Thursday, March 9, 2017

Light Updates

About two and a half years ago, I wrote a post about a solar-powered sidewalk light. To recap, I found some small one-lumen sidewalk marker lights at Wal-Mart in the clearance aisle for less than a buck apiece and I picked up a few.

After my post, I set one of the little lights outside in a half-shaded spot next to my sidewalk. It is still there, and still producing light. When new, it would light up for about 6 hours on a full charge, which meant that for most of the year, it would light up that corner of the sidewalk until about midnight. 

Two very wet summers and three normal Iowa winters later, it is still good until about 9:30PM most nights. Having survived temperatures well over 100°F during the summers, being buried in snow (the whole unit is only 8 inches high, we get more snow than that in most snowstorms), and being frozen to well below zero several time, I'd have to say that this is one tough little light. I haven't done any maintenance or cleaning, so there's a layer of dust inside the plastic globe, and the only time it gets moved is when I need to trim the grass in that spot.

Here's a crappy picture of it tonight at 9:15PM. This is in a dark yard, under a bush that has no leaves. You can see the piece of steel that I use as a winter mount for the plastic stake on the bottom of the light and some of the dead grass. No flash was used so that you could get a feel for the amount of light it is putting out.

I feel confident that similar lights would give the same results, so I stand by my recommended uses as lighting for inside a tent (no flame), as a marker light for tent stakes/ropes, and as a nightlight for those who can't sleep in total darkness. Not bad for less than a dollar - cheap enough (and safe enough) to give to the grandchildren to play with, and it saves me having to search for a flashlight after they've set it down and forgotten it.

Two years ago, I wrote an article about the Nebo Twyst light. I still have that one and it is still my truck light. It has seen a lot of hard use in the two years I've had it, so it has a few nicks and dings on it, but it is still one of the best flashlights I've ever used. A fresh set of 4 alkaline batteries will give about 24 hours of usable light, although it does get dimmer as the batteries die. My boss picked up a couple of them last year for use at work and they are more rugged than I thought - one was dropped into a running conveyor and ended up at the bottom of a vertical conveyor about 50 feet away. This happened at midnight, and I didn't get it dug out until 9:30 the next morning. It was still on and putting out good light! Quick immersion in water doesn't seem to hurt them, but I haven't tried leaving them underwater for any length of time (nor do I plan to, as these are not cheap lights). The magnetic base is a great help when hooking up trailers at night, since I can stick the light on the back end and see the spot of light in the mirrors. Working in unlit areas as much as I do, having a dependable, bright light makes life a lot easier.

I also picked up one of the smaller Nebo Twyst Z lights last year. It has the same lighting modes (flashlight, worklight, lantern) as the original, but they added an adjustable 4X focus and deleted the stabilizing legs on the magnetic base. Mine seems to have the same magnet as the original, and since it is quite a bit smaller it “grips” tighter to steel. I'm not impressed with the focus feature, though, as it doesn't get to a very tight spot light and the light seems to be more diffused by the lens. I prefer a nice, bright light over a soft glow when I'm working. The switch is very sensitive and it doesn't take much of a bump to turn it on or off. One positive note is that it is small enough to fit in the pliers pocket of my “carpenter” style jeans, so it is easier to carry.

I'm always looking for a better flashlight, which is one of the bad habits I picked up from my father (I'll see if he'll let me take a picture of his collection of lights sometime), so the search continues even though I'm happy with what I have found so far.

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