Inspection flashlight review

There is a saying that good workmen never blames their tools.  Maybe because good workmen always take time to select the best tools for the job.  In this page we review a number of flashlights that we have managed to procure, to see if they really perform for the home inspector.

From the first incandescent bulb, battery powered version, flashlight development has undergone a revolution.  Especially in the last 10 years.

While this is fantastic news for home inspectors, it can at the same time be is a daunting task for them to find the best fit.

Let’s first define what basis we performed our reviews on.

Flashlight Type

There are really four types of flashlight

  • Headlight
  • Hand help cylinder
  • Pistol Grip
  • Free-standing or tripod mount

The choice as to which one of these one uses is really based upon the purpose one would put it to.   For a Home Inspector, the times we most likely use a Flashlight is either in a crawlspace, basement or attic, or to see behind an appliance or into a dark area.   In these areas we are likely to want to be able to take a photograph at the same time.  This leaves the Inspector in a fairly precarious situation where, although for “special” occasions one might be handy, a free-standing flashlight is really little to no use for day-to-day inspection.    Most pistol grip flashlights are bulky, so our review has concentrated on the head-worn lights and Hand Held cylinder versions.

The key factors to compare when selecting a flashlight for Home Inspections

Everyone has their own favourite function when claiming their flashlight is better than others.   Things like red light output, LED vs Halogen, size, shape, material and modes each have their own part to play in personal choice.   For this review we concentrated less on the aesthetics of the flashlight, and more on the functionality that would be required by a Home Inspector.   This is a fairly extensive list in it’s own right.   We feel this list highlights the key factors, in descending order of importance when choosing an Flashlight to perform a home inspection.

  • Light output – Let’s face it, if you buy the greatest looking OKEE-KOKEE-2020 Super-duper flashlight and you can’t see diddly with it, it’s not going to serve you very well in an inspection.
  • Ease of Use – So it’s minus 15, and you need to go into a crawlspace, you can feel your fingers and you can’t operate the flashlight, it’s pretty well at that point in time you realise you’ve purchased the wrong one.   Too late, no time to pause your inspection and run back to the store for a different one.
  • Battery type and run time – There a Crawlspace an attic, four closets, a water heater, furnace, washing machine and dryer all in locations that make it difficult to see behind without a flashlight.   Sure it a visual inspection, but the fact that you’ve chosen not to purchase a flashlight that is capable of giving you the visibility needed is not your clients fault.  That you overlooked the fact that the battery would only last for one or less than one inspection in a day is definitely down to you.
  • Size and weight – You have to carry this about with you, either in you hand, on your head or in your tool bag.   Keeping it light without losing any of the other functions is important.
  • Price – The Home Inspection Profession is not the most lucrative of careers.  Any inspector that is not aware of their mounting costs will likely not be an inspector for very long.
  • Beam Width and Distance – If you have a really bright flashlight that only lights areas up  one meter wide and one to two metres in front of you means you are required to go where your flashlights visible light can’t.  Sometimes that’s impossible so getting the right beam wide and depth is critical.
  • Impact resistance – So you’ve never dropped a flashlight, or had something fall on it?   There’s a word for that  and that word is “lucky”.
  • Water resistance – So you may not want to go deep sea diving with your flashlight, but can you guarantee you are never going to have to expose it to a wet condition?

What we looked at and how we tested the flashlights

ANSI flashlight standard iconsANSI FL1 Standard – A Common Guide to Understanding How it Impacts Your Flashlight Choice

There is a uniform flashlight standard (ANSI FL1) created by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. When shopping for flashlights you may see a series of icons printed on the box. These icons signify that the flashlight has been tested using the FL1 standard and received a rating. These are specifically technical specifications and don’t seal with the Home Inspector specific requirements, but they are well worth looking at.  It will show us what the laboratory tests are and how they are conducted.

what can you see with it?

ANSI-FL1-Beam-intensityPeak Beam Intensity

In the peak beam intensity test the brightest portion of the cone is tested at a two, 10 and 30 meter distance. Tests are conducted with a full battery and the flashlight is given 30 seconds to fully “warm up”. If the peak beam intensity differs at the various distances, the highest intensity level will be used. Intensity is measured in candela and that will be printed in the icon found on the box.

Beam Distance (Throw Distance)

ANSI-FL1-beam-distanceMaximum beam distance is calculated by use of the inverse square law using the peak beam intensity. For people who love math, it’s the square root of peak beam intensity over .25 lux. .25 lux is about the amount of light you get from a full moon on a clear night in an open field in the country. For the naked eye this is how far you can see your light shine.  This comes in particularly handy when you are considering the different uses for your flashlight.  Those that would desire a light to be used as a search light would consider alight with a longer beam distance (maybe even over 400m).

Light Output

ANSI-FL1-lumensThis is the measure of the total amount of light emitted – not just the peak intensity. This is reported in lumens rather than candelas.  Light intensity is generally the most marketed aspect of a flashlight.  To get the light output rating the batteries used for the test are full charged.  And should a battery not be provided with the light when it is available for sale (very common) the battery used for the test that resulted in the final output number will be indicated.

Much like the horsepower wars that automakers compete in, flashlight manufacturers can be said to be competing in “lumens wars”.  Having the ability to know the maximum lumens of a light does come in handy as you trying to compare different brands, because just like in horsepower, it’s not always the brightest light that will win your purchase.

How long can you see it?

ANSI-FL1-run-time

Run Time

 

This test observes how long a flashlight can stay in operation before the amount of light emitted drops to ten-percent of its peak value.  This is often reported at the lowest output level that a light has available. For example if it’s possible that a light can have an output of 1 lumens (even if it has  maximum output of say 960 lumens) the Run Time that would be displayed would most likely be at the lowest output level.

Is it robust?

ANSI-FL1-impact-resistantImpact Resistance

Impact resistance is pretty much how far you can drop your flashlight with damaging it. The device is dropped directly onto a concrete surface from a specified height of at least one meter six times. Each side of an approximated cube must be tested once. That’s why they drop it six times. The maximum height that a device can take and still keep working is then put in the icon and displayed on the box. While no one wants to drop their flashlight when you are out camping or even using it on the job site dropping it is part of normal usage.  As lights are evaluated for a certain impact resistance you can even look deeper to see if they incorporate additional innovations to see how internals of the light are protected.

Water Resistance (IPX Rating)

The IPX rating system determines the lights level for water resistance. In short, flashlights are tested for resistance to temporary immersion, continuous immersion and resistance to splashing. Splash resistance is IPX-1 to IPX-6. Temporary immersion is IPX-7. A flashlight is deemed submersible at IPX-8.  For an IPX-8 level light the manufacturer will dictate to what level it can be submerged (i.e. 2 meters). In the image you see here indicating the water resistance level this would mean that the light has been tested to the IPX-8 standard to 2 meters. That just about covers the FL1 system (unless you really want to dive-in to the engineering portion of it). So, the next time you are shopping for a tactical or survival flashlight, make sure to check the box for these telltale icons. Now, you know what they mean.

The stuff that’s not covered by the standards.

The aesthetic stuff (i.e. how it looks, how it feels etc) is pretty much up to the individual.  So we had each flashlight tested by more than one person.   We merged their opinions and hopefully presented a balanced view of each of these functions.

Battery Aziz!

Battery life

As all of the flashlights tested rely on portable power, the churn of the disposable battery and time to recharge (in the case of rechargeable devices) was taken into account.   If the flashlight initial cost is cheap, but you are going to have to spend $1,000 per year on disposable batteries, or have to buy two sets of  (comparatively expensive) replacement rechargeable ones, the flashlights overall cost is going to be affected.

 

How Much?

Price

Off-the-shelf flashlights can cost anything from $20 to over $1,300.  While we are not going to extremes, we’ve chose some flashlights that are at least within the price range of most normal Home Inspectors.  We take into account not just the purchase price, but also the running costs of these flashlights.

 

Heyyyy!

Ease of Use

Being able to turn the flashlight on and off and get it into places is important.  That has to coincide with the ability to perform other tasks required of a Home Inspector.  Most of us now provide inspection reports with photos and videos.  If we can’t use a camera at the same time as the flashlight, or we can’t get the camera into the same area as the flashlight, then the flashlight may be stopping us from providing a full service.   If the flashlight needs batteries on a power pack that’s too heavy to carry for 3-4 hours at a time, then that is going to move it down in our judging.

 

So now to the actual reviews.

This comparative review will grow over time.  As we trial each new flashlight, that review will be added here.  It’s worth you while to come back whenever you are thinking of purchasing a new flashlight to see what may be new.

Coast Hl4 Headlamp
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10 LED Headlamp
[insert page=’review-10-led-headlamp’ display=’content’]
LeTour 3 Cree T6 Headlamp
[insert page=’review-letour-3-led-cree-t6′ display=’content’]
Mastercraft Handheld Flashlight
[insert page=’mastercraft-flashlight-review’ display=’content’]

Comparisons

Coast HL4 Headlamp10 LED HeadlampLeTour 3xCtree-T6 HeadlampMastercraft Handheld Flashlight