LED work lights save watts, highlight fine detail

11/15/2008 12:00 AM

11/13/2008 7:49 PM

Q. I like to work on my cars in the garage and do other projects around the house where I use a cage-type work light. It gets hot, so I know it wastes electricity. What other work light options are available?

Cage-type work lights are inexpensive to buy, but as with most products, you get what you pay for. All of that heat you feel, sometimes with burn marks on your arms to prove it, is just wasted electricity from the inefficient incandescent bulb it uses. If you are lucky and the bulb does not break, it will last only about 1,000 hours.

What makes efficiency matters even worse is most people end up using long-life or rough-duty incandescent bulbs in this work light. The filament in regular bulbs is fragile and cannot withstand the rough handling and impacts a work light usually receives. The long-life and rough-duty bulbs have heavier filaments that consume even more electricity than a standard one.

Several years ago, I gave away my cage-type work light and switched to newer, more energy-efficient work lights. The most energy-efficient work lights now use LED's (light emitting diodes) instead of incandescent bulbs for the light source. A work light with 20 LED's uses only 1.5 watts as compared to a typical 60-watt incandescent bulb.

LED work lights produce a much whiter light than incandescent bulbs and I find it easier to see fine detail with LED light. LED's last up to 50,000 hours, so they never burn out. Since 20 LED's under a clear protective lens consume only 1.5 watts, they give off almost no heat.

Another option for a work light is one that uses one or two fluorescent mini-tubes. Various styles are available depending upon whether you need a long or compact one. As with LED work lights, fluorescent ones give off very little heat. Even the brightest ones use only about 13 watts of electricity to produce the same amount of brightness as cage-type work lights and the tubes last up to 10,000 hours.

For completely mobile use, consider a battery-operated LED work light. Black and Decker offers a new one with 14 LED's and it operates on three AA batteries. The LED's last up to 10,000 hours and, with the efficiency of LED's, the batteries last very long. Without having a cord attached to it, it tends to stay in the position you want and does not twist around when you try to hang it.

If you still prefer the light from a standard bulb, select a combination work light that uses a halogen spotlight and a fluorescent bulb for general lighting. A halogen bulb gets very hot, so it is protected under a clear housing. Use the efficient fluorescent lighting whenever possible.

The following companies offer work lights: Alert Stamping, www.alertstamping.com; Black and Decker, www.blackanddecker.com; General Manufacturing, www.saftlite.com; Sears/Craftsman, local retail outlets, www.sears.com; and Woods Wire Products, www.woods.com.

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