LIGHTING: Shedding Light on Portable Light Tower Selection

Daytime highway construction. Nighttime emergencies. Tight project deadlines. Rental customers are looking for solutions to these problems. The answer: portable light towers.

Some people say "a light tower is a light tower," but all light towers are not the same. When selecting one to offer to customers, you need to consider a variety of factors to ensure that everyone receives the best product for the best value.

Fixture performance is the single greatest factor in portable light tower selection: A more efficient lamp fixture lights a greater area.

Portable light towers commonly use commercial-grade, coaxial light fixtures, which provide reflected light as opposed to direct light. Also available are parallel lamp fixtures with horizontally mounted lamps that are designed to provide direct, non-reflected light.

Fixture durability Perhaps the biggest maintenance concern about light towers is fixture durability. Replacing a light fixture costs up to $150 to $200, which can amount to thousands of dollars for lamp and fixture breakage and replacement.

Ensuring that the fixture is not only durable but also carefully transported, is essential in limiting the times a fixture must be replaced.

Machine size Portable light tower manufacturers have realized that, in most situations, rental centers and rental customers prefer a heavy-duty but compact light tower. Compact light towers offer many significant advantages over traditional, large wide-stanced light towers.

First, factories can ship compact light towers side by side on a delivery truck, resulting in significant savings in transportation costs both from the manufacturer to the rental center and from the rental center to the customer.

For rental centers, a smaller light tower takes up less storage space in a rental yard, and, for the end-user, a narrower light tower saves valuable space on the jobsite. This proves especially effective on street or highway work where the machines' compact design could possibly allow one or more lanes of traffic to remain open while work continues.

A more compact light tower also weighs less, leading to better maneuverability. You can easily maneuver many of today's compact light towers around the jobsite by hand rather than with a vehicle, allowing more precise placement and added mobility.

While compact light towers are typically about a foot narrower than traditional models, their outrigger design should still allow them to sustain wind gusts of up to 65 mph.

Ease of operation Because of rental center demands, portable light towers are becoming more operator-friendly. Many offer a mechanism that locks the tower down and prevents it from inadvertently extending when towing.

Newer models also feature latches. In the past, a light tower required pins, which were troublesome and frequently lost. Self-locking stabilizers and a captive latch on the tower support have eliminated the need for pins, resulting in a simpler and safer basic unit.

Many light towers feature generators, allowing the units to power small tools. Generators should offer at least 6 kilowatts of power in order to give rental customers the flexibility they need to power small tools on the jobsite.

Noise contamination Jobsite and operator safety, as well as the emergence of the special event industry, have made noise contamination a significant consideration for rental centers and their customers. Manufacturers have minimized vibration noise with heavy-duty enclosures and well-mounted engines, and many light towers offer sound attenuation packages to further reduce noise.

Machine design Fuel capacity is another important feature of a portable light tower. A minimum fuel tank capacity of 30 gallons, which provides more than 60 hours of continuous operation, is best. Molded polyethylene fuel tanks reduce the risk of rust and corrosion associated with metal.

Rental centers can expect to keep a light tower in their fleets for a minimum of three to five years. Portable light towers constructed with dent- and rust-resistant ABS plastic or molded fenders and protective enclosures constructed of 10- to 12-gauge sheet metal will help withstand the rigors of continual use and help ensure a good return on investment.

The rental market currently accounts for approximately 90 percent of the light tower industry. In order to serve this constantly expanding market, light tower manufacturers will continue to focus on developing more efficient, rugged and operator-friendly products.

As rental customers find more uses for the portable light towers, rental centers will be there to provide their customers with the products they need. For the light tower industry and its customers, the future is very bright.

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