The Home Inspector

Reuben Saltzman is a second-generation home inspector with a passion for his work. Naturally, this blog is all about home inspections and home-related topics in the Twin Cities metro area. In addition to working at Structure Tech, he is also a licensed Truth-In-Sale of Housing Evaluator in Minneapolis, Saint Paul and several other cities.

Posts about Tools

This Home Inspectors Update on Flashlights

Posted by: Reuben Saltzman Updated: January 24, 2014 - 5:09 AM

Two years ago I wrote a blog post titled "This Home Inspector's Love Affair With Flashlights", wherein I gushed about my new Fenix TK35 flashlight.  Over the past two years I've tried a number of other flashlights, and I'm happy to say that the Fenix TK35 is still my go-to flashlight, but if my dream flashlight ever gets made, I'll kick the TK35 to the curb.  I'll come back to that.  Today, I'll give my two cents on a few other LED flashlights that I've tried.  The flashlights below all use the same 18650 lithium ion batteries.

By the way, this is a home inspectors perspective; if you're looking for technical flashlight reviews, check out CandlePowerForums.

Armytek Barracuda XM-L2 (Warm)

Barracuda Flashlight This is an extremely impressive looking flashlight that feels great in your hand and could easily double as a club.  With a stated max light output of 1240 lumens, it's the brightest of all the flashlights mentioned here.  It also had a very warm light output, which means the light looked yellow-ish, not white or blue.  The flashlight comes in a padded case along with batteries, a belt holster, two 18650 batteries, an AC battery charger, and a DC battery charger.  Not all of that stuff is listed on the web site, so I'm not sure why they were included.

My problem with this flashlight is that it's unwieldy.  To carry this flashlight around, I had to use the holster.  Once the flashlight is in the holster it's secure and won't fall out, but it's not easy to put the flashlight into the holster or take it out.  This is also a flashlight that requires two-handed operation; it takes two hands to get the flashlight out of the holster, and then takes two hands to turn it on, because the on/off switch is located on the bottom of the flashlight.

As a home inspector, I probably take my flashlight out of my pouch, turn it on, turn it off, then put it back into my pouch about 50 - 100 times during each inspection.  With the amount of time and effort it takes to get this flashlight out of it's holster and turn it on, the flashlight is unusable.  It's marketed as a "Search and Rescue" flashlight; maybe it would do a great job at that, but I wouldn't know.

http://www.armytek.com/products/flashlights/search-and-rescue/armytek-barracuda-xm-l2-warm-black.html

Fenix TK35

TK35This flashlight is my workhorse.  I've been using this flashlight for over two years now, and it has served me well.  It has a stated max output of 820 to 900 lumens, it feels great in your hand, and has separate buttons for on/off and brightness.

I keep this flashlight in my tool pouch, so it's easy to grab and put away with one hand.  Because of it's compact shape, operating this flashlight with one hand feels natural.  You can't go wrong with this flashlight.

Fenix also has great warranty service; I wore out the rubber button at the bottom of the flashlight this fall and had to send the flashlight in for repair.  Instead of replacing the piece of rubber, they just sent me a brand new flashlight.  It seemed a bit excessive, but I sure didn't complain.

http://www.fenixlighting.com/products/fenix-flashlights-tk35-led-flashlight.aspx

TK35 Knock-Off

TK35 KnockoffSearch Ebay for TK35 and you'll find a TK35 knock-off flashlight selling for under $50, which includes batteries and a charger.  I ordered one of these to use as a backup flashlight while my TK35 was out for repair, and found that I pretty much got what I paid for.

  • While the light output on the TK35 is white, the light output on the knockoff is blue.
  • The TK35 remembers the last brightness setting, but the knockoff resets every time the flashlight is turned off.  This is extremely annoying.
  • The buttons on the knockoff are recessed just a little more than the buttons on the TK35, making them more difficult to operate with one hand.  It's much more annoying than you might think.
  • The light seems to flicker, much like a fluorescent light flickers when you see it out of the corner of your eye.  Maybe that has something to do with the cool spectrum of light?

A couple of other guys in my company bought this knockoff flashlight before I did, and I'm pretty sure none of their flashlights are working any more.  Of course, this light doesn't come with any kind of warranty.  Don't buy this POS.

UltraFire C8

UltraFire C8I recommend this flashlight as an inexpensive backup to anyone that already has the 18650 batteries and charger.  This flashlight can be purchased on Amazon for under $10, and the light output is very similar to that of the TK35.  It has a stated output of 1000 lumens.

My main complaint with this flashlight is that it's difficult to toggle brightness modes; you need to give the on/off button a half push to cycle through modes, and it takes a while to get the feel of what a half-click is.  Also, if the batteries don't have a full charge this flashlight refuses to stay on the brightest setting.

Fenix TK22

Fenix TK22 This isn't a bad flashlight, but as far as I can tell the main thing that differentiates this flashlight is that it's waterproof.  For a home inspector, that's not a selling feature.  With a $95 price tag on Amazon and a max light output of 650 lumens, I see no reason to purchase this flashlight.

http://www.fenixlighting.com/products/fenix-tk22-led-flashlight.aspx

Fenix PD35

Fenix PD35This flashlight is cute as a button, looking like an oversized pen light.  If you need to carry a club around, forget this flashlight.   The surprising thing about this flashlight is the brightness; it has an impressive 850 lumen output.  In a head-to-head comparison, I couldn't tell which flashlight was brighter; my TK35 or this one.  If I had to buy a new flashlight, I'd get this one and I'd probably start using it in place of my TK35.   Amazon sells this flashlight for $75.

With a flashlight this small, I can even use my retractable tool tether.

See the flashlight details here: http://www.fenixlighting.com/products/fenix-pd35-led-flashlight.aspx

The flashlights discussed above are shown below for size comparison.  Click the image for a high-res version.

LED Flashlight Lineup

My Dream Flashlight

Ultra Stinger FlashlightThe first flashlight I used as a home inspector was an Ultra Stinger, and I still miss the design.  The shaft was long and skinny, so I marked it at one-inch increments to use it as a ruler.  I would frequently include it in home inspection photos showing things like balusters spaced too far apart at guardrails, or auto-reverse sensors installed too high at garage door openers.  Because the shaft was skinny and didn't have a flared base, it was nice to use my flashlight to measure insulation in attics as well. Reuben ultrastinger

I used a belt loop holster to keep the flashlight on my left hip, and I could easily pull the flashlight out and put it back with either hand.  When walking around in attics, I could turn the light on and leave it attached to my hip when I needed to climb around with two hands, which was great.

Finally, this flashlight had very easy one-handed operation, because the switch was ergonomically located near the head of the flashlight.

I would still use this flashlight today if not for the miserable battery life and sub-par light output.  The bulbs used to burn out constantly, so I installed an aftermarket TerraLux LED light bulb, which increased the light output and battery life, but it was too little too late.  The Ni-Cad batteries just don't compare to lithium ion.

The perfect flashlight for a home inspector would be something the same size and shape as the Stinger Ultra, would have a powerful LED light bulb with a wide spill and minimal spot focus, would take two 18650 lithium ion batteries, and would come with some kind of high visibility etching in the shaft showing 1" measurements. I still have my belt holster.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Author: Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections

          

Quick Tip: Make A Better Allen Wrench

Posted by: Reuben Saltzman Updated: December 19, 2012 - 5:06 AM

Allen wrenches, aka 'hex' wrenches, are those "L" shaped wrenches that come included with just about anything you buy from IKEA.  I save these wrenches every time I get one, and I've accumulated a nice little hodge-podge collection of wrenches over the years.

Allen wrenches

To make sure you always have the size you need, it's a good idea to get a folding wrench set with all of the sizes built in - both metric and standard.  I consider this a must-have for any basic tool set.  I have two wrenches, one for metric and one for standard.

Allen wrenches

One day, my wife and I were putting something together that needed a lot of allen wrench turning, and I started telling her about how I should buy a set of allen wrenches that have socket wrench ends on 'em, like the set pictured below.

Allen wrench socket set

My wife then suggested I just cut the end off one of the "L" shaped allen wrenches and stick it in my drill.

Harumph.

I could have thought of that.

I just didn't want to.

It took me about 30 seconds to cut the end off and file it down, turning the L shaped allen wrench in to a hexagonal stick that I could put in my cordless drill.

A better allen wrench

The assembly project we were working on went much faster after that.  I was so happy with this 'invention' that I made a full set out of my spare wrenches.  I drilled a bunch of holes in a block of wood to store my wrenches in.  It's probably not the best way to store them, but it was the first thing I thought of and it's worked fine for me ever since.

A better allen wrench set

Now go forth and make your own set.  Just for fun, here's a video of me demonstrating how to make your own set, along with some questionable relationship advice.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections

        

      

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