ANSI FL1 flashlight standards explained

Buying a new flashlight, headlamp or lantern these days can be confusing at best.  The problem is that there has not been any standardization in the reporting of performance standards of lights from the many manufacturers in the market.   A variety of terms such as wattage, candlepower and lumens have been used to measure light output and the method of measuring battery run time was not standardized.    This made it nearly impossible to compare features of products produced by different manufacturers. To help alleviate the confusion, a group of the leading companies in the industry joined together to create a new standard of specifications for the portable lighting industry. The resulting ANSI FL1 flashlight standards spell out very specific methods of testing for each feature under controlled laboratory conditions, and will ensure that any light produced by any manufacturer that has adopted the standards can be easily compared for performance and features.  Below is a set of icons that participating manufacturers will be using on their packaging and marketing materials along with a description of each specification that each one symbolizes.  

lightoutput-single_801Light output – Total light output measured in lumens.  Lumens has become the most commonly used unit of measure for total light output in portable lighting devices such as flashlights, headlamps and lanterns.  Wattage, on the other hand, is a measurement of power consumption, not light output.  With today’s super efficient LED technology, it’s very possible to have a 1 watt LED flashlight with a greater light output than another flashlight with a higher wattage rating, particularly if the higher wattage light source is less efficient. 

beamdist_single_801Beam distance – The distance, measured in meters, at which the light projects a useful amount of light, measured at 0.25 lux. (0.25 lux is approximately the equivalent of light emitted from a full moon “on a clear night in an open field.”)


runtime-single_80Run time – Tested with fresh batteries from 30 seconds after the light is turned on until the light output reaches 10% of the initial measurement. 



beamintensity-single_80Peak beam intensity – The brightest point in the beam measured in candela.  Candela is the modern unit of measure for light intensity replacing the now-obsolete unit known as candlepower.  Although candlepower was replaced by candela in 1948, it is still in common use. 


impact-single_80Impact resistance – The height, measured in meters, from which the light can be dropped onto cured concrete and still work properly.  Dropped samples cannot have any visible cracks or breaks and must remain fully functional to receive this rating. 


splash-single_80Water resistance – This icon indicates an IPX4 rating which means the sample is tested against splashing water from all angles.  If this test is performed it must be done after impact resistance testing is completed to ensure water resistance under real-life conditions. 


submersion-single_80Water resistance – Water submersion depth rating, measured in meters.  This icon indicates at least an IPX7 rating which means the sample is submerged to a minimum of 1 meter depth for 30 minutes.  If this test is performed it must be done after impact resistance testing is completed to ensure water resistance under real-life conditions. 

With the adoption of these new standards, we’ll be able to more easily compare apples to apples (or flashlights to flashlights).  Whether you’re looking for a light for your workshop, camping and outdoor use, emergency use, or just around the house, you’re sure to get the best flashlight, headlamp, or lantern to suit your needs by comparing lights that use the ANSI FL1 flashlight standards in their packaging and advertising.  Happy hunting!

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9 Responses to “ANSI FL1 flashlight standards explained”

  1. ed z says:

    It will be nice when these standards are followed by your competitors. Buying a high quality flashlight has become a crapshoot. I personally will stick with Coast as I always know what I’m getting!

  2. mark jones says:

    I have 3 coast flashlights, all with different beam of light. All of them have the gold contacts in them that set them way above the rest of other flashlight manufacturers. You can run them with out ever having to give them a shake or two to have them work. And yes a standard of certain measurement is a good thing and I second it. But the physical optics play a big roll in the “Beam distance” and “Peak beam intensity”. I use my lights every day at work. The battery life I get is the best I have ever seen, and get a brighter light from them my coworkers, The right light for the right job, COAST has it.

  3. Timothy Mitchell says:

    It really surprised me when I bought my Coast headlight for work and compared it’s 170 lumen output to my Fenix PD30 with 235. By some magic Coast’s 170 lumens are double what Fenix’s 235 are!

  4. Earl Heath says:

    I have several Coast LED flashlights some which do not work and some that do. I am rough on mine so I expect some failures. Good thing is that you can send them back and they will repair them for $5.00 plus shipping which is a cherry deal. The quality of the light beam is awesome on all of my lights and I just keep coming back. One day I’m going to get the big daddy (not sure the model) and I will be the envy of all my friends.

  5. Michael Purdy says:

    I bought the H7 headlamp last night after I pressed the “test me” button on the display. I stopped dead in my tracks and asked my wife to grab the package, as I was blinded for a moment! I weatherize homes and I am in the darkness more often than not. My co-workers saw this beast and all wanted to try it. We all used the Energizer lamps until I got this package of win. I had the lamp set at the same level of light as the other lamps throw, and when I looked at the switch, it was at MAYBE 1/8th strength! I’m sold!

  6. Wayne Robey says:

    It seems a shame to rate runtime to 10% of initial light output. A good light will be reasonably well regulated while 3 cells in series with a resistor and LED will not be. Why would I buy a light rated at 130 lumens if I was satisfied with 13?

  7. Wayne Robey says:

    None of these comments refer to the ANSI standard you are asking for comments on! They are edited out, lowering my respect for Coast. I am sure this remark will be edited out as well.

  8. Richard Schwartz says:

    There is no doubt that these flashlights are a cut above all the others. I finally had one fail: bad internal contacts in the switch or with the batteries intemittently dimmed the light, made it flicker, and sometimes cut it off completely. NO PROBLEM! The package comes with an offer for a free replacement! I am a morse code geek, and the momentary contact rear switch on the Coast lights permits communication at reasonable speed.

    It is good in life to see somebody do something right for a change. I always have a mini-tac light on a lanyard with a tiny swiss army knife and a 4 G flash drive. I guess that makes me a “prepper”. Sometimes that little light is worth its weight in gold (like when my wife loses her contact lenses).

  9. admin says:

    Wayne, None of the comments we have received related to this blog post have been edited or coerced. These are the comments we’ve received to date. Please continue to provide your opinion on the ANSI standard as it related to Coast Products.

    COAST administration

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