What is the difference between a scene light and work light?

Posted by Ventry Solutions, Inc. on

What makes a light qualify as scene lighting as opposed to work lighting or task lighting? These terms are often confused in product names and descriptions, so consumers will benefit from clarification.

The main difference between the scene and work lights is the size of the area they effectively light up. If a light’s output is less than 10,000 lumens, it’s closer to being a flashlight or home improvement store work light than a scene light. Many lights advertised as scene lighting are what we, as the manufacturer of a line of portable scene lighting called Lentry® Lights, categorize as work lights instead.

A “work light” should reasonably illuminate an area, less than about 200 square feet, occupied by one person doing a stationary task. It might also be called portable personal lighting or task lighting. You can tell if a work light is erroneously being advertised as a scene light by the product photos: Is only one person illuminated? Is the area behind the product itself lit up (showing that additional lights were needed to light “the scene”)? Is there more than one of the lights in the action shot? If yes, then that would be a work light, not a scene light!

In contrast, a true “scene light” should light up a large area, an entire scene or site.

(Photo courtesy KB Trade GmbH) A scene light illuminates the entire construction site; a work light would only light up the backhoe!

This scene light, shown in our catalog here, brightens up the whole construction site. A work light would only light up the backhoe or its bucket! (Photo courtes of KB Trade GmbH)

As an aside, the definition of “scene” depends on industry. For example, for those in fire, rescue, and public safety, a scene is the whole area involved in an accident or incident or training event. A light deployed to illuminate such a scene should make visible everyone involved, not just one or two first responders. Examples of scenes a scene light should illuminate: multiple cars in a motor vehicle accident; a multi-department evening training event; a residential structure fire; the area immediately surrounding an emergency medical response trailer at a special event. These areas are measured in thousands of square feet, not hundreds.

For other industries like those in public works, utilities, oil and gas, communications, military, construction... a scene may more often be called a “site” or “jobsite” or even “work site”. Here, a site to be lit by one light source may include: storm cleanup or disaster recovery that stretches the length of a city block; the area around a broken water main; multiple spans of power lines; the top of a tall power pole, 50 feet in the air...Again, these are large areas more than a dozen feet in any direction.

Recently, our portable Lentry Scene Lighting Systems were put to work by multiple towing and recovery companies. For the towing and wrecking companies, attempting recovery of large cranes or freight trains or semi-trucks, a “scene” is much larger than one person’s immediate surroundings. In these cases, there is no extra manpower to carry a fancy flashlight from one end of the job site to another. (That’s not practical, possible, nor safe.) For these and other industries—military, oil and natural gas, rail, construction—the scene is usually the size of a parking lot, not a parking space.

In summary, we posit that lights less than 10,000 lumens are not scene lights (or jobsite lights or site lights). If multiple units are required to light the front of a house, it’s a work light, not a scene light!

If you work outside at night, what does the term “scene lighting” mean to you? Do you call your job/work site something else entirely? If you disagree or agree or have other ideas, we would appreciate hearing from you. Just send us a note or email or call and this article will be updated as appropriate based on comments received.


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