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Choosing the right torch

IINTRDUCTION

RELIABILITY

DISTANCE AT WHICH LIGHT IS REQUIRED

RUN TIME

SIZE AND WEIGHT

PORTABILITY

POSITION AND TYPE OF SWITCH

HANDS-FREE OPERATION

ACCESSORIES

HAZARDOUS ENVIRONMENT

NON-RECHARGEABLE OR RECHARGEABLE

DURABILITY

LIGHT OUTPUT

BULBS


INTRODUCTION

Workplace health and safety is determined by the consequences of accidents, not just the chances of their occurrence.  Therefore it is critical that industrial professionals invest in a torch that suits their work environment.
These are some of the factors we suggest you consider.
 
RELIABILITY

  • How critical is it that light is available when you need it?

       If it is not critical, an alkaline battery flashlight may be considered.  
       Will the batteries be changed regularly, regardless of use,
       to ensure light is available when needed?  
       Will fresh batteries be on hand when needed?

  • If it is critical that light always be available regardless of the time or frequency of need, then a rechargeable flashlight may be the best solution.

Most heavy duty batteries can be charged up to 1000 times and are fully charged in 10 hours.  If this is too long, fast chargers are available or, perhaps, a spare battery will be sufficient.

  • Is it critical the light be available after long periods of inactivity and where a rechargeable torch is not practical?

Torches required to sit in all emergency medical kits, survival kits and maintenance kits may not be used for months, but when they are needed the consequences of failure could be catastrophic.

Consideration may be given to using a lithium battery flashlight.  Lithium batteries typically will still have 90% capacity after 5-10 years of no use.
When assessing reliability, the bulbs should also be considered.

 THE AREA OF ILLUMINATION REQUIRED AND AT WHAT DISTANCE.

N.B. If a manufacturer specifies a beam distance  without specifying the illumination at that distance, then the distance is meaningless and possibly misleading and cannot be used for comparison. Beam Distance is defined by the ANSI/NEMA FL1 Standard as the distance in metres from the device at which the light beam is 0.25 lux. In non-scientific terms, 0.25 lux is approximately the equivalant of the light emitted from the full moon on a clear night in an open field.

The ANSI Standards are new and the specifications are being added for all products, as the the test results become avaialble. Streamlight and Pelican manufacture to these specifications but not all earlier products have been submitted for ANSI Certification yet.

  • Torches with a spot beam generally provide the best distance illumination depending on their lumens rating. The reflectors on spot beam torches are modified to also provide sufficient wide illumination for close quarter navigation.

However, if you require long distance and a broad area then a high power wide/flood beam will solve your problem.

Pelican and Streamlight Torches for closer ranges generally have textured reflectors. This is need to eliminate variations in light distribution and dark spots caused by filament shape and shadows and other physical limitations. These light variations are noticeable and annoying at close distances but go unnoticed at longer distances.

RUN TIME

Similar to Beam Distance, caution is advised when stated figures have not been certified by ANSI.

  • The ANSI/NEMA FL1 Standard defines Run Time as the duration of time from the initial light output value – defined as 30 seconds after the point the device is first turned on – using fresh batteries, until the light output reaches 10% of the initial value.

The 10% figure seems low! No. The reduction in light output with time is not linear. The light output at half the runtime is not 50%. It is much higher. The majority of Streamlight and Pelican products have constant current electronics that maintains the light output close to full power as the battery voltage decreases, until a point is reached where it drops off quickly to 10%.


SIZE AND WEIGHT

  • Where will it be stored and will the weight have a significant effect? Will it have to be held or carried for long distances?

PORTABILITY

  • Are spare sets of batteries needed?  Will the area of use be restricted by the availability of charging facilities or batteries?

POSITION AND TYPE OF SWITCH

  • Does it need to be operated with one hand or a gloved hand?Apart from the common side mounted switches, there are also those with twist-on/off switches (usually water-proof) and others with end-switches or both side and end switches

HANDS-FREE OPERATION

  • Do you need a torch or lantern that can stand alone to leave both hands free?

ACCESSORIES

  • What accessories might you need to add in the future?  For example, you may need coloured lenses or be able to add a vehicle mounted charger or add an attachment bracket for fixing to a helmet or add a fibre optic adaptor. Are holsters available?

HAZARDOUS ENVIRONMENT

  • Will the flashlight ever need to be used in hazardous environments?  What will be the consequences if an intrinsically safe flashlight is not available to provide illumination?
  • What Approvals need to be considered? 
  • What will be the consequences of using a non-approved flashlight with the potential to cause or exacerbate a dangerous situation?

NON-RECHARGEABLE OR RECHARGEABLE

  • If used frequently, disposable batteries will last around two weeks.  This run time is generally longer than that of rechargeable batteries between charges.  However, rechargeable batteries can be recharged up to 1000 times.  If replacement batteries are readily available when needed and charging facilities are equally accessible, consider the comparative running costs.  How many sets of disposable batteries and at what cost, are required to produce the same results as those produced by non-disposable batteries recharged a 1000 times? You will be surprised at how few sets of non-rechargeable batteries have to be used before the cost of a rechargeable torch is reached.
  • If prolonged use is likely and the availability of charging facilities is not practical, then a disposable battery flashlight may be the best choice.

DURABILITY

Is the flashlight likely to be dropped, perhaps onto concrete or into water?  What temperature is it likely to encounter?

Refer to the products ANSI Standards specification for details

Polymer cases are virtually unbreakable and have the added advantage of being non-conductive.  Some flashlights have water-proof cases with 'O' ring seals and most professional flashlights are water resistant.

True professional flashlights have even been known to survive temperatures of 250°C.

CONVERTIBILITY

  • There are also flashlights that can sit horizontally or vertically and others that have heads that can be tilted up to 180 degrees.There are lanterns that can be fitted to telescopic masts.

LIGHT OUTPUT

  • It is most important that you consider the Lumens rating and not rely on Candlepower rating. Candlepower figures may be impressively large but they are essentially a measurement of brightness whereas the Lumens rating is a measurement of light output.We have frequently had adverse comments from people who have purchased 1,000,000 candlepower torches from retail outlets, only to find that the distance the light throws is very inadequate. "this torch can be seen from 1.5 kilometres" Who cares I want to know how far I can see.
  • Refer to the Photometry section under the FAQs tab for a more detailed explanation.

BULBS

  • As LED technology improves, LEDs are replacing even the highest power incandescent lamps. For rugged applications where a torch or lantern may be treated roughly or be subjected to vibration,an LED product provides an advantage over the less reliable incandescent lamps.
  • The most obvious advantage of LEDs is their long life (50,000 to 100,000 hours) and their ruggedness. LED’s can be good for close-in lighting for extended periods of time. Xenon has always been considered better for lighting objects at a distance but this is being challenged by the introduction of Pelican’s Recoil LED Technology and Streamlight’s C4 Photonic Crystal technology. These technologies produce a far more intense beam so that you get the long-run times and indestructibility of an LED with an increased level of brightness.
    To overcome the problem of shorter bulb life, some flashlights contain a built-in backup bulb, a led/Incandescent combination, a twin filament bulb or a spare bulb for ready replacement.