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LED lights have infected the general market like pod people, and every time you turn around in stores there’s another one waiting to snare you. But in the shop lighting arena LEDs still seem to be missing traction.

Though they come in all sorts of form factors — just like bulb lighting — the front-loaded buy in scares some new adopters — especially cheap-asses like me. Twice as much up front? I’m not sure I can swing that.

The question is: do the new LED shop lights have what it takes to light up your work area better than traditional halogen and incandescent bulbs? Let us know in comments.

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13 Responses to Hot or Not: LED Shop Lights

  1. TimG says:

    I have a small cordless LED shop light and I like it a lot, but it can’t compete with my corded halagon when I need LOTS of light. I find the LED light very directional so it isn’t good for big areas (under the car/etc).

    LED is great for cordless though, lasts a long time and I dont’ have to worry about dropping it. Also good for lots of ‘on/off’ cycles as they will last longer than bulbs.


  2. Evan N. says:

    Not. I have had no problems with my $8 (got it on sale) fluorescent shop light from HF (http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=46890).
    I think that to get enough LEDs so that it puts out enough light, you have to actually make a fairly bulky light. My fluorescent is skinnier than the LED ones and gives off a lot of light. It has about a 160-180 degree angle of illumination.

  3. jeff says:

    LEDs are great for that small, close quarters job. They are cordless, usually compact, sometimes magnetic, and much cooler in temp. The temp fact alone makes it worth having one. I hate burning myself on shop lights and it is way more prone to happen on the tight jobs.

  4. Paul says:

    The LED shop lights are nice where you either need a soft even light or one that’s not going to burn you or your work. When working in a tight location inside a car dashboard the LED shop lights are nice in that they give a gentle broad light that doesn’t throw harsh shadows making it easier to determine where something really is located. I wouldn’t what to push a hot incandescent lamp inside the dash for fear of burning a vacuum hose or small electric wire. Cordless ability is another nice thing that these lights offer with long battery life. Not the only light in the shop but a handy tool.

  5. Phil says:

    I have two LED shop lights, one a corded Craftsman coupled with a reel (it also doubles as a power source/extension cord) that replaced a worn out fluorescent unit, and a cordless NiMH version from Astro Pneumatic. While both throw a nice amount of light, it’s very directional. Given that these things are basically modeled upon a fluorescent tube style of light, there is no omnidirectional light to be had from these types of lights and some people will be disappointed by that. Sometimes, though, I find the directional light and tubular form factor to be just right in some circumstances. Shove the light in and aim at the area you are working, there is no incident light blinding you.

  6. Zathrus says:

    One of the other great things about LEDs is that they don’t break. Drop a work light on a concrete floor or hit it with a stray tool and a incandescent/halogen/CFL may break. An LED won’t.

    They’re not as efficient as all the other options yet but they’re getting there. And if it’s well designed (e.g. — not overdriving the LEDs and properly heat sinking them) then it’ll outlast every other light source in your workshop, home, office, etc.

    For a general purpose work light, I’d hold off for now. For a specialized application (esp. small area and portable), it’s definitely hot.

  7. John says:

    If you watch this video about shop lights, you will probably laugh like I did when you see yourself and the aggravation caused by some worklights…

  8. Toolaremia says:

    Not YET, but warming up. They are still a bit pricey, and have poor color balance (unless you spend even more). As the prices drop and the performance improves, these will become blisteringly hot. Except, of course, that they don’t get hot at all…

    Right now I use a standard droplight with a warm-white CFL bulb. Best of all worlds: Cheap, very bright, very rugged, stays cool to the touch.

  9. HOT for a few reasons. One, they’re not hot, which is a plus if you’re prone to spilling flammable stuff like I am. Two, unlike CFLs (especially in my cold, unheated garage) they turn on instantly. Can’t count the aggravating seconds I’ve spent waiting for a CFL to stop flickering and put out usable light, immediately after I’ve dropped a nut into the yawning abyss of a car’s engine bay. Three, super bright shop lights overpower ambient light so much than you can’t see into shadowy areas very well, so a slightly dimmer light is nice sometimes.

  10. TL says:

    So-so. They work well for some applications, but they are not going to keep my hands warm like the 500w halogen will.

  11. John says:

    I like the cordless design but I am not sure if there is enough light. I guess you can turn the head to put the light where you want it.

  12. David Moisan says:

    I love LED lights in general–I have a million LED flashlights–but I’ll wait for an LED worklight. Right now, I have a CFL worklight that is OMG bright and good enough for my use.

  13. LEDs in corded lights aren’t cost-effective yet, but their lower power consumption makes them a no-brainer for battery applications. The durability factor is just a bonus. Oh, and since the lamp doesn’t wear out (for all practical purposes), the mechanical design doesn’t need to accomodate bulb changing, meaning some interesting shapes are possible. The industry is just waking up to some of these factors.

    LEDs are also trivial to dim, and given that several people have mentioned the utility of a softer worklight, I’m sort of surprised that this market segment doesn’t include any of the multi-brightness options found in camping, sporting, and other lighting sectors where LEDs have been embraced.

    Here’s the thing, though: Since the electrical requirements of LEDs are pretty simple and the thermal details are fairly well spelled out for whatever emitters you choose, building your own LED lights isn’t hard at all! Even if you’re not much of an electronics person, head on over to Instructables and punch “led dan” into the search box.

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