Sunday, December 10, 2006

Discussion of LED lights pt 2

My best and worst buys in LED lights have had more to do with my needs than with the products. Most of the items I have bought have been fairly good quality and did about what they said they would do. Therefore I will just list the items I have and their pro's and con's.

LED modification for Maglight.
I found a modification for a regular Maglight - the kind that takes 2 AA batteries. It is basically a replacement for the bulb and reflector and has 3 LED's The only drawback I can see is that it has no focusing. You get a semi floodlight effect. You can still take the top off, use it for the base and have the effect of an electric candle. On the plus side, it gives twice the light and about 3 times the battery life. I paid about $8 for it, meaning it will pay for itself in the time it normally takes to go thru 10 or 12 pairs of batteries. (Unfortunately, I don't use a maglight that much.)

LED headlamp from All Electronics.
Since a large part of my job involves working outside either just before dawn or just after nightfall, what I use the most is a headlamp. Using a headlamp means I can use both hands and the light just goes wherever I look. The one I currently use is the HL-1 from All Electronics. It is a fairly cheap one that runs on 3 AAA batteries, and has 5 LED's. It is very lightweight and runs for hours on a set of batteries. No moving parts except the switch and latch on the battery compartment. So far it has survived a few months where I work - and that is fairly impressive. One slight beef is that the light output drops off so slowly that I am straining before I realize what the problem is. Also the switch has 3 positions - one makes it a flasher. Don't need that, and I keep threatening to put a drop of glue in the switch path so it won't go there. I Haven't tested it in a downpour, and I don't expect it to be waterproof. It just doesn't have any seals. If it didn't have the flash, was waterproof, with a bit heavier latch and had a low battery indicator it would be perfect (for fair weather).

LED headlamp from Ray-O-Vac
(Available at many department stores and hardware stores).
I just purchased a similar headlamp from Ray-O-Vac. This one seems to be more watertight, and has a healthier body - including the switch. I also expect it to be more watertight than the cheaper one above. The switch has three on positions and off. First is two red LED's, then one white one, and finally a lamp like the one on a Mag Light. I haven't used it enough to comment too much, except that I think it should have one red LED and two white ones. There isn't much difference between the red and white settings except the color. The cost is about $13 dollars, so it will be a while before it pays for itself.

Also from All Electronics - 14 LED flashlight.
Costing about $11, this flashlight uses 3 AAA batteries and produces about the same light as the old 4 D battery flashlights of several years ago. The light isn't focused, so it doesn't have the "reach" of a 4 battery flashlight, but for most tasks it is more than sufficient. Eventually the savings in batteries will pay for it, but the biggest savings for me is the size and weight. At about 4 or 5 ounces, and about as big as two D batteries (without the flashlight) this frees up a lot of room in a tool box or backpack. It is marginally waterproof (has threaded collars and rubber o-rings), so a single rainstorm shouldn't cause trouble - but was not meant for that and after a thorough soaking you would probably find some water in it. I have been using this light for a couple months and it seems reliable. I dropped it once and it got flaky. A check inside revealed a bent spring, which I straightened and it is as good as new.

I will try to write more about these and others in the weeks to come.


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