Flashlights, a Bright Idea

Flashlights are just flashlights in the minds of many. They didn’t change much in their first 100 years, but in the last 15 years changes have come quickly.

The first flashlight was made in 1899. Over the years there were changes in barrel materials and some small changes in bulbs. The best of the incandescent bulbs use xenon gas inside to offer brighter light.

How do they light up your life?

Forget bulbs. Since 2001 when the first LED flashlights came out, changes have come quickly. LEDs are brighter, more power efficient and more durable than incandescent lights.

LEDs have gone through several generations since 2001, moving from a dual in-line model to surface mount and on to chip on board (COB) LED arrays. The COB models have multiple diodes mounted close together on a circuit board or chip. All operate on the same circuit, saving energy and allowing big increases in lumens (the light measuring scale) per watt.

Though of limited availability, the next step is MCOB, multiple circuits on board. This may add more adjustability to the light array.

It isn’t unusual for LEDs to be rated for 10,000 or more hours of use.

Keep the Lights On

Another advance is to replace traditional dry cell batteries with built-in, rechargeable lithium ion batteries. The flashlight will run several hours with each recharge. Often the flashlights are good for 1,000 recharges or so. There is no need to constantly replace batteries, but at the end of its life, the rechargeable flashlight must be replaced. These flashlights may also have a USB port for charging phones in emergency situations.

Prices on many of the more advanced features are coming down. Today most of the cheapest flashlights and keylights use inexpensive LEDs.

Reliable Lighting Options

Mag-Lite is an interesting case. Today its line of LED flashlights is larger than the line of xenon bulb flashlights. For the promotional market, however, this American manufacturer with machined aluminum cases is continuing to have higher sales with the xenon units. People like the brand name and the domestic production, and are willing to go with a lower price point to get that. Costs are higher and light output is greater on Mag-Lite’s LED units.

While Mag-Lites are best known, LED Lenser is known for advanced features and Larry Light for hands-free operation. Cree is a well-known manufacturer of LEDs that are used by several flashlight makers. There are countless brands and styles available through your Staples representative and on the StaplesPromoProducts.com web site at various price points.

How Much Light is Just Right?

One distributor advises that people shouldn’t get too caught up in lumen readings – the higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light. People should first consider how they plan to use the light. A very bright 1500 lumen flashlight is available for $500, though the market for that would be small.

Consider a small, incandescent keylight might output 5 lumens or less. Mag-Lite’s popular Solitaire style in LED format puts out 10 times as much light.

A flashlight used regularly by security people should differ from those used in emergencies or to light a keyhole. More power might be needless. One distributor warned that lumen ratings for some Chinese-made flashlights could be misleading.

Other Considerations to Weigh

Other ratings measure the distance the beam travels, the angles of the beams and the level of waterproof treatment. Many lights can transition from flashlight to spotlight or area lantern. Some offer two power settings, maybe a blink setting or even a programmed SOS signal.

Whether they reside in a household drawer for emergencies, help us locate a doorlock, make camping trips safer or get used regularly on the job, flashlights are a well received promotional gift.

Be sure to discuss usage plans for the lights with your Staples representative or check StaplesPromoProducts.com to get the best product to fit your needs. Price points range from giveaway candidates to rugged lights that suit an employee’s responsibilities.