Shop and Jobsite LED Lighting
In order to work safely and accurately, good workshop and jobsite lighting is important. Whether you’re laying out cut lines, chopping mortises, sanding and applying a finish, installing crown moulding or trimming a door, you need to clearly see what you’re doing to do the job well.
In the workshop you need properly spaced overhead area lighting as well as focused task lighting at the workbench. Depending on how your overhead lighting is laid out, and the availability of natural lighting from windows, you many also need task lighting positioned adjacent to some of your shop machinery.
Similarly, when working at a jobsite you may need a combination of both area and task lighting that can be easily and quickly repositioned and repurposed for the tasks at hand. The style and number of lighting appliances you need, along with the amount of light (measured in lumens) will, of course, depend on the type of jobsite work you do.
As lithium-ion batteries have largely displaced NiCd/NiCad (nickel cadmium) batteries in the cordless tool market, LED (light-emitting diode) lamps are replacing incandescent, halogen and fluorescent lamps. One of the major advantages of LED lamps is their considerably longer life span – upwards of 50,000 hours. They’re also much more energy efficient, generate less heat and are mercury free (though some may contain lead and arsenic). And, compared to some fluorescents, they attain full brightness instantly and don’t hum or flicker. They are more expensive to purchase than other types of lamps, though prices have been dropping steadily as they become more pervasive in the market.
In this article we look at five styles of LED lights for use in the shop and on a jobsite, and list some of our favourite models.
Fluorescent tubular lighting is the de facto lighting appliance in most workshops. TLED (Tubular LED) replacement tubes in T12 (1-1/2″ diameter), T8 (1″) and T5 (5/8″) formats are available as an upgrade for existing fluorescent fixtures. There are several types of TLED tubes. For Type B TLEDs you need to remove the ballast from the fixture before installing the new tubes. However, Type A TLEDs are generally a better choice, as they have an integrated driver, so can be installed directly into your existing fluorescent fixture. The Philips InstantFit LED 15W (Watts) 48″ T8 tube ($12), is rated for 50,000 hours and is available in colour temperatures from 3000K (Kelvin) to 5000K.
You can also purchase TLED fixtures (most come with an installed TLED tube) at just about any home improvement center or lighting retailer.
Lithonia Chrome Diamond Plate Linkable Fixture, $59.99
Available from Home Hardware, this fixture enables you to connect up to 10 fixtures using a single power cord. The tube has a 4000K colour temperature with a CRI (colour rendering index) of 80 and consumes 40W. (Photo by Lithonia)
The ubiquitous swing-arm and flexible neck clamp-on lamps are popular because they’re inexpensive, can be easily attached to most work surfaces and the light can be positioned to focus right where it’s needed.
UberLight 3000TL, $102.70
This high-quality AC-powered fixture has a clamping capacity of 1-3/4″ and its 26″ flexible metal arm keeps the lamp head firmly in place. The 28 surface mounted LED diodes have a 5700 to 6500K colour temperature and you can switch between 200 or 500 lumens of light output. A honeycomb lens cover reduces glare. (Photo by Reliable Corporation)
Magnetic-Mount Work Light, 15J7701, $39.50
As either an alternative or supplement to a flexible clamp-on lamp this light has an 18″ flexible neck with a rare-earth magnet base enabling you to attach it to any metal surface. There are optional 3/4″ (#15J7704) and 20-mm (#15J7705) dog hole posts ($4 each) so you can mount the light on a workbench. It uses three AA batteries for up to 5 hours of continuous operation. (Photo by Lee Valley)
Small and lightweight, they can usually be stood upright, hung (typically by a lanyard or hook on the top of the fixture) or used handheld (similar to a flashlight), which makes them popular with tradespeople and renovators. Some have belt hooks, integrated magnets for attaching to metal surfaces, or rotating heads for better light positioning. The four options below are powered by their manufacturer’s 18V batteries, but are sold as ‘bare’ tools without a battery or charger. Runtime will depend on the Ah rating for the battery you install, and the lighting (lumen) level you select (this applies to area and tower lights as well).
Bosch GLI18V-300N, $67.90
300 lumens. 160° articulating head and hanging hook. 1-year warranty. Also available as a 12V model (GLI12V-300N). (Photo by Bosch)
DeWALT DCL050, $69.00
250 and 500 lumens. 140° articulating head, 360° rotating hanging hook, and belt hook. Also available is a 110-lumen model (DCL040). 3-year warranty. (Photo by DeWalt)
Milwaukee 2735-20, $82.95
160 lumens. Aluminum head rotates 135°. Hanging hook. Seven other 12V and 18V styles available. 5-year warranty. (Photo by Milwaukee)
Ridgid R8694220B, $109
Up to 2,500 lumens. Lumen output adjustable over 18 levels. 180° articulating head, 1/4″- 20 thread mount, belt clip, and 12′ 12V vehicle adapter with integrated cord retainer. 5-year warranty. (Photo by Ridgid)
Ryobi P727, $69.98
950 lumens. 2 banks of LED diodes, one bank rotates 270°. Mounting hook. Also available is an AC/DC model (P790). 3-year warranty. (Photo by Ryobi)
Variously referred to as area, flood or site lights, these either have articulating or fixed heads (typically at an angle), or stationary heads that provide 360° lighting. Some are sized for shop use, others for jobsites. Models can be AC, DC or AC/DC powered. Not all come with batteries or chargers, and only a few have an IP (ingress protection) rating for moisture and dust.
Bosch GLI18V-1900N, $99 (bare tool)
1,900 lumens. Single LED diode. 120° articulating aluminum head, 5/8″- 11 thread mount. Also available is a 420-lumen model (GLI18V-420B) and 12V light (FL12). 1-year warranty. (Photo by Bosch)
Festool (2 models)
Both of these lights have a 5,000K colour temperature. (Photos by Festool)
|Lumens||8,000||310 and 769|
180° light diffusion,
|Internal 7.2V 2.9Ah battery,
4.8 hrs on low setting, 2 hrs on high setting,
3.3-hr recharge time,
Available with bench stand (KAL II SET, $355)
Festool Inspection Light
The Festool STL 450 ($450) is a bit of an odd-man-out. It’s an AC-powered 1,500-lumen 5,000K hand-held tube-style light, specifically designed to help you pinpoint flaws on wood or other surfaces before applying a finish. 16′ power cord. IP55 rating. Also available as STL 450 set ($720) with a tripod. (Photo by Festool)
Milwaukee Rover and Radius (7 models)
The Rover line includes small units that are better suited for small areas. All come without batteries or chargers. Radius lights offer much brighter, 360° lighting for larger jobsites, high-impact polycarbonate lenses, carry handles and handing hooks. Both Rover and Radius are sold as bare tools. 5-year warranty. (Photos by Milwaukee)
|Lumens||650 – 3,000||1,300||200 – 1,500||350 – 1500|
|Other||18V or AC,
240° rotating head,
Roll cage design,
4 hanging modes
Folding & rotating head,
|Lumens||1,000 – 4,400||2,500 – 9,000||7,700|
|Single or double 18V,
Two-bay sequential charger,
Connect up to 6 units (2150) or 12 units (2151),
IP54 rating (2150)
|AC 120 – 277V,
Multiple lights can be wired together,
Integrated hanging cable
DeWALT (2 models)
The DCL060 are smaller format lights with articulating heads. The DCL070 is a 360° lighting for larger jobsites similar to the Milwaukee Rover. 3-year warranty. (Photos by DeWalt)
|Price||$119/$124 (bare tools)||$479 (bare tool)/$629 (6Ah battery/fast charger)|
|Lumens||1,000 – 5,000||500 – 7,000 (3,000 on battery power)|
DCL061 is AC powered (cord not included),
6,100K colour temperature
|18V or AC,
120V AC outlet and AC plug,
Has 2,200 lumens with high/low settings. Comes with integrated 4.40Ah rechargeable (5-hour) battery and AC adapter. Magnetic base. 2-year warranty. (Photo by King)
Ridgid R8694221B $129 (tool only)
Variable brightness up to 2,500 lumens. Two folding panels and a center panel. Optional AC extension available. 1/4″-20 thread mount. Also available in a 1,200-lumen model (R8694620B). 3-year warranty. (Photo by Ridgid)
These are heavyweight lighting appliances that provide temporary, repositionable lighting for medium to large spaces. Most can be extended up to about 7′, allowing you to direct the light more efficiently than area lights. All are light enough for one person to deploy and manage. Not all are IP rated.
DeWALT DCL079R1, $469
Three light settings from 1,000 to 5,000 lumens. Includes 20V 6Ah battery and charger. 39″ collapsed, 84″ extended. Carry handle. Shroud protects light head. 3-year warranty. Also available as a bare tool (DCL079B) for $299.
Festool DUO-Set, $615
The DUO-Set includes the DUO-Plus light (see above) and a tripod. 59″ closed, 79″ extended. (Photo by Festool)
Milwaukee Rocket (3 models)
There are 3 models in the Rocket line. All feature a 4000K colour temperature and a CRI of 85. Sold as bare tools. 5-year warranty. (Photo by Milwaukee)
|Lumens||1,600 – 5,400||850 – 2,000||900 – 3,000|
|Other||Single or double 18V,
22″ collapsed, 65″ extended,
|Single or double 18V,
40″ collapsed, 84″ extended,
Rotating & pivoting head,
Low battery indictor
|18V or AC
41.5″ collapsed, 84″ extended,
3 independently pivoting light heads,
Ridgid R9937B, $69.98
This tripod stand is sold without a light. You can mount up to 3 lights that have a 1/4″- 20 thread.
30″ collapsed, 84″ extended. Carry handle. 3-year warranty. (Photo by Ridgid)
It’s helpful to know the terms companies use to describe their lighting products, which can be somewhat different (and more confusing) than the terms we normally use.
Colour Rendering Index (CRI) – A measure of how well a light shows the colour of whatever it illuminates. The scale is from 0 to 100, with anything in the 80 CRI range offering good colour accuracy.
Foot-candles – The amount of light that reaches a surface. 75 to 80 foot-candles is a good target to aim for when installing ceiling lights in your workshop. For task lighting you’ll want more light. However, most companies use ‘lumens’ to describe available light.
Kelvin (K) – A measure of the color of light, referred to as the correlated colour temperature (CCT) and measured in degrees Kelvin. While the scale runs from 1,000 to 10,000, residential lighting generally falls between 2,000K, which gives a warm yellowish glow, to 6,500K, a cooler, bluish glow. Lighting in the 3,100 to 4,500K range, referred to as ‘cool white’, is a good compromise, as it matches most home lighting.
Lumens –A measure of how much light a lamp can produce. The higher the lumen rating, the brighter the light will be. That light can be focused in a narrow area, or spread over a wide area. A standard 8-watt LED bulb produces about 800 lumens, the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb.
Lux – A measure of the amount of light output in a given area. One lux is equal to one lumen per square meter. Two lights with the same lumen rating can have different lux ratings, depending on the focus of the light beam. The narrower the beam, the more concentrated the light will be.