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Types of Lighting

There’s a wide range of lighting equipment that’s available, giving you a lot of choices for how to illuminate each construction project. Let’s look at the various types of lighting options and their application for optimizing visibility at your jobsites.

While most people are familiar with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) role in setting regulations on construction jobsites, what is less well known are the many options for effectively lighting a construction project. It is actually the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that provides the definitions for the types of lights available, and recommendations for when to use them.

There are many jobsite lighting options for different types of projects and tasks from standing lights that illuminate a large area to headlamps and flashlights.

FHA’s List of Common Lighting Solutions

You have a lot of options when it comes to lighting up an area, with the FHA providing descriptions to help you better understand what you need based on the many different potential projects and uses. This section covers the larger types of lights that are used on construction jobsites. These lights are considered portable but not mobile.

Portable Light Towers

Portable light towers are built to adapt to a lot of different environments and provide lighting over a large area. They are usually adjustable so that you can establish a height that optimizes the amount of light and minimizes glare. Most construction jobsites require at least a few of these lights to ensure that work can be completed regardless of the time of day and weather conditions.

Balloon Lighting

Balloon lighting is exactly what the name suggests. They consist of a large balloon luminaire that casts light in a much wider area because they don’t just light one specific area. You also don’t have to worry about glare as the lighting is more diffused than other types of lighting. Their mounting can also vary. You can choose to mount them on slow-moving equipment or portable light towers.

Roadway Luminaires

Roadway luminaires are most often used for construction on roads. Mounted on a temporary pole, the lighting is actually permanent roadway lighting, creating a much brighter work environment. To power this type of lighting, you need to hardwire each light to an electrical system to provide a more reliable, robust energy source. This is because roadway luminaires provide the brightest light, most closely replicating daylight.

Factory-installed Lights on Equipment

Factory-installed lights on equipment provide a narrower source of light because they are essentially extra headlights added to your heavy equipment. They can also help reduce glare when working near oncoming traffic.

Personal Lighting

There are numerous scenarios where personnel will need to have their own lighting source on a jobsite. Whether you can’t get adequate lighting into a tight space, or the glare is detrimental to safety and productivity, most workers require one or two personal lights to get the job done right.


Traditionally associated with miners, headlamps are actually an ideal light for a lot of above ground construction work. By securing a light to a hard hat, headlights free up the worker’s hands. Most of them can be added to existing hard hats with clips and rubber grips so that you don’t have to buy all new equipment. If a light breaks or a hard hat gets damaged, you can recycle the parts that are unaffected. Probably the biggest benefit is that it allows workers to control the light source for a wide range of tasks.


Nearly everyone onsite should have their own flashlight just in case they need it. They are an essential tool as they can be used for a wide range of tasks. You never know when you might need a bit of extra light, so it is best to make these readily available. Some flashlights are also adjustable and magnetic, so you can tailor the lighting to what you need and even work hands-free.


The last type of personal light is the floodlight. These aren’t the same kind of lights used for home security. Personal floodlights can be tailored to different uses, including use as a headlamp. They are incredibly versatile and can be adapted for use over rough terrain where you need more illumination than a traditional lighting source gives, but you don’t need a full system of lights. Personal floodlights can be attached to nearly anything so that you can have lighting in places that are harder to light through other means.

Task, Work, and Area Lights

For both worker safety and productivity, you need to match the lighting based on the task that needs to be completed, the amount of work required, and the size of the area that needs to be lit.

Portable Light Towers

Portable light towers are built to adapt to a lot of different environments and provide lighting over a large area. They are usually adjustable so that you can establish a height that optimizes the amount of light and minimizes glare. Most construction jobsites require at least a few of these lights to ensure that work can be completed regardless of the time of day and weather conditions.

While it is nearly certain that you need at least one of these (usually you will need more than one), it will take a bit more time to determine which type of light is right for each jobsite or area within the jobsite. Even though towers are made to be adjustable, there are a few types that are designed to handle unique tasks and conditions.

Nighttime Lighting on Construction Jobsite

Traditional vs Balloon Towers

The first thing to determine is whether a traditional tower or a balloon tower will work best. Traditional towers tend to be the go-to lighting for many contractors, but there are several benefits to balloon towers.

- Traditional towers offer the following benefits:

  • Cover a target area of a jobsite, raising up to 30 ft over the jobsite
  • Are adjustable
  • Sturdier materials are used, so they can withstand higher wind speeds and stress
  • Require less time to set up
  • Self-contained towers (including those with generators) can often power other jobsite tools

- Balloon towers offer the following benefits:

  • Are quiet and have zero emissions, making them beneficial when there are sound requirements
  • Are glare-free, which is incredibly beneficial when working near a road or in a residential area
  • Provide a consistent light for full 360° coverage
  • Can be either a stand-alone light or mounted on a vehicle to provide light while moving
  • Can be retrofitted to work with traditional tower fixtures
  • Are smaller and usually easier to store

Horizontal vs Vertical Masts

Traditionally, masts on tower lights have been configured to be horizontal. However, over the last few years, there has been a shift to using vertical lights because they are easier to deploy and transport. This gives them a reduced footprint since you can move as many as 18 units instead of the traditional 12 units. This also means that vertical masts are easier to store. Vertical mast lights have an average height between 23 to 25 ft, compared to the average horizontal height that is between 28 and 30 ft.

Hydraulic vs Manual Masts

If you are deciding between manual and hydraulic masts, a hydraulic mast will be much easier to put in place so you can work on more time-sensitive projects. This not only improves productivity, but also increases safety. For projects where a quick deployment isn’t necessary, a manual mast is much simpler to use.


The battery-powered tower light is a more recent innovation that can be considered for some types of projects to reduce emissions, costs, and noise. It has its own chargeable power source that can provide as much as 10 hours of lighting. It is very portable and works both inside and outside. If you need lights for a longer period of time, make sure to have a couple extra batteries on-hand and charged up.

Temporary Roadway Lighting

When working near existing roadways, you will need more lighting than what is typically provided by existing streetlights. Temporary lights can be mounted on the existing poles to increase the amount of lighting and can be moved down the street as the project progresses. Because they must be hardwired into an existing system, installing temporary roadway lights requires a professional lighting designer.

Site Lights

Site lights are a great solution when you need to maximize coverage of an area to better complete specific tasks. They offer a brighter overhead illumination and a neutral light temperature (color) that can illuminate the entire workspace.


Floodlight Applications

Floodlights are more of an all-purpose light. Floodlights are typically required for any outdoor project, but especially when the jobsite includes rough or bumpy terrain. They provide a lot of light over the covered area, making them ideal in a wide array of spaces. They are incredibly portable and are able to be attached to a wide range of objects to better focus the light on a particular space.
This makes it easier to highlight indoor corners when the power is not on or if lights have not been installed in the area. Many floodlights are made to be rotated so that you don’t have to continue to move the light.

Floodlights are made to be incredibly durable and the clamps are hard to knock out of place. They often include temperature management so that they don’t heat the objects around them.

Flashlight Applications

Among the most mobile types of lighting, flashlights can be quickly turned on and off, are made to be durable, and are easy to carry. They are designed to provide a more focused light on any target area. Unless they’re equipped with a magnet or mount, flashlights require someone to hold them, so you may be limited to tasks that require only one hand or where there will be at least two people present.

What makes flashlights so useful is that they can be taken anywhere and many are adjustable. Like floodlights, flashlights are an all-purpose light that you easily carry onsite. They don’t cause as much glare as many other types of lights, creating a more neutral light so that tasks can be completed.

Specialty Light Applications

Nearly every project ends up with some unexpected specific lighting needs where traditional lights may not be adequate. Specialty lights provide light to meet unique lighting needs and trade-specific requirements where other lights won’t work, such as utility bucket or underhood lights. Whether you have a small area or a location that needs a different kind of light, specialty lights are made to ensure that light quality is not compromised.
Southwire Temp Lighting

Temp Lighting Applications

High bay temporary lights have traditionally used a lot of different lighting types, from metal-halide and mercury vapor to fluorescent and high intensity discharge. With metal-halide being the most used type over the decades, the power use was between 175 and 1000 watts, making this temporary lighting style particularly costly for long runs.

Today, LEDs can entirely replace virtually all these types of lighting. LEDs use between 95 and 495 watts, which can result in significant cost savings. LEDs also allow for more lighting per circuit, providing a saving on power consumption when the lights are needed for longer periods of time. 
Installation of sensors ensures that the lights are only on when they are needed and power down when no one is working. This saves up to an additional 35% compared to manual switches.

Temporary lighting may or may not be required at a jobsite. It can reduce the amount of time required to light an area and tends to be versatile. Often you will need multiple lights to light a room or larger area. String lights are a great option to ensure there aren’t shadows in a particular area.

Since they are designed for temporary use, temp lights are robust and durable. They are designed for quick installation and removal. When you don’t need a light source for a long time or find that you just need a quick light source, temp lights are typically the best solution.


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