When I work on my cars in the garage or do other projects around the house, I use a cage-type work light. It gets hot, so I bet it wastes a lot of electricity. What other options are available?— Chris M.
Metal cage-type work lights are inexpensive to buy, but you get what you pay for. If you’ve used this type of work light, you probably have the burn marks on your arms to prove it. All that heat you feel coming from the metal cage is wasted electricity from the inefficient incandescent bulb.
Making efficiency worse, most people end up using long-life or rough-duty incandescent bulbs in this type of work light so the bulbs last longer. These bulbs have heavier filaments, but they produce less brightness for the same wattage. In order to get more brightness, people often install a higher wattage long-life bulb, which consumes even more electricity.
Several years ago, I gave away my cage-type work light and switched to more energy-efficient lights. The most energy-efficient work lights now use several small LEDs (light emitting diodes) instead of a single incandescent bulb. A work light with 20 LEDs uses only 1.5 watts, while an average incandescent light bulb uses at least 60 watts.
LED work lights produce a much whiter light than incandescent bulbs, and I find it easier to see fine detail with LED light. These diodes last up to 50,000 hours, so for all practical purposes, they never burn out. They give off almost no heat, and from my experience they can take a severe impact and keep on working.
For completely mobile use, battery-operated LED work lights are available. Black and Decker offers a model with 14 LEDs that operates on three AA batteries. The LEDs last up to 10,000 hours and, with the efficiency of LEDs, the batteries last very long. Striker makes a tiny spherical single-LED work light with 12 small magnetic studs protruding around its circumference. It may look unconventional as a result, but it can be mounted on a steel surface in almost any direction.
Another efficient work light option uses one or two fluorescent mini-tubes. Various styles are available depending on whether you need a long or compact one. As with the LED versions, fluorescent work lights give off very little heat and are quite durable. I have dropped mine from a considerable height several times and it still works fine. Even the brightest use only about 13 watts of electricity to produce the same brightness as cage-type work lights, and the tubes last up to 10,000 hours.
It is often difficult to get the light from the work light to shine in the proper direction for good illumination of the work area, so people use brighter ones or several together. Instead, try bending a sheet of reflective Mylar near the work light to direct the light toward the work area, brightening a larger area with only one lower-wattage light.
If you really like the cage-type work lights, you may be able to screw a smaller compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) into the socket. This will improve its efficiency by about three times and produce very little heat. Since these bulbs are fairly expensive and not extremely durable, use them where they will not get bumped. Also, CFLs may not operate properly in cold outdoor temperatures.
The following companies offer efficient work lights: Alert Stamping, (800) 400-5020, www.alertstamping.com; Black and Decker, (800) 544-6986, www.blackanddecker.com; General Manufacturing, (260) 824-3440, www.saftlite.com; Sears/Craftsman, local retail outlets, www.sears.com; Striker, (704) 658-9332, www.strikerhandtools.com; and Woods Wire Products, (800) 323-9355, www.woods.com.