5 Tips for Renting a Portable Light Tower

Let there be light that’s just the right amount of bright.

Whether you need to light up a nighttime jobsite or an evening event such as a football game or concert, renting a portable light tower is the answer. These towers feature a mast (often telescopic) that holds several powerful lamps and a connection to some kind of fuel source. Some portable light towers are already mounted on a trailer so they can be easily moved onto and around a site. 

Creating the lighting you need is a matter of choosing the right size, style and number of portable light towers. Here are a few things to consider when making your choice.

1. Figure out how much coverage and brightness you need.

Calculate the acreage you need to light and ask how many acres the light tower illuminates. Some can light up seven or even 10 acres.

Also, consider the level of brightness (lumens) you need. A construction jobsite has to be well lit so workers can see what they’re doing — and even this requirement can vary according to the type of work they’re doing. An audience area at a concert or sporting event, on the other hand, will not require the same level of brightness, since you want to keep attention focused on the stage or playing field.

2. Consider height and rotation.

If you need height, check how high the mast can be extended and how easy it is to extend (winches may be manual or electric). Some masts extend as high as almost 30 feet. If the light tower needs to fit through a door, on the other hand, make sure it’s small enough (height and width). 

Because high winds can topple a tower and cause damage to people and property, make sure the light tower you choose has some kind of stabilization system; the best systems can keep the tower steady in winds up to 65 mph. 

For maximum flexibility, make sure the mast can be easily rotated (many rotate 360 degrees) and that the lights can be tilted so you can get the illumination exactly where you want it. 

You may also want to look for light towers that offer a dawn-to-dusk setting and/or timed start/stop setting.

3. Choose between halide or LED.

Many portable light towers today feature metal halide lights. These bright, warm lights can provide a great deal of illumination. However, they can take some time (5 to 10 minutes) to warm up before they reach their maximum output, and they don’t turn off immediately; they have to cool down.

High-intensity, bright white LED lamps are a newer option. They are low-voltage and require less energy than metal halide lights, but they don’t provide quite as much illumination. That means you’ll need more lights to achieve the same level of lighting. LED lights are also more expensive than metal halides.

On the plus side, LED lights are instant-on and turn off right away as well. LED lights should also last longer than metal halide lights.

If you’re concerned about glare from the lights — for instance, so you don’t blind drivers traveling past a highway worksite — consider LED lights instead of metal halide, and/or ask about visor shields that can block the light in certain directions.

4. Weigh the power choices.

Power options include diesel fuel, a generator, solar-charged batteries and, of course, a good old power outlet. If noise matters, keep in mind that solar and electric light towers are silent. 

Light towers that run on diesel fuel contain their own tanks. Larger tanks provide longer uninterrupted running times, which means fewer potentially dangerous refills. Make sure the light tower includes a fluid containment system to reduce the chance of spills.

If you choose a generator-powered portable light tower, you’ll need to figure out how much power it will draw at start-up and size the generator accordingly. You might consider renting or buying a generator that can provide enough power for other equipment you’re using at the site. 

Planning on using an electric light tower? Check how much power it will draw and make sure your electrical system can handle it. Otherwise, you could be jeopardizing the operation of all of your electrical equipment on the site.

Solar powered light towers are a relatively new, eco-friendly option that uses batteries charged by solar panels to light their LED lamps. Look for a system that offers movable solar panels so you can maximize the amount of sunlight you capture. While it’s great to lower your carbon footprint and go green with your lighting, you’ll also want to plan for some backup source of power in case it’s a cloudy or rainy day. This solar-powered light tower, for example, is backed up by LP or diesel fuel.

5. Towable or no? 

Consider how you will get the light tower to your site. Some portable light towers sit on a trailer that can go on highways or even, in the case of the most durable towable models, off-road. 

Ultimately, when choosing a light tower, consider the adequacy of the illumination, the ease of setup and use, the noise and emissions levels, the efficiency of refueling and the safety of people and property. If you’re not sure what lighting equipment is best for your application, consult an expert at a United Rentals branch near you.

Was this article helpful?