A growing number of durable, professional-grade task lighting tools provide powerful illumination with extended battery life and advanced options to HVAC-R professionals
For HVAC-R contractors and technicians, a dependable, high-quality headlamp can significantly improve on-the-job safety and productivity. Given the nature of the job, many end up working in poorly lit, cramped, and enclosed spaces, so lighting solutions that allow the use of both hands can be critical.
As with any tool, however, there are choices to make as to cost and quality. Since HVAC-R contractors work in relatively harsh environments, headlamps should be durable enough to withstand rough handling and contact with water, chemicals, dyes, and refrigerants. Choosing a unit that offers advanced features such as multiple lighting settings (spot, flood, close range), are dimmable, or have UV LEDs for leak detection using fluorescent dyes, can expedite job completion and improve safety.
“Headlamps, penlights, flashlights, and other illumination tools are critical for improving safety and efficiency in dark or low-light areas,” says Rob Holmes, a sales representative at Sunbelt Marketing, a manufacturers’ representative/master distributor of HVAC-R, plumbing, and piping products.
“However, these essential tools must reliably perform at the jobsite and not fail or run out of batteries during work shifts,” adds Holmes. “Still, many contractors purchase low-cost headlamps from big box stores that are manufactured overseas and not designed for contractor environments.”
Even products sold to the industry by distributors and wholesalers can develop poor reputations if the units fail at the jobsite or develop reliability issues.
“One low-cost [headlamp] brand was popular with HVAC-R contractors for a while, but many distributors now refuse to offer them because the units failed repeatedly, and there were constant returns,” says Holmes. “Contractors want reliable, substantial, yet lightweight products that will not fail on the job.”
Fortunately, a wide variety of professional-quality headlamps and lighting products are available that provide HVAC-R professionals with the reliability, powerful illumination, extended battery life, versatility, and comfort required.
Greater Reliability and Safety
Understanding the need for dependable and high-quality products in the market, Sunbelt Marketing made the decision to become a manufacturers’ representative/master distributor of HVAC-R products from Princeton Tec. The Trenton, NJ-based company designs and manufactures professional-grade headlamps in the U.S. with durable thermoplastic material designed to withstand drops and rough handling. The U.S. military uses these products, and there is an option to make purchases with a lifetime warranty.
“Because headlamps can be dropped or damaged in the demanding settings serviced by contractors, it is important that the equipment can withstand rough handling,” says Holmes. “The headlamps are also waterproof and chemical resistant and so can be easily washed if it comes in contact with the dyes, chemicals, and solvents utilized by HVAC-R contractors.”
Battery life is also an important consideration because HVAC-R technicians working 8-to-12-hour shifts prefer to avoid the downtime needed to change out headlamp batteries two or three times per shift. Today, advanced dimmable LEDs with lower battery draw, less heat, and greater illumination per unit of energy can enable battery power to last entire shifts without a change.
The Vizz-IND headlamp, for example, offers a consistent 420 Lumens of illumination with a burn time of 90 hours. The headlamp can be switched between a bright LED spot beam for long throw illumination, four 5mm LEDs that deliver a flood beam, and equipped with both a nylon head strap and an interchangeable rubber helmet strap.
The LEDs are dimmable, allowing the headlamp to be adjusted to suit the available light and the work environment.
“If the light is too bright for a particular task, or setting, the dimming feature can be used to adjust to a more comfortable light level. Dimming also extend the burn time and battery life of the headlamp,” says Holmes.
Although professional-grade headlamps cost more up front, the overall cost of ownership is often lower because the batteries typically last 5-6 times longer and do not need to be replaced constantly during work shifts. When multiplied by the number of technicians out on jobs, the savings to a HVAC-R contracting firm’s bottom line becomes even greater.
Because technicians usually wear headlamps for many hours, it is important the headlamp is designed for prolonged wear and comfort. Some low-cost models have headbands that lose elasticity and require frequent tightening and re-adjustment. Professional-grade options typically have higher quality headbands that retain their elasticity and shape.
Like many other types of contractors, HVAC-R professionals often utilize their headlamps in their personal lives as well, for activities such as trail running, biking, hiking, hunting, and fishing.
“I run 30 to 50 miles a week at night, including on trails, so a headlamp is very important to me,” says Avid runner Joshua Harrington, an HVAC-R sales representative at Sunbelt marketing. “So, I tested the Vizz-IND headlamp to see how well it worked, how bright it was, how the dimming features functioned, and how it fit on my night runs.”
“I found the elastic headband very comfortable, and the product had a great balance of being lightweight, yet very durable,” adds Harrington. “The bright LED lights ensure vehicles see me, and I haven’t had to change out the battery once.”
Versatility for HVAC-R Tasks
Today, some unique headlamp options even help HVAC-R technicians safely and efficiently handle a wide variety of jobs in the field.
The Remix Ultraviolet (UV) headlamp, for example, is specifically designed to assist with tasks such as leak detection. The headlamp combines a 300-lumen spot beam with three high-intensity UV LEDs that cause fluorescent dyes to “glow” for leak detection in low light settings.
Another product, the Snap Solo from Princeton Tec, features a detachable magnetic head unit that can be worn as a traditional headlamp, used as a handheld flashlight, or attached to any magnetic surface to illuminate even very confined work areas. The unit provides 300 lumens and a 155-hour runtime. A simple switch is used for activation and switching between high and low spot beams, dimming, as well as a flash mode to attract attention in case of emergency.
“If a technician enters a dark, enclosed space and needs to illuminate a specific area, he can detach the head unit and magnetically adhere it to any available metal surface in the best possible position for the task at hand,” says Holmes.
In settings where the environment is inherently volatile due to possible gases, vapors, or flammable substances present, Princeton Tec also offers headlamps that meet the safety requirements for these types of hazardous environments.
Handheld penlights are also useful for specific tasks. To ensure reliable battery power, an Alloy-X 400 lumen penlight offers dual-fuel technology so contractors can utilize either a rechargeable lithium-ion battery included or two AAA alkaline batteries.
Although purchasing low-cost headlamps and handheld lights is always an option, contractors and technicians that select professional-grade models with features suited to the task will discover that the improved reliability and performance will increase their safety and productivity for many years to come.