LED Flashlight vs. Conventional Flashlights

Gone are the days of playing flashlight tag with your friends; for the most part, using a flashlight is not merely fun and games but rather part of a situation in which light is necessary: power outages, natural disasters, camping, boating, etc. Before saying, all flashlights are created equally, think again. LED and conventional, incandescent flashlights each offer their own advantage and disadvantage. Depending on your flashlight needs, the difference between these two products may be startling.  Before delving into the differences in terms of practicality and usability, it is prudent to discuss their technological differences.

LED (Light-Emitting Diode): An LED Flashlight is comprised of a semiconductor which converts energy straight into light.  A prime example of an LED flashlight is the LED series by Pelican. Most noteworthy is Pelican’s M6 2330 LED Flashlight.

Incandescent: Incandescent light bulbs depend on tungsten filament. The filament produces energy corresponding to its temperature. The bulb itself is vacuum sealed or contains xenon or halogen. An example of a conventional flashlight is the Maglite 3-D cell, a favorite amongst law enforcement officers.

Differentiating Features:

Light Color: LEDs have been around for a long time, being used as indicator lights, in calculators and telephones, however they only recently made the jump into flashlights. The reason this technology only recently became available in flashlights is because scientists were unable to create LEDs that produced white light. White light is most similar to natural light. The two flashlight types react differently in terms of light color when their battery life’s decline, as the battery power decreases, the LED’s light strength will be less powerful; however the color will remain the same. With an incandescent light bulb, as the battery life diminishes, the light’s color turns more yellow.

Distance of Light and Quality: This next qualification will depend on what you want to be looking at and how far away you want the light to carry.  LED lights cannot match the distance achieved by incandescent bulbs. An incandescent flashlight with an adjustable focus is ideal for longer range. If you’re looking for a flashlight that gives off a high quality diffused light for tasks that are close at hand, a bulb that’s very durable, and a flashlight that offers relatively long battery life, an LED flashlight is a good choice. Although LEDs may not be the ideal choice for long range lighting, their wide range of power input allows LEDs to be suitable for adjustable-output devices.

Duration: LED flashlights are known to outlast their incandescent competition by thousands of hours. LED flashlights are able to last longer because of their energy efficiency. LEDs do not produce visible infrared radiation, while incandescent light bulbs can put forth over 85%. This non-visible light is similar to a waste of energy and therefore a drain on the battery life.   Although LEDs will have a longer battery life; specific battery life will depend on the number of LEDs in the individual flashlight. It should be noted that LEDs will begin to dim slowly as their battery life declines and this dimmed state is still factored into manufacturer’s projected battery life. Therefore the term “battery life” is not clearly defined.

Heat: Incandescent light bulbs are known for their production of heat. It is for this reason that lights that are left on inside of a house for long periods of time become too hot to touch. What most do not know is that LED flashlights do produce heat. Low powered LED flashlights will emit a low level of heat, while a high-powered LED lights will produce more heat. It is for this reason that LED flashlights come in aluminum cases so as to dissipate the heat. In the end both flashlight types do produce heat, this point of difference is a matter of how much heat is okay with its user.

Durability: LED flashlights are built to last. Unlike conventional flashlights which depend on the light bulb’s fragile filament and glass confines, LED flashlights are tougher and do not have such  easily broken components.  Consequently, LED flashlights can withstand the beatings associated with combat and tactical environments. It goes without saying that dropping an LED flashlight will not impact its overall performance, even if it is dropped in water. However, there are some sturdy conventional flashlights that are suitable for most people. A prime example of a tough incandescent flashlight is Pelican’s Tracker 2140 Flashlight which is submergible until 300 feet and its light source can penetrate through fog and smoke. The Tracker also can be clipped onto things allowing users to have a hands free light source.

LED flashlights may be more expensive than a conventional incandescent flashlight, however depending on your unique flashlight usage, you may be getting what you pay for: a better flashlight. Before purchasing a flashlight, it is important to look at what features you value and what the flashlight will be used for. If you are in the military a more tactical flashlight like one from the Fenix Tactical series may be preferable while if you are going camping a simpler flashlight like the Brunton Lamplight 360 which functions like a two in one, LED flashlight and lantern combination might be more than sufficient.

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