The best LED flashlight is the one that fits your needs as you work or play. However, purchasing LED flashlights can be a challenge without a true understanding of the technology behind this revolutionary tool. Whether you need to learn how LED technology works, which flashlight to choose, or what makes an LED flashlight unique, COAST has created this resource guide.
How is LED technology different?
If you are just beginning your research into LED flashlights, you may wonder what the difference is compared to other choices. What sets LED technology apart? And how many types of light bulbs are there, anyway?
The traditional light bulb most people are familiar with is the incandescent light bulb invented by Thomas Edison. These bulbs consist of a vacuum glass envelope, two electrodes connected to an electrical source, and a filament suspended between the electrodes. When electric power is flipped on, the electrodes complete a circuit through a tungsten filament. This filament glows white hot, creating usable light. However, incandescent bulbs are terribly energy inefficient; 95% of the electricity necessary to light an incandescent bulb is lost as heat. Additionally, the bulbs are very fragile, and if the glass vacuum is compromised then the filament will evaporate.
LED technology, however, is highly efficient. LED stands for “Light Emitting Diode.” LEDs are semiconductor devices which, among a long list of other processes, have had impurities added in order to produce positive and negative sides. When electrical current is applied to the LED, it excites the electrons as they pass from one side to the other and photons are released, creating light.
When is LED light a better choice?
LED light is not created using hazardous materials, like mercury, which is toxic to humans and animals. Also, the light produced by an LED is not ultraviolet, which can cause damage to certain materials over time and headaches for certain individuals. Finally, the long lifespan of LED bulbs allows manufacturers to create a stellar product that will last equally as long, reducing further waste. LEDs are extremely durable, because there is no filament or bulb to break. When used in a flashlight, this allows the light to be dropped without worry of breaking the bulb. LEDs are also extremely energy efficient, up to 90% more energy efficient than an incandescent bulb. This means fewer batteries are going to be required to operate a flashlight, resulting in longer run times and lower cost of operation.
LED Flashlight Terminology
The optics system in any LED flashlight is what gathers and focuses the light, determining how useful the product is for your various needs. First, you must ask yourself if you need to illuminate an area closer or farther away. That will determine what you need from the optics system.
An LED flashlight tasked with lighting a closer area has an optics system designed for “flood.” Flood light illuminates a wider area at closer range, and is optimal for nighttime use or power outages. An LED flashlight assigned with lighting an area at a distance has an optics system designed for “throw.” Thrown light has a further beam distance and is optimal for spot or search beams. And if you determine that flood and throw are equally necessary, some LED flashlights include a focusing optic that adjusts the beam distance and flood level.
Beam patterns can help you determine the quality of an LED flashlight. Lower quality flashlights can have spots in the beam, dark rings created due to a poor optics system, or a high contrast level that reduces effectiveness if the optics system is asked to throw the beam.
Flashlight performance can be determined by other measurements as well. The lumen measurement communicates the total light output of the LED flashlight. The run time is how long the flashlight works on one set of batteries. Water resistance, weight, diameter, and length can also be determining factors in choosing the best LED flashlight for your needs.
Battery-Powered or Rechargeable?
How you plan to use your LED flashlight determines whether a battery or rechargeable option is best. Luckily, LED flashlights are already a highly efficient flashlight option, because energy is not lost as heat as with other bulb types. Yet to get the most out of your new LED flashlight, the following variables should be addressed.
Rechargeable LED flashlights are reliable because they are always ready for use. You just have to be sure to keep it charged, whether that means plugging it in when you get home or keeping a spare set of rechargeable lithium batteries to switch out. The newest products in rechargeable LED flashlights offer the flexibility of three recharging options: a DC power outlet for use in automobiles; an AC adaptor for plugging into a wall socket; and a USB charger that will plug into your laptop or smartphone. Some new rechargeable flashlights also have the option of using regular AA or AAA batteries if there is no charging power available. This flexibility ensures your flashlight will be at optimal performance in emergency situations. There is also less waste and harmful impact on the environment due to battery disposal.
If your primary focus is reliable, long-lasting light, then traditional alkaline batteries may be preferable. Alkaline batteries are small, easy to find, and simple to replace. They are also low-cost, although frequent replacement costs can add up over time. Please keep in mind that used batteries must be disposed of properly, as they can cause great environmental damage otherwise.
Upfront costs can also be a deciding factor when choosing between rechargeable and disposable battery options. A rechargeable LED flashlight will cost more initially, but you will save yourself the cost of replacement batteries for years. An LED flashlight that only uses disposable batteries can end up costing more in the long run, due to continually paying for more batteries.
Batteries are likely a better option if you plan on using your flashlight in situations where recharging is not possible, like extended camping trips. But new rechargeable LED flashlights hold their charge longer, run for longer periods of time, and have a comparably powerful beam to their battery-operated counterparts.
Rechargeable LED Flashlight Purchasing Tips
The best rechargeable LED flashlights have more features than a high lumen count. Quality products, like those available from COAST, aim to provide the features and benefits that create a remarkable user experience. When considering the purchase of a rechargeable LED flashlight, you should look for the following innovations:
- Flexible recharging options. While a wall socket charger may be convenient for some rechargeable flashlight uses, the option of an additional DC outlet for charging in your vehicle or an USB outlet for laptop or smartphone charging ensures that your flashlight will be charged whenever and wherever you need it.
- Alkaline Options: Many COAST rechargeable flashlights can also run off standard alkaline batteries. This gives users an option when in areas where charging may not be possible, like emergency situations where they power may be out or on extended trips into the field.
- Protected charger outputs. While multiple charging options are optimal, they do little good if dirt and grime makes them unusable. Charger outputs that pop out or have a protective barrier will remain functional longer.
- High quality standards. Making a reliable flashlight of any kind takes a great deal of engineering and manufacturing expertise, but with all of the technology that goes into making a dependable rechargeable flashlight, it’s even more important to think about the quality reputation of the manufacturer. If you’re not a fan of buying cheap products and replacing them often, it’s best to stay away from flashlight deals that seem too good to be true; unless the manufacturer backs it up with a great warranty.
- Advanced optics systems. Precise beam control is an important feature in any LED flashlight, and rechargeable flashlights are no exception. The ability to control the beam, whether you desire a long beam distance or a strong flood area, allows you to get the most from your rechargeable LED flashlight purchase.
No matter what flashlight you ultimately decide to purchase remember, your flashlight should be durable, have a long running time, and most importantly suit your needs. To find out more about COAST’s LED flashlights, visit our products page.