The Portable Fluorescent Beacon from UK rechargeable light specialists Nightsearcher is a large and powerful fluorescent area light intended for industrial and professional users. Entirely self contained, the tough hazard-yellow body contains a sealed lead acid battery and electronic inverter ballast, while the clear “turret” on top protects an extremely bright 26 watt Philips PL-C compact fluorescent tube. Emitting the sort of light levels usually only seen in mains powered work lighting, and running for many hours on a single charge, the PFB makes a perfect portable site light for buildings with no mains power or remote locations away from reliable electricity supplies and generators.
Manufacturer`s Web site- nightsearcher.co.uk.
Buy yours from- the Manufacturer`s site.
Size- 360mm high (14-1/4 inch) excluding carry handle x 155mm square (6-1/8 inch) at the widest point.
Tube type- 26 watt Philips PL-C (as supplied. Other PL-C tubes will work).
Tube dimentions- 130mm high x 25mm square, excluding plastic base.
Approximate colour-temperature- Cool white, ~4000K.
Body colours/finishes- Bright yellow.
Batteries- Internal 12 volt 12Ah sealed lead acid cell.
Switch type- Toggle.
Approximate illumination angle- 360 degrees.
Peak Beam Intensity- not yet measured.
Notes- In the overhead “light dispersion” photo below, the green colour of the top of the light in the center was a filter applied to stop the bright light shining upwards from causing excessive glare.
My Nightsearcher Portable Fluorescent Beacon arrived in a plain cardboard shipping box, packed in styrofoam peanuts. It is aimed at the profesisonal/industrial market and isn`t the sort of thing to be sold in retail stores, hence the lack of snazzy packaging. The battery was supplied fully charged, but it could do with a top-up before use, and to do so is easy. The seperate charger has two cords – one terminating in a 1/4 inch jack-plug and one terminating in a 3 pin UK mains plug. Insert the jack plug into the charging socket on the front of the PFB`s body (an internal interlock prevents the tube from being turned on while this plug is in) and connect the mains plug to a nearby 240 volt outlet. The two-colour LED on the front of the PFB will light red to indicate the unit is charging. A full charge takes about eight hours, topups will be significantly shorter, after which the LED will turn green to indicate it has finished. It uses a “gel cell” sealed lead acid battery, and these do not need to be discharged completely before recharging. Indeed they benefit from periodic top-up charges after every use, or after 3 months or so if left unused, up to a total of around 1000 charges. Ensure it is never left fully discharged for any length of time since this will cause irreversible damage and require replacement of the battery. Run-time from a single charge is quoted as being 8 hours, and although I have not tested this completely, it does seem a little too long. I measured the current drain on the battery at around 2.25 amps, so given that its capacity is 12Ah, a simple calculation reveals an approximate run time of just over 5 hours before it goes out completely and needs recharging. Perhaps used intermittantly it would be longer, but I don`t think it would add up to 8 hours. Still, 5 hours is a decent run-time, plenty for many jobs. And it can be topped up at any time to keep it ready so all in all it isn`t bad at all.
Operating the light is simple. It is controlled by a toggle switch on top of the body. Push towards the lamp to turn on, push the other way to turn off, as indicated by the adjacent label. A red power-on LED next to the switch acts as a check in case the unit does not function. The light output of the PFB is extremely impressive to say the least. Its 26 watt PL compact fluorescent tube puts out a similar amount of light to a 150 watt incandescent bulb and spreads it out over the full 360 degrees making it a great area floodlight. The colour of the light is a cool white of around 4000K – slightly pink/yellow compared to daylight but a lot whiter than ordinary tungsten work lights, which does seem to make it appear that little bit brighter still. Operated in cold weather it starts out rather dim but quickly brightens up and once warm, remains steady with no noticeable flickering. The clear “turret” around the lamp protects the tube from damage and helps keep it warm too, out of the cold air. The lid of this clear portion unscrews to gain access to the tube when replacement is required. Tube life figures are quoted as up to 10000 hours so it will be a while before you need to change it.
Ergonomically speaking, the unit is a big heavy yellow lump, and is far from compact. The SLA battery provides most of the unit`s weight and size, and if it used other types it could be made a bit smaller and lighter. SLA cells are cheap, reliable and robust though, making an ideal choice for a simple work light. The size shouldn`t be much of an issue anyways, and could even be a benefit – the heavy base makes it more stable and less likely to get knocked over. It also sports a dual purpose handle – first and foremost it provides an easy way to transport the light, but secondly it can be used to suspend it off the ground in an upright or inverted position thanks to the elongated slots on either side of the body in to which the handle is fixed. A groove in the black hand-grip allows it to be hung more securely from a hook without sliding side to side, which is a good thing as you wouldn`t want this thing to fall down on top of you! If it did fall down, personal injury aside, I do not think the light would survive. Its internal construction is very crude – the battery and ballast are just placed loosely in the body, and the little PCB that controls the charging indicator has no fixings of its own, relying on the input socket for mechanical support. There is a metal guide fixed to the top portion to help secure the battery and stop it rattling around too much, but it still sounds like things are a little loose inside when shaken. The body construction itsself doesn`t look overly durable either. A photo of the PFB on Nightsearcher`s site shows it to have a power-tool-transformer-style one piece moulded fiberglass body, but my unit is a newer version with a custom made body. It has been fabricated from heat-folded sheet plastic with the side pieces glued to the main section. It is the glued seams which concern me – I do not know how tough these will be, but anything with seams and joins will inherantly be weaker than one-piece designs. Considering how much it costs, I`m not going to deliberately do anything to it that might cause damage, but accidents do and will happen in everyday life so if it does get dropped or knocked to the floor in the future I`ll be sure to report back as to how it fared.
Overall the Nightsearcher Portable Fluorescent Beacon is a great mobile floodlight for use anywhere a bright area light is required, and a mains supply or generator is not avaliable. It emits a powerful cool-white light that is just as bright as mains powered work lamps, and runs for a decent length of time on each charge. Though large and heavy, it is quite easy to transport and can be suspended to keep it up out of the way if necessary thanks to its versatile handle. Only the construction lets it down. It is not waterproof, it would probably drown if used outside in heavy rain for any length of time, and the body might not survive being dropped or knocked over accidentally. I also had a problem with the charger but chalked that one up to a mistake during manufacture, nothing that wasn`t hard to repair. Handled with care and kept away from significant moisture, the PFB should provide years of trouble free service.