By Glenda Taylor | Updated Jan 29, 2021 10:39 AM
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Historically, the use of powerful spotlights often was limited to theatrical productions or for mounting atop the tall walls of high-security prisons, where it was vital to see what was happening around the facility at night. The lights still are a staple in those industries, but with technological advances in LED lighting, it was only a matter of time before the intense power of the spotlight came to the world of the everyday consumer. Today, the spotlight—defined as a powerful, narrow beam of light—is available in a wide range of lightweight handheld models, designed to let the user see clearly at a distance when it’s dark.
Finding the best spotlight for you will be influenced by how you plan to use the light—a spotlight designed for hunting is likely too powerful for a small backyard. Keep reading to learn more about today’s spotlights and to find out why the following are tops in their categories.
When shopping for a spotlight, consider brightness, what type of power the light uses, how far the light beam reaches, and the spotlight’s overall durability. Spotlights range from less than $20 to more than $200, and the most powerful models come with heftier price tags.
Almost all of today’s spotlights feature light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that are very bright but do not generate heat. A spotlight’s intensity is rated in lumens, and the higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light will be. Consumer spotlights are comparable to flashlights in brightness—a flashlight with 25 lumens will cast barely enough light to read a book in a tent at night, while a flashlight with 200 lumens will efficiently illuminate an average-size yard. High-end spotlights can produce up to 8,000 lumens, and they’re meant for things like tracking animals at night when hunting. For around-the-house or work light use, consider getting a spotlight with at least 600 lumens.
The most common type of battery used in spotlights today is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery of strengths ranging from 4.3 volts up to 20 volts or more. However, some of the less-expensive models accommodate disposable batteries. Others can run on both batteries or can plug into a 12-volt direct current (DC) power outlet in a car or on a boat or ATV.
Battery life varies from spotlight to spotlight, depending on the LED bulbs’ intensity, battery power, and whether the light is being used at full power or reduced power. Adjustable light intensity is available on many spotlights, so you can turn up the power when you need to see at a distance or turn it down to save on battery life. For most spotlights, run time averages two to eight hours of consistent use.
Spotlights made from quality materials will last longer and stand up to more abuse than ones made from cheap materials. If you’re looking for a well-made spotlight that will stand the test of time, look for heavy-duty molded polyethylene and a water-resistant case. Spotlights intended for outdoor use are usually moisture resistant. A rating of IPX-4 means the spotlight will resist light rain and some inadvertent splashing. A rating of IPX-7 indicates the spotlight should be OK if it’s dropped in water and retrieved within a few minutes. A rating of IPX-8 means the spotlight is waterproof enough to survive being submerged in water for up to four hours without suffering damage.
To qualify as a top pick, a spotlight should be made from quality materials, be durable, offer some measure of water resistance, and provide a bright focused beam of light. The following spotlights are suited to various purposes. One is sure to be an asset to your home, yard, or automobile.
For powerful light in a pistol-grip spotlight, look to the Streamlight 44910 Waypoint Spotlight that beams 1,000 lumens of bright light up to 2,000 feet away. It runs as long as three hours on a single battery charge and features intense C4 LED bulbs that produce a blindingly bright light. Users can tone the intensity down to 550 lumens or as low as 35 lumens, as desired. On its lowest light intensity, the spotlight’s powerful lithium-ion battery can last a staggering 80 hours. The built-in Streamlight battery charges via a 120V AC charger (included). This trigger-style handheld spotlight weighs 2.2 pounds, making it well suited for long-distance carrying. It’s made from high-quality molded polyethylene and rubber and is IPX-8 rated to survive being submerged in water for up to four hours without suffering damage.
You don’t have to spend a lot to get a good handheld spotlight. The ENERGIZER LED Spotlight comes with a water-resistant IPX-4 rating to resist damage from moisture and an occasional splash, and it emits a bright 600-lumen beam of light that travels nearly 1,400 feet. The ENERGIZER will run for up to six hours and 15 minutes at high intensity and up to 22 hours at reduced power. The lightweight 1.2-pound light runs on six AA batteries (included), and it features high-grade molded plastic that can withstand an impact equal to that of being dropped a two-story distance. This spotlight is well suited to lighting up a nighttime work site or campsite or for use as a supplemental emergency light, and it’s available at an affordable price point.
Charge this handheld spotlight from a USB cord and charger (included) or take it with you on the road or in a boat and connect it to a 12V DC outlet. This spotlight is durable and designed to withstand being submerged in water. It emits an intense 4,500-lumen-bright beam, and users can choose from three light-intensity settings plus a flashing SOS setting for drawing attention in the case of an emergency. The GOODSMANN spotlight beam illuminates up to 1,575 feet away, and the light comes with a carrying bag and a wrist strap that doubles as a rescue cord if needed. Manufactured from high-quality ABS, rubber, and aluminum, the spotlight is not only waterproof but lightweight (1.64 pounds), dust-proof, and made to last.
If you’re looking for variable light modes and a lantern-style spotlight (as opposed to a pistol-grip), consider the this one, which emits up to 6,000 lumens on its highest setting. On super-bright mode, the GLANDU illuminates a path up to 2,300 feet, and it comes with six lighting modes for choosing just the right amount of light to suit every situation. The spotlight features bright LED lights and a powerful lithium-ion battery that charges using a USB cord (included). The lightweight spotlight (1.2 pounds) also serves as a battery bank for charging a cellphone or tablet if necessary. On its highest setting, the spotlight can operate up to eight to 10 hours, and on its lowest setting, it can run for up to 32 hours. Hold the spotlight for direct lighting, or set it on its face and use the convenient sidelight as a work light. The GLANDU is IPX-4 rated to resist damage from splashes and moisture.
It’s tough to find a more versatile spotlight than the YIERBLUE Super Bright LED Spotlight that emits a 6,000-lumen beam and can be adjusted in an array of positions to direct a light beam at just the right angle. This pistol-type spotlight throws an intense beam of light up to 2,600 feet, or it can rest on its face for use as a side work light. It comes with three power levels and features an optional flashing red hazard light if you need to warn oncoming motorists or flag down assistance. The 1.7-pound spotlight charges via a USB cord (included), and it also functions as a USB power bank to charge a cellphone or tablet. Purchase of the light includes a sturdy tripod that supports the spotlight and allows users to rotate the beam to any angle they like, making it well suited for working on the underside of a vehicle.
If you’re in the market for a spotlight with a battery to remove for charging—and that’s interchangeable with power tools of the same brand—the DEWALT 20V MAX LED Work Light fits the bill. This powerful spotlight accepts the same 20-volt MAX battery as other DEWALT power tools, such as the 20V MAX Drill or the 20V MAX Reciprocating Saw. The spotlight illuminates at an intensity of up to 1,000 lumens, and it features an optional red hue that won’t interfere with night-vision goggles. The light can be handheld and directed, or it can sit on its end and users can adjust the 90-degree pivoting head for lighting up a specific spot in the workshop. This is the tool only; the battery and charger are not included, but anyone with other 20V MAX tools can use a battery they already have.
The ultrabright 6,000 lumens in this flashlight can light a path up to 2,600 away, and on its highest setting, the light will last for up to 10 hours. Rated IPX-4 to resist water damage, the Eornmor is rechargeable and comes with a USB cable. This isn’t the type of spotlight to shine toward a neighbor’s house unless you want an angry neighbor, but it’s well suited for bringing along on an ATV trail or for those times you need to check the back forty for an errant calf that’s lost its way. This bad boy offers a maximum amount of light when away from city lights and in need of super-strong illumination. It weighs in at just 1.1 pounds.
The TONGNAN emits 7,000 lumens of bright light to a distance of 2,600 feet on its highest setting. It also comes with a lower-intensity setting and a flash mode for emergencies. The spotlight’s powerful lithium-ion battery charges via a USB cord (included), and it can be used as a battery bank to charge a cellphone, if necessary. Its robust, pistol-grip body is rated IPX-4 to resist water damage. It also floats, making for easy retrieval if dropped in a stream or lake. Weighing in at just 1.1 pounds, the TONGNAN is a powerhouse of a light that won’t weigh you down.
Spotlights have come a long way since the development of LED bulbs that emit powerful beams of light. If you’re shopping for a good spotlight, you likely have some questions.
That depends on the spotlight’s lumens and the power of its battery and its barrel design. In this roundup, the Feidake Xenon Spotlight takes top honors for the farthest light beam, up to 1.5 miles.
For illuminating an average-size backyard, a spotlight with as little as 500 lumens is more than sufficient. To see at a distance when hunting or camping, opt for more lumens, at least 2,000.
A single lumen is as bright as one candle at a distance of 1 foot, so 1,000 lumens is equal in brightness to 1,000 candles at the same distance. However, be aware that spotlights use reflectors to concentrate lumens and direct them in a powerful beam that will seem more intense than the light’s corresponding candle comparison.
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