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It’s hard to pass up the cheap, easy installation of fluorescent shop lighting. With fixtures running less than an Andrew Jackson, there’s no excuse for suffering the darkness of a single bare bulb — even if that’s all the cheapskate builders installed in the house. Still, fluorescent lighting has drawbacks. Bulbs are pretty fragile, and they’re a pain in the ass to dispose of properly. And they’re not the cheapest in terms of operating cost, either.

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So what about LED? Is it a viable option?

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In celebration of Earth Day, the LED light bulb that won a $10 million government competition to replace the standard 60-watt incandescent with something more green will go on sale at Home Depot — for $60. Ok, the manufacturer Phillips is “discounting” it to $50. Actually, Phillips claims that it’s working with other organizations to subsidize the bulb in order to get that price down to around $20-$30. But still: Is this cheap enough to encourage you to make the leap?

What sets the Phillips bulb apart from the many cheaper offerings already available is its output. While most LED bulbs deliver significantly less light than “equivalent” incandescents, the Phillips is reportedly pretty much interchangeable with a good ‘ole 60W. The Phillips light isn’t blue-white, either, but instead a more yellowish “warm” light like you’ve come to expect. So if these claims are true, it’s probably a lot easier sell for the family than the ones I’ve tried out, which made my room feel like a dimly-lit hospital.

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So you got a flashlight with your last M12, M18, or v28 kit purchase, but you bought before they started shipping LED lights as standard. Then you (or someone else, *cough*Sean*cough*) drops it off the back of a truck and dinks out the little incandescent bulb. You could swap in another incandescent, but more and more often now we’re seeing in-place LED replacement parts like the one pictured above. It’s compatible with pretty much any of the existing Milwaukee incandescents, but we’ve even heard of people swapping it in for other similarly-shaped and -sized bulbs.

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We’ve been telling Toolmongers about the slow-but-mostly-inevitable move from incandescents to more energy-efficient lighting for a while now, like last year when the possibility of voting down anti-incandescent legislation arose. We even took on our own long-term experiment to see how CFLs hold up. At that time we mused that CFL pricing had dropped significantly, LEDs — the ultimate in low-lower, long-life light — remained massively out of range at around $40/bulb. It looks like that’s changing. Pharox recently announced the 200 Blu, a 200-lumen bulb with a lifespan of 10 years — to sell for just $5.

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For many of us, the “shop” also holds cars — at least when projects don’t eat all the space and leave us parking outside. The bad news, though, is that most homebuilders think that if a single crappy bare bulb offers enough light to get from your car door to house door at night, that’s plenty of garage lighting. We, of course, disagree. A dark work area makes working on anything at all pretty much suck. At best, the place feels dingy and depressing. At worst, you can’t see well enough to do the job and you might hurt yourself. The good news: It’s easy to fix. Just add some real lighting. Read on for three ways to brighten your day, night, and garage.

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In July, Chuck wrote about the looming end to incandescent bulbs 40 Watts and higher. Unfortunately Congress has yet to act to repeal any of these bans. However, many debates remain on whether the newer CFL or LED bulbs will really offer a savings over time in relation to incandescent bulbs. With 2012 and the first phase-in of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act inching closer, some entrepreneurs have decided to play the futures game and stock up on the soon-to-be-banned bulbs.

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When I first saw the flashlight component of DeWalt’s 12V MAX line, I thought, “Wow, that sure is odd-looking. It’s square. It’s gonna be uncomfortable to hold. And what’s with that gimmicky swivel head?” Then I picked it up. Surprise! It’s actually quite comfortable in your hand. It’s bright, too, and the swivel head makes it easy to direct light where you need it. In short: I’m a fan. It’s one of the most popular flashlights around the TM shop now, and at home as well. So read on for the details about an accessory that most reviewers will toss to the side to get at the drill driver — DeWalt’s new flashlight.

The Light

Like most modern flashlights, the DeWalt incorporates a bright-white LED which, combined with a small reflector, creates a wide dispersion pattern and a pretty intense white spot in the middle. A significant departure from Milwaukee’s carefully-engineered no-bright-spot design, this design decision was intentional: DeWalt says they want to provide you the ability to direct bright light on whatever you’re looking at, or to aim it off to the side to provide more of a dim wash. See the results for yourself:

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I enjoy seeing what I’m looking at, particularly when I’m loading the car up in the pre-dawn hours for one of my son’s long-distance hockey games, unloading the car in the pitch black after coming home from the game, or shoveling the driveway in the dead of winter. Needless to say, my driveway’s three garage-mounted fixtures and the light pole out front need to be bright, but it seems like they’re constantly burning out. It’s annoying because it seems like I replace them at least twice a year. This time I’ve decided to run a longevity test to see how long the bulbs last and inform you of what happens.

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If you’re like me, you probably just like good ‘ole flashlights: cheap, easy to hold and use, and durable. But if you’re a fan of “tactical lights” (read: mean-looking all-metal lights powered by the latest unobtainum emitters and bright enough to scare vampires), you’ll get a kick out of this one. It’s lithium-ion powered, chargeable via a micro-USB jack hidden inside the O-ring-sealed tailpiece, and “programmable.” (No, really.) That’s right: We’ve got ourselves a flashlight nerd extravaganza.

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If you’ve been following the whole compact fluorescent craze, you’ve probably heard about a bill designed to slowly force manufacturers to make light bulbs more efficient. It’s a serious issue — considering that each and every person in modern nations has at least a couple of these burning a few hours a day, this is fertile ground for big worldwide energy savings. But it could be a serious pain in the ass, too. The law’s “higher standards” have pretty much set the stage for traditional incandescent bulbs to become unavailable over the next decade, but CFLs (and LEDs) haven’t yet reached fully comparable price levels.

Whatever your politics, I’m guessing you can see how this could become a charged issue, especially in times of governmental (and personal) financial duress.

This week CNNMoney ran an article giving us a taste of the battle that’s forming around this legislation — and the possibility of voting it out before it takes effect. You can head over there via the link below to read about the politics, but honestly that part of it doesn’t interest me much. What does interest me are the arguments for and against the law.

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