Whether your project’s plans include temporary night lighting or you unexpectedly find yourself in a situation where you need more light, such as an emergency utility repair, a combination light tower and generator can lighten your job.
OSHA’s minimum standard for illumination of a general construction area is 5 foot-candles from a height of 30 feet. Minimum standards for construction on other agencies’ projects such as state DOTs and utilities work vary, however, sometimes requiring 20 foot-candles of horizontal light over the work area, and equipment capable of withstanding 65 mph winds. The illuminated area must be large enough to include the movements of all people and equipment working on the site. One rule of thumb: you should be able to identify another person’s face from a distance of 30 feet.
6 things to look for on light tower and generator units
Agencies can require contractors to submit specific brand names, model numbers and ratings of the light equipment they propose to use on a job and specify a preference for light tower generator combo units. Whether you buy or rent a combination light tower, look for these features that will keep your crew safe and meet the project owner’s requirements.
1. Illumination shape, strength and color- Elliptically-shaped light fixtures spread light evenly and help diffuse glare and hotspots that hamper vision. Look for a minimum of 1,000-watt, high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps that can illuminate an area of 5 to 7 acres.
Bright white light is preferred over yellow light for night work because it provides good color differentiation and sharper visual clarity. Yellow light can muddy colors on signs or machines, and in some cases can totally washout words on a warning sign, in effect shutting down part of your safety system. White light also enables better depth perception and quicker identification of people and surroundings, important when working around excavations and trenching sites.
2. Mobility and security – Look for heavy duty generator enclosures with bottom pans, locking service doors, locking control panels and voltage regulator switches to deter unauthorized use or vandalism. Units with storage for lights give added protection during transport and when left unattended on the jobsite. A heavy duty tongue-and-hitch assembly will bear up under the strain of off-road towing and urban potholes. Forklift pockets protect the generator when the unit is being lifted and loaded on to a truck.
3. Set up – Part of a light tower combo’s portability is how easy the mast and lamps are to set up and take down. Masts can be raised using either hand-operated winches or electronic winches. Bundled wiring harnesses take the guesswork out of connections. Outriggers and jacks will keep the unit in steady during wind gusts.
4. Controls – Easy use, easy access and easy monitoring are the keys to simple and reliable operation. Digital controls provide performance data, simplify operation and allow features such as remote auto start systems to start up and shut down the light tower using a programmable timer and light-sensitive sensors.
5. Efficient energy use – The unit’s fuel tank capacity translates into how long you will be able to continuously power the tower lamps, and the generator’s configuration corresponds with how efficiently the engine burns fuel. Generator/light tower units with multiple outlets in various power configurations such as 120-volt GFI and 240-volt twistlock receptacles, allow you to run power tools with or without the lights on, letting you make use of every spark of electricity the engine makes.
6. Support – If you are buying a combination light tower and generator, remember to spec the company’s warranty protection and their parts and service availability. If you rent, ask if they have onsite service or online service information. Remember to always follow the safety and setup directions provided by the manufacturer.