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    Default Flashlight chargers

    Hey folks, I have been going through the forums here and I am really impressed at the great input you give to people doing product research. I'm wondering if you wouldnt take a moment to chat about chargers.

    I am developing a charging station for a new rechargeable flashlight for fire use and I'd like to know if you have any ones you really like/hate or if there is anything you would improve about what you've used.

    Ideas have included:

    cord-only charger
    multi-dock chargers
    vehicle specific charger

    What's the best thing about chargers you have used and where/how do you use them most?

    Thanks for the input, hopefully you'll be seeing a light soon that works better for you.

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    I have been using the 5.11 gear light for life, with its drop in charger, 90 second recharge time from fully dead, and 6-8 hour run time.

    I love it. Totally simple to use. No batteries. 90 second recharge on a totally simple drop in charger. Round contacts on the bottom, eliminating the issues I have had in the past with other lights and small side mounted contacts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LVFD301 View Post
    I have been using the 5.11 gear light for life, with its drop in charger, 90 second recharge time from fully dead, and 6-8 hour run time.
    WHAT???

    6-8 hour run time? What the hell are you talking about? You get less then two hours, tops. I timed mine and it went dead in 94 minutes. The biggest flashlight review website on the internet has plenty of reviews all claiming the same thing. You get full power for less then 30 minutes, then it drops to a lower power till it dies. In fact, the 511 website even shows a 2 hour runtime. There is no way your getting 6-8 hours.

    While i had plans to use this as a duty light, no chance. It's best suited to police making traffic stops or simple investigations, then back into the charger.

    Fully charge your light, then turn it on and check the time.

    Sorry to the thread starter for getting off topic. But this needed to be adressed so as not to mislead anyone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tungsten View Post
    Hey folks, I have been going through the forums here and I am really impressed at the great input you give to people doing product research. I'm wondering if you wouldnt take a moment to chat about chargers.

    I am developing a charging station for a new rechargeable flashlight for fire use and I'd like to know if you have any ones you really like/hate or if there is anything you would improve about what you've used.

    Ideas have included:

    cord-only charger
    multi-dock chargers
    vehicle specific charger

    What's the best thing about chargers you have used and where/how do you use them most?

    Thanks for the input, hopefully you'll be seeing a light soon that works better for you.
    You did not mention if this is some sort of flashlight sized unit, headlamp or a large lantern type. That plays a big roll in what type of charger is more convienient and where you would put it. Case in point, i don't want a lantern charger in the front seat area of my vehicle. But a smaller flashlight charger would be fine up front.

    When you say "Cord only" charger, what do you mean? A cord that plugs in to the light directly without a charging base? Streamlight has that now with the Lightbox line. I keep one of those chargers in my truck for emergencies, but i prefer a hardmount charging base for a number of reasons. 1, i always know where my light will be. 2, The light is secure so it will not become unplugged nor become a projectile in an accident. 3, The light is always charging. A plug in vehicle cord will more then limley end up unplugged when you need the outlet for something else, like a cell phone charger. Then you forget about it and when you need your light, it's half dead.

    As for multidock chargers, i personally do not like them. Mainly because now you have an item that is no longer modular. If a charging base in the multidock goes bad, now you have a large charger that is not giving you 100% of what you expect. We have multidock chargers for radios and for batteries for telemetry devices and both of these chargers have dead bays in them. The options are to replace the whole unit (expensive) or send it out for repair and then what do you do in the meantime when your whole charging rack is gone? I would rather just mount several individual chargers together so when one goes bad, it can be removed and repaired or replaced with the least disruption and cost. We have a board with 8 Lightbox bases screwed to it. Works fine and is completely modular. If Streamlight offered a multidock charger i would not even buy it.

    Vehicle specific chargers? Sounds cool, but why bother? And what criteria are you going to use for deciding what vehicles to make them for? Most fire apparatus is custom made and cab interiors can change often with different specs. So i really don't see that working out. And if it's for Chief/Battalion vehicles, again, the types of vehciles used combined with how often the change with new interiors would make the idea too pricey to justify.

    My favorite thing about chargers would be ease of use and security. I want the light to be easy to remove and replace but i do not want it coming out on it's own. The Streamlight Lightbox/Vulcan chargers are perfect in my opinion.

    My single biggest wish for a flashlight is some sort of battery life meter that is accurate. Not a two LED type of meter that simply tells you when it's full charged and when it needs charging, i am talking about showing the life in quarters. I want a lantern or flashlight with a meter that can tell me something like this:

    Fully Charged
    3/4 Life left
    1/2 Life Left
    1/4 Life left
    Needs charging

    This way i can tell as soon as i pick a light up what i can expect. And that means the meter has to be accurate!. When i see (for example) 1/2 life left on a lantern that normally runs 2 hours, i want almost an hour out of it before the needs charging light comes on.

    Make that and ill buy it.

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    That is some great input... the light in question is a 90 degree light, like the Streamlight Survivor or the Pelican Big Ed.

    I really liked what you had to say about charging racks.... how do you use those? Do they come with you on scene or just stay at the station? With respect to vehicle specific chargers, the thought was to have vehicle-mountable docks for charging lights in a permanent place on the go.

    Cord-only charger is what you thought, just a cord with a plug at both ends.

    Thanks!

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    That reminded me of another question, what about interchangeability of charging docks? Is that important to you? What if the same dock could charge all your flashlights (think cordless power tools)?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tungsten View Post
    I really liked what you had to say about charging racks.... how do you use those? Do they come with you on scene or just stay at the station?
    We have racks mounted in the office so when you come on duty, you can take a light out and it's ready to go. The vehicles have chargers as well mounted to a panel that also has spare batteries

    Quote Originally Posted by Tungsten View Post
    With respect to vehicle specific chargers, the thought was to have vehicle-mountable docks for charging lights in a permanent place on the go.
    That idea is fine. Most apparatus manufacturers are simply mounting multiple chargers in the same location. And because the chargers are sold individually it allows the most flexibility in mounting options. If they were sold in say banks of 4, what do you do when the area you want to mount it in only has room for a total of 7 charger spots? Two 4 bank chargers will not fit. And once again, your back to the same issue i mentioned earlier. When one charging slot goes bad, the entire bank needs to be replaced to get your capacity back. Mounting individual chargers side by side is the most flexible way to go. It allows you to mount as may or as little as possible and makes replacing a bad unit simple. And as far as charger types, Streamlight offers slide in/lock in chargers for their Survivor series anglehead lights. They also make a version that charges a spare battery as well. I really do not see how you can improve on this design.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tungsten View Post
    Cord-only charger is what you thought, just a cord with a plug at both ends.
    I like that idea as a last resort option. Although with most sealed type lights, it's difficult to have a plug type connector. Most use the metal contact type charging method which requires some type of clamp to attach to the light. Making the simple "cord only" type charger somewhat cumbersome.

    The Streamlight Lightbox is a fantastic light. But it has two weaknesses in my book. And both weakness are a necessary evil in that they are caused by the lights advantages. One, the weight. Between the sealed beam bulb and the large battery, this light is HEAVY. BUT, the sealed beam bulb and large battery give the light it's brightness and long run time. So ill accept those weaknesses.
    The other weakness caused by an advantage is the charging port. This is an open and exposed charging port that can and will get wet and can cause issues if not kept clean. But the simple exposed port also allows a simple, easy to carry and low cost charging cord to be plugged into any vehicle. That is a huge advantage when the light needs to be carried by someone who does not have a charging rack in their vehicle. A $6.00 cord and they are on their way with unlimited use.

    The Streamlight Vulcan i LOVE because it's smaller and lighter then the Lightbox. But it lacks the adjustable angle lighthead, which i can deal with and but what sucks is their is no charging port. Again, this is a good thing and bad thing. Good because the light is sealed, bad because the only way to charge it is with a charging base. That is a pain in the neck. I have a charging base in my home and vehicle for this purpose.

    The new technology being marketed now known as "Power Mat" for charging cell phones, PDA's etc using some sort of inductive system which eliminates any sort of connection to the device. The nice thing about that for use with some sort of fire service flashlight is the fact you could have a sealed light with no opening or exposed metal contacts. And it would be fine for use in a building. But not in a vehicle. While it sounds simple to simply sit your light down on a mat to let it charge in your vehicle, the idea that it could bounce off the mat and therefore no longer be charging or worse yet, become a missile in an accident would keep me from using that type of charger.

    I love the Survivor anglehead flashlight and i would love to see you try and improve on it, simply because i think it is perfect. It's built tough. The clip is heavy duty, the switch is simple and heavy duty, it's bright and has a long runtime. And i LOVE the new AA battery pack option. The idea of using any type of small flashlight, whether an anglehead or a simple handheld flashlight that relies solely on a rechargeable battery makes me uncomfortable.

    Even though i could carry a Survivor light with me and have a spare rechargeable battery in my pocket which would double my run time, rechargeable batteries will not hold a charge for days on end. So it is critical that you keep them in a charger anytime you are not carrying it around. Rechargeable batteries are also heavy, expensive and over time, lose capacity permanently. There is also no way to tell how much life is left in them unless you pull them right of the charger. The AA battery option is great because AA Alkaline batteries can hold a charge for years even sitting in your pocket. They are cheap, lightweight and available virtually EVERYWHERE!. Pharmacies, grocery stores, corner stores, Convenience stores, hardware stores, etc. No matter what part of town or what time it is, you can get AA batteries. 12 AA batteries weigh far less then carrying three spare rechargeable batteries and they can stay in your pocket. I have these small little plastic cases that hold 4 AA batteries each and then i put them in a ziplock bag in my pocket. And if all hell breaks loose with some insanely dragged out fire or incident, say a tunnel rescue, i could easy send a runner out to grab some more AA's most anywhere.

    Whatever light you are working on, make it have the ability to take AA batteries. The CR123 batteries that are super popular with SureFire lights are great batteries and they are small. The problem is they are not easy to find locally. And when you do find them, say in a pharmacy, they are marketed as camera batteries and often sell for over $5.00 a PAIR!. Buying in bulk online from a tactical shop who offers them for much less $$ is the way to go. But again, now your using a battery that in a pinch, you cannot get easily. That is why i like AA's.

    And do something with the battery life meter! That would set your light apart from others.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tungsten View Post
    That reminded me of another question, what about interchangeability of charging docks? Is that important to you? What if the same dock could charge all your flashlights (think cordless power tools)?
    In theroy, that sounds great, but i cannot see it happening realistically.

    Most rescue units are using DeWalt or Milwaukee tools with 18volt battery packs. These packs are large and heavy and shaped normally to fit the tool. I cannot see any sort of flashlight the FD could use that would use the same battery. If the flashlight used a unique battery that could be charged in the same dock as most power tools? that might be a plus to some. To me, it's like putting all your eggs in one basket. While less chargers means more space and lower initial cost and upkeep, it also means less charging ports when things get crazy and it also means less "reserve" chargers if you have issues with some. To have one centralized charging system on a rig for all your rechargeables from lights to tools would make me nervous.

    So on paper, that idea might sound like a good selling point. I think reality would speak otherwise.

    Selling points for me on a light are more then anything reliablity first. I would rather a light that gives a good amount of light that ALWAYS works then a light that gives a great amount of light that does NOT always work. Reliablity is key. Who cares about how many ways you can charge a light or how lightweight it is or how great the features are when you need the light most, it does not work!

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    I prefer single drop-in chargers like for the streamlight survivor. I also like being able to use AAs as a backup (like the survivor LED). If you are designing a LED light, I strongly suggest using a neutral-white LED instead of the usual cool white. You lose a little in overall output, but it cuts through smoke better (less blue means less scattering due to particles in the air). You also get better color rendition, good for SAR, outdoors work and ems.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WD6956 View Post
    WHAT???

    6-8 hour run time? What the hell are you talking about? You get less then two hours, tops. I timed mine and it went dead in 94 minutes. The biggest flashlight review website on the internet has plenty of reviews all claiming the same thing. You get full power for less then 30 minutes, then it drops to a lower power till it dies. In fact, the 511 website even shows a 2 hour runtime. There is no way your getting 6-8 hours.

    While i had plans to use this as a duty light, no chance. It's best suited to police making traffic stops or simple investigations, then back into the charger.

    Fully charge your light, then turn it on and check the time.

    Sorry to the thread starter for getting off topic. But this needed to be adressed so as not to mislead anyone.

    Yep, you are correct. As I use it more, I am getting over 2 hours, but not quite 3 hours. On the lower power, which is still very bright and quite sufficient for most of my needs. Every once and a while I have to use the full intensity.

    With the rapid charge time, I am still very happy with the light.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WD6956 View Post
    In theroy, that sounds great, but i cannot see it happening realistically.
    Agreed. I want the lights independent of the tools, and the chargers independent also.

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