A new generation of flashlights are hardy and shine brightly
Bayco A new generation of flashlights are hardy and shine brightly

Portable flashlights have been on the market in the U.S. since the late 1890s, when weak dry cell batteries and primitive bulbs produced just a flash of illumination, repeatable but not for an extended period of time. But for a flashlight to also perform as a worklight? That puts things in a whole new light, so to speak.

Today’s handheld LED flashlights/worklights are rechargeable, portable, and the result of relatively new technology (introduced about a dozen years ago) and innovative design. They cast a wide beam of very bright white light run a long time on a single charge.

This roundup of flashlights/worklights come in a multitude of configurations: long and thin, squat, and even octagonal. One has a swivel head, another a pivot head. Most offer two different intensities or levels of light – full or partial. They all project a flood, or wide, beam that covers a large area with good general illumination, and a couple offer a spotlight, or more narrowly focused beam, as well, which can reach further into the dark. Compared to incandescent and halogen bulbs, LEDs are much more durable (an important asset on a worksite) and give off much less heat. Light output is measured in lumen, though that doesn’t tell the whole story. Performance is also affected by the type of reflectors, if any, and the quality of the LED chips and other optical data. All the units below feature a flood beam and can be operated one-handed via a thumb operated switch.

Some factors to evaluate when deciding which light to tote include size and weight; light output at full power, measured in lumens; run time at full power and half power (if an available option) on a full battery charge; whether it has the versatility in standing, hanging, or holding you need; whether it offers a spotlight function as well as a flood beam; whether it is water resistant – i.e. has the ability to be splashed from any angle  yet remain functional; the type of battery it uses; and the method of charging.   

Here are some current flashlights/worklights in various configurations for various jobsite needs.

Might-D Light LED 140 Rechargeable Folding Worklight’s innovative design supports a multitude of work positions
Courtesy Manufacturer Might-D Light LED 140 Rechargeable Folding Worklight’s innovative design supports a multitude of work positions

Might-D Light LED 140 Rechargeable Folding Worklight from Eaton’s Cooper Lighting business comes, folded, in the shape of a capital D. The unit opens into two panels, one fixed to the center core and the other rotate-able in a continuous sweep up to 270 degrees around the core. Each panel has four LEDs for a total of eight LEDs. The switch in the core activates one or both sides. When both sides are on, the worklight delivers 400 lumens; one side on delivers half that. When open to 180 degrees, six powerful magnets will hold the light on most any metal surface. At one end of the core is a ribbed rubberized angled bar with recessed edges which pulls out and rotates 360 degrees for hanging off a variety of surfaces. At the other end, there’s a recessed fixed D-ring that pulls up for traditional hanging off a hook or tying with a length of wire or rope. The light has reflective strips on the rear of the panels so it can be seen if hung in the dark. The unit can be positioned upright, on its side, on one panel or the other, or on the edges of the panels. The entire core is a rubberized ergonomic grip. Spacers in each panel serve as convenient finger grips for positioning the panels or for additional hanging options. The unit comes with a micro USB cable which plugs into the center core and any USB power source. A green or red light indicates charging status.    

Batteries rechargeable lithium ion batteries
Runtime up to 3 hours
Material high impact grade ABS (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene)
Weight  1.2 lbs
Dimensions 7.5” w x 10.5” h x 7.3” closed 

Pro: great versatility in positioning when handheld or on a flat surface  
Con:  no spotlight option 

Nightstick NSR-2166R features a flood beam from its length and a spotlight
Courtesy manufacturer Nightstick NSR-2166R features a flood beam from its length and a spotlight

Nightstick NSR-2166R can be used as a spotlight to find a problem, or as a floodlight, to fix the problem. The spotlight, at the bottom of the base and incorporating 6 LEDs, is rated at 32 lumens and will run for 10 hours, while the floodlight, incorporating 60 LEDs arranged in three vertical lines of 20 LEDs each, is rated at 230 lumens and will run for 1.75 hours. The handle has two molded octagonal rings, one at each end, enabling the flashlight to rest on its side on most flat surfaces, with the floodlight aimed in any of eight positions. The flat bottom design allows the light to stand upright. A rocker switch at the bottom of the bright red handle activates either mode. The unit has two built-in magnets, one at the balance point of the unit on the side of the handle opposite the switch and the other on the tip of the floodlight column. A magnetic hook can attach to either magnet and be rotated 360 degrees, for versatile positioning of the lighting. The integrated Nickel Metal Hydride battery can be recharged with the included AC and DC power supply/chargers. The unit is IP-X4 water resistant and drop rated for 2 meters (6.56 feet). (www.mynightstick.com, 800-233-2155)

Batteries Rechargeable NiMH
Runtime 3 hours floodlight, 18 hours spotlight
Material  Engineered polymer
Weight 1 lb.
Dimensions  length 14.3”, head diameter 1.4”, handle diameter 1.8”

Pro: easy versatile positioning
Con: switch is recessed and located very close to the octagonal ring so it is a bit hard to operate

The compact Bosch 12V MAX LED Flashlight uses a removable rechargeable 12V lithium ion tool battery
Courtesy manufacturer The compact Bosch 12V MAX LED Flashlight uses a removable rechargeable 12V lithium ion tool battery

Bosch 12V MAX LED flashlight is a compact flashlight that provides single beam spread adjustable-range illumination from 10 high intensity LEDs set in two vertical columns inside heavy duty housing.  Bolted onto an open framework carabiner support stand, the light can be used while stable on a flat surface, hung from the utility hook, or clipped onto an angle iron or some other aspect of the jobsite. To adjust brightness, the user holds down the on/off switch until the desired level of illumination is obtained. The head swivels 200 degrees from flush against the carabiner and clicks through seven fixed positions. A potent magnetic mount enables attaching of the worklight to ferrous surfaces. Plus there is a camera tripod mount at the bottom of the housing. The battery is removable for charging.

Unlike the other units covered here, the battery, a 12V Bosch lithium ion tool battery, is removed for charging in a separate charging station. (Battery and charger sold separately.) If you already have the charger and battery, no need to purchase power supply. 

Batteries  Lithium-ion
Runtime 6-plus hours of runtime with a 2.0 Ah battery (on high setting); 12-plus hours of runtime with a 4.0 Ah battery (on high setting)
Material glass filled nylon
Weight 0.7 lbs without battery
Dimensions 5.5” x 2” x 2.7”

Pro: extremely flexible in providing directional light while resting on a surface, magnet mounted, or hanging from a hook or ring; battery is very powerful
Con: heavy in the hand; if positioned past vertical when upright on the carabiner, light is top heavy and tips over unless a counterweight is applied  

Maxxeon WorkStar 2000 Technician’s Floodlight Professional LED Work Light features a moveable head to direct the light where you want it
Courtesy manufacturer Maxxeon WorkStar 2000 Technician’s Floodlight Professional LED Work Light features a moveable head to direct the light where you want it

Maxxeon WorkStar 2000 Technician’s Floodlight Professional LED Work Light features a very easily aimed wide angle beam emitted from a single LED. The flexible neck rotates a full 360 degrees with indents to maintain the selected position and tilts 180 degrees. The unit offers two lighting levels: 270 lumens on high and 90 lumens on low. The work light has two very strong magnets on the handle (one exposed near the bottom of the light, the other under the removable belt clip) that will hold the unit vertically or horizontally. The stable, flared base stores a retractable 3” hanging hook and a standard camera tripod mount. The tempered glass lens throws a circular floodlight pattern. A bicolor LED charge/discharge level indicator above the switch flashes green and red to help estimate the remaining run time and recharge time. The light comes with two charging sources – a transformer to charge off 110 current and a car charger. The battery pack is user replaceable.

Batteries 6 AA rechargeable NiMH batteries
Runtime 2 hours on high, 8 hours on low
Material high impact polycarbonate body, with glass reinforced ABS neck and hook
Weight 1 lb.
Dimensions body - 6 ¾” x 2” x 2”; head - 3” x 1/5” x 1/5”

Pro: compact and powerful; well-placed power switch
Con: no ergonomic grip

Defender Multi-Purpose LED Hand Lamp Model E712810 has a stable base for upright positioning
Courtesy manufacturer Defender Multi-Purpose LED Hand Lamp Model E712810 has a stable base for upright positioning

Defender Multi-Purpose LED Hand Lamp Model E712810 (ProBuilt Professional Lighting, www.probuiltlighting.com 877-707-0800) has 26 ultra bright LEDs in a column that deliver a wide light spread. The unit features a stable detachable triangular stand that comes off for horizontal positioning stabilized by the six-nib ring on the crown of the hand lamp, three-position switch (all-on, half-on running 14 LEDs, and off), and a small hard plastic loop on top for hanging off a hook or a length of wire. Full output is 64 lumens, with a lighting range of up to 8 feet, and a lamp life of 45,000 hours. The light tube starts at about 7 ¾ inches up, giving the user an opportunity to poke around corners and into crevices. The LEDs are recessed into a high intensity reflector. All the lighting is directed in a 180 degree arc forward. The back half of the tube is blocked so that the light does not shine into the user’s eyes. The charging indicator lamp is at the base of the tube and illuminates red until the unit is fully charged.  

Batteries rechargeable NiMH batteries
Runtime 3 hours at 26 LEDs, 6 hours at 14 LEDs
Material ABS Plastic  
Weight 8 oz.
Dimensions 16.5” length  

Pro: ribbed, easy-grip handle; can be used in wet locations
Con: no spotlight option

William and Patti Feldman write frequently about technology for the construction industry. They are located in NY.