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Lumen light output of torches in accordance with the ANSI / NEMA FL 1 standard

ANSI / NEMA FL 1: At long last, a standard for light output, or a conspiracy?

Who would ever have thought of a standard being available for the specification of the light output of torches, among other things? This standard actually does exist: It is called the ANSI / NEMA FL 1 standard for short, or by its full name, the ANSI / NEMA FL 1-2009 standard. Unfortunately the standard is not good for comparing torch specifications. It is misleading. Read further to learn why!

Why is a standard necessary for torches?

When purchasing a torch, many consumers will look at the specification of the light output and base their decision on this information. For this reason, many manufacturers tend to exaggerate this feature to a great extent. For instance, often enough, the values stated have not even been measured at all, but are merely an estimate based on the most ideal specifications of each component.

The ANSI / NEMA FL1 standard indicates how light output needs to be measured and specified so that the consumer should be able to make better comparisons when purchasing products.

Unfortunately, the figures according to the ANSI / NEMA FL1 standard remain misleading. A clear attempt has been made to regulate complex material with simple rules, with the result that the consumer is still blinded by the figures.

The entire standard concerns only the first 2 minutes of operation! It is abundantly clear that manufacturers of poor, non-regulated torches have had a finger in the ANSI pie.

What is the ANSI / NEMA FL 1-2009 standard all about?

The ANSI / NEMA FL 1-2009 standard deals with the following areas:

  • Beam distance
  • (Peak) beam intensity (light strength / brightness)
  • Run time
  • Light output
  • Impact resistance
  • Enclosure protection against water penetration ratings

Beam distance

The ANSI / NEMA FL 1-2009 standard defines beam distance as the maximum distance that is projected by a torch producing a throw of a minimum of 0.25 lux, measured in the brightest part of the beam.

Although this does make it easier to compare the various features of lamps, it is still necessary to bear in mind the following aspects:

  • The 0.25 lux is partially absorbed and has to travel the whole distance back to your eyes.0.25 lux at a distance of 100 metres on a light-absorbing object (such as a tree, for example) is far too little to observe anything.
  • A light mist, which is nearly always present at night, has an enormous influence on the distance of the beam.
  • The brightest part of the beam determines the specification. This can be a very small spot in the beam.
  • The test only takes 2 minutes. Many cheaper, non-regulated lamps will produce less light after a while.

(Peak) intensity / Light strength

The peak intensity (Peak Beam Intensity) is a measurement of the light intensity in the brightest part of the beam, expressed in candela (cd). Note that this does not refer to the width of this part of the beam and therefore it does not refer to the total light output either. This test also only measures the first 2 minutes.

Run time

In accordance with the ANSI / NEMA FL 1-2009 standard, the run time is measured using the batteries that accompany the torch.

If a torch is delivered without batteries, then the test is carried out using batteries that are recommended by the manufacturer.

The run time is determined at the moment when the light output of the torch is only 10% of the maximum light output. This makes this part of the standard utterly worthless! Lamps that are poorly regulated, and therefore have a very long tail with little light, score very well in this test, while, for instance, they only achieve 50% after 15 minutes.

Lumens light output

The light output in lumens is a measurement for the total quantity of light produced by a torch, irrespective of how it is focused.

A lamp can therefore produce few lumens but have a far throw thanks to its extremely tight focus. The standard prescribes how the light output must be measured and naturally, this is a good thing. According to the ANSI / NEMA FL 1-2009 standard, light outputs will generally be a little bit lower than the light outputs previously stated and certainly a great deal lower than the light outputs reported by unreliable manufacturers.

Unfortunately, here, too, the light output is measured within the first 2 minutes with new batteries. This is a pity. Why is this not measured halfway during the given maximum run time or something like that?

Voorbeeld van misleiding door de ANSI / NEMA FL 1 standaard

Mechanical aspects

Enough about this standard. The mechanical aspects will not be discussed for the time being.


The ANSI / NEMA FL 1-2009 standard is very advantageous for manufacturers of cheap, non-regulated torches. The 2-minute test on the light output and the light strength, as well as the test on the run time, which leads to at least 90% loss of light output, are an indication that large manufacturers from the middle sector are behind this standard.

As far as the better torches are concerned, the standard is a minor improvement because manufacturers, who in the past presented figures that were too optimistic, are now being forced to use the true measurement data.

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