT’s DCL070 20V MAX Corded/Cordless LED Area Light with Tool Connect Bluetooth technology is one example. It offers remote control of light settings, along with tracking and inventory management capability.
More innovations based on new wireless technology are likely coming down the road. In the near future, LED jobsite lighting will continue to improve with better performance and new features. “We still think that we are in the beginning stages of LED site lighting evolution,” Simeone says. “I would expect continued new product development in this space.”
LED lights offer:
- Life span
- Cordless options
- Power source flexibility
- Lower total cost of ownership