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Thread: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

  1. #1

    Default You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    I've been using and collecting nice flashlights for almost ten years now. For the past couple of years some of these lights have gotten incredibly powerful and I've enjoyed playing with them. However, I've recently gotten more into some specialty lights such as stuff that uses rechargeable li-ion batteries and such. And after spending hours and hours studying up on it I am coming to the realization that I am out of my depth. It's like you need a degree in electrical engineering to even begin to understand this stuff. I think some of these super lights and their associated batteries are damned dangerous, especially in the hands of someone like me who just cannot get their head around all the conflicting and extremely confusing information. I'm a pretty smart guy (or so I'd like to think anyway) but after spending hours and even days of my time studying up on it I still cannot seem to fully grasp all of the issues or the differences between some of these cells.

    The increasing reports of battery fires has me extremely concerned. I think I'm going to be dumping all my high end and specialty lights and simply stick with single cell lights that take normal batteries. From what I can gather single cell CR123 or CR2 lights are probably safe enough but that's about as far as I'll be going with all this. You guys that want to burn your houses down for your hobby can have right at it but please count me out. I mean, ask yourselves honestly, given the amazing output of the newer generation of LEDs is all this risk really worth it? Do you really need more than 100-200 lumens OTF for most applications? I don't. Just saying...
    --Peter

  2. #2
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Always use quality Made in US cells. I'm not saying they are 100% immune to danger, but in the recent explosion thread, the user had Made in China 4sevens batteries.

    There are scary stories here, but for every bad story, there are tens of thousands of lights that have never encountered any problems. Just don't mix and match new and used cells and use quality cells. Personally, I won't go beyond 2x CR123A. If this is out of your comfort zone, stick with 1x CR123a, or AA's, they still pack a punch.

    Alternatively, you can look into purchasing LiFePO4 CR123a's. These are safe chemistry rechargeable batteries that do not "vent with flame"(explode). I have 4 that in rotation that I use for my Jetbeam RRT-0.
    Last edited by aimxplode; 01-05-2012 at 04:58 PM.

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    *Flashaholic* StarHalo's Avatar
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Keep the voltage of your Li-ions between 3.6 and 4.15 volts, use a multimeter frequently to check. Buy only quality 123s/CR2s and pair them by voltage. Not so difficult.

    But for the record, my EDC is a 1xAA, it does simplify things..

  4. #4
    Flashaholic* archimedes's Avatar
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Powerful tools can be dangerous, and batteries/flashlights are no different. Safe use depends on adequate knowledge, appropriate precautions, and proper respect. I presume you often work with equipment in the machine shop (lathes, mills, and such) that would make me nervous, not to mention all kinds of sharps But you have extensive training and experience with those, which I do not.

    Personally, it took me a long time before I felt reasonably comfortable with the "high-powered" batteries used in specialty torches, but there is probably more information about these issues here on CPF than anywhere else, as well as an incredibly helpful community and many generous members willing to teach others.

    Yes, generally speaking, non-lithium chemistries are safer than lithium ones, and primaries are (usually) safer than rechargeables, and protected cells are safer than unprotected ones, and single cells (much) safer than multi-cell set-ups ... but even a loose AA alkaline carelessly thrown into a pocket with keys or coins can short and start a fire

    Many of the same types of cells and battery chemistries used in high-powered flashlights are found in common everyday items, such as laptops and cellphones (which have also both been associated with battery fires, BTW).

    I think, and hope, that I am safer now having learned about battery safety (in the context of flashlights) than I was before I became interested in these tools. Everyone has heard "don't mix battery brands", "replace all the cells in a device at the same time", "always make sure the polarity is correct when changing batteries", "use quality branded cells", and so forth, but how many always take these basic safety precautions without fail and know the reasons for them ?

    Everyone should ideally operate within their comfort zone, but that may often change over time - great post, and an important topic.

    Now for the scary batteries, maybe some of the RC enthusiasts will chime in ....
    Last edited by archimedes; 01-05-2012 at 05:30 PM.
    IF 2 = 1 THEN 1 = 0

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    nfetterly's Avatar
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Atwood View Post
    I think I'm going to be dumping all my high end and specialty lights...
    Peter,

    You can dump them my way, I will even pay for shipping. It would be appreciated if any Ti lights are done in your amazing splash ano. I believe you already have my address.


    Not to downplay the seriousness of the subject but I could not help myself.


  6. #6

    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    I have to agree with the original poster. I have tried multiple times to understand this technology (or lack of it) and the more posts I read on the subject the less clear it becomes. I am not willing to risk my home and family's safety for what amounts to a hobby. Is it really worth the risk just to squeeze a few more lumens from a flashlight? I'm not trying to demean anyone here, just my personal view.

  7. #7

    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Exactly my point, the more I study it the less clear it seems to become. That just does not sit well with me and it's making me question how far I want to pursue this stuff. Like I said, it blows my mind how much light you can get out of even some of the AA lights right now, or even some of the AAAs for that matter. And most of the CR123 lights are screamers just on the primaries.

    Hmmm, so there are those who don't trust the 4sevens batteries huh? That's too bad because I have a bunch of them. Is there a list of the brands that are recommended?
    --Peter

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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Atwood View Post
    Exactly my point, the more I study it the less clear it seems to become. That just does not sit well with me and it's making me question how far I want to pursue this stuff. Like I said, it blows my mind how much light you can get out of even some of the AA lights right now, or even some of the AAAs for that matter. And most of the CR123 lights are screamers just on the primaries.

    Hmmm, so there are those who don't trust the 4sevens batteries huh? That's too bad because I have a bunch of them. Is there a list of the brands that are recommended?
    Trusted primaries are those that are made in US. These include Surefire, Rayovac, Energizer, Duracell, Panasonic, Battery Station. I'm sure I forgot a few.

  9. #9

    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Start here: http://batteryuniversity.com/ This is where I accumulated much of my knowledge. I have the feeling that reading the forums can become a little confusing after some time with regards to batteries.

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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    I presume if I use quality, single cell lithium-ion, protected, responsible recharging (approved charger, don't over-charge, throw away over-discharged), then I mitigate 99.999% of the risk. Could be wrong though.
    Wish: 1) Super low beacon; easy find flashlight. 2) Low voltage indicator, so not stranded without light. 3) Simple, one handed control ring mode changer (magnetic control ring). 4) Flood beam for walking/tasks. 5) Pocket carry. 6) LiFePO4.


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    Enlightened fonaryk's Avatar
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    That does it! I'm getting rid of all my lights tomorrow at the flea market and sticking with guns,knives ,pens and watches.

    At least those are safe

    Thank's Peter for helping me see the light!

  12. #12

    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Aside from EE schooling, my introduction to high powered batteries were not here with flashlights, but started closer to 2004 with LiPO battery packs for RC cars. They are exponentially more dangerous than any of the LiIon cells you will see here. Those packs come with up to 6-10 cells in series and are capable of 50C+ discharges. They can easily dump out 200 Amps and 2000+Watts of power in a clip. They are foil wrapped with not much more protection than a plastic shrink wrap. If they are penetrated they catch fire when the lithium component is exposed to Oxygen. They need to be charged with special chargers with integrated balancers to make sure that every cell in the pack is healthy and doesn't get overcharged in relation to the entire pack. Now even with all those risks I've never had a problem with safe charging and discharging practices.

    Moving on to flashlights:
    1) The first step in cell safety is getting a good charger. I Pila charger with a true CC/CV charge is the only way to go. This type of charger will charge the battery with a Constant Current until it reaches the set voltage (usually 4.2v) and the keep a Constant Voltage and slowly drop the current of the charge until complete. Most of the time at the end of the CC charge the battery is nearly 90-95% full anyway so taking it off early wouldn't hurt.

    A crappy charger will reduce the overall number of cycles in a battery and cause greater risk (I've had cells last less than 50 cycles with really bad chargers).

    2) The second step in cell safety is to never fully discharge your cells. Don't run them down to the protection circuit every time as that will reduce the number of life cycles. It's just as easy to throw the batteries on a charger nightly and top them of, and safer in the long run.

    3) If you are running a multi-cell light either:
    a. Always use protected cells so that if one cell has less capacity than the others it can act as the week point and the protection will trip and turn off the light rather than over-discharging that one cell.
    b. Use safer chemistry LiMN (or IMR) cells and always recharge them when they are about 50% gone to prevent over-discharge.

    4) Never mix old and new cells, rechargeables included. A new cell will tend to have greater capacity and lower internal resistance than an older cell where the capacity has dropped and internal resistance has increased.

    It doesn't get much more complicated than that. Even a 2-cell CR123 primary light could be just as dangerous if you throw a new cell in with a cell with only 25% remaining.

  13. #13
    Flashaholic JohnnyBravo's Avatar
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Before I ever even new CPF existed, I experienced an explosion with my SureFire 9P. Whilst riding home on my bicycle at night, I heard a loud POP. I was on a dark part of the bike trail, and for the first 2-3 seconds, I thought someone took a shot at me w/ a gun. Then I realized my SF was not on anymore. I had two lights rubber mounted onto my handlebar. One of the RCR123 "protected" cells had exploded/melted inside and blew out the LED drop in as well as the glass lens. Within 1-2 months after that, I had another RCR123 cell overheat and melt within the charger. After surfing/reading posts on this site for a while before joining in, I've decided to only use AW IMR 14500s, 16340s, and 18650s despite their lower capacities. I still use primaries, but brand name only. And with my C and D multi cell lights, I use name brand Alkalines. Oh, and Sanyo Eneloops (1500 cycle ones) are ok in my book...
    Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnnyBravo View Post
    Before I ever even new CPF existed, I experienced an explosion with my SureFire 9P. Whilst riding home on my bicycle at night, I heard a loud POP. I was on a dark part of the bike trail, and for the first 2-3 seconds, I thought someone took a shot at me w/ a gun. Then I realized my SF was not on anymore. I had two lights rubber mounted onto my handlebar. One of the RCR123 "protected" cells had exploded/melted inside and blew out the LED drop in as well as the glass lens. Within 1-2 months after that, I had another RCR123 cell overheat and melt within the charger. After surfing/reading posts on this site for a while before joining in, I've decided to only use AW IMR 14500s, 16340s, and 18650s despite their lower capacities. I still use primaries, but brand name only. And with my C and D multi cell lights, I use name brand Alkalines. Oh, and Sanyo Eneloops (1500 cycle ones) are ok in my book...
    What brand were the RCR123 brands that exploded in your lights?

  15. #15
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    These are one of the reasons I would always go AAA, AA or D cells Might pack less power but inherently less dangerous. I just want to be able to use my tools without having to think about pampering the batteries or making regular doctors checkups with them.
    Stick in the cells and make the lights happen!

  16. #16
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Quote Originally Posted by SuLyMaN View Post
    These are one of the reasons I would always go AAA, AA or D cells Might pack less power but inherently less dangerous. I just want to be able to use my tools without having to think about pampering the batteries or making regular doctors checkups with them.
    Stick in the cells and make the lights happen!
    That's what I told myself when I first started out. I just picked up my first set of 18650s a week ago...

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    Moderator Kestrel's Avatar
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Interesting thread. When I started back in ~2007 I tried out 2xAA, but ended up going to pairs of protected LiIons not too long after that because I did like the increase in outputs and runtimes. Now, I dearly love my Moddoo Triples and can't go back.

    When I set up lights for friends nowadays they are either 1xCR123 or 2xAA.

    For my non-daily use lights I have tried very hard to go to single-cell LiIon configurations, and am thinking pretty hard about changing out the 2xCR123 configuration in my wife's car light to a 1xIMR 17670 configuration. I utilize AW protected cells exclusively in my lights, and charge with my Pila that has so many recommendations here.

    I do try to keep in mind that most catastrophic failures are when using CR123's and when charging LiIons - I am present during both of these situations so if something goes terribly wrong at least I could take immediate steps to minimize resulting damages. What I'd really like to avoid is a house or car fire when I'm not present, i.e. a much more extensive potential loss.
    In the past we have had a light which flickered, in the present we have a light which flames, and in the future there will be a light which shines over all the land and sea.
    - Winston Churchill

  18. #18

    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Total battery noob here. Just ordered a 40DD which takes a 10180. Looked around for chargers, and the threads are full of "buy this crappy charger and mod it" suggestions which, taking into account the above post, now sound pretty iffy. Cottonpickers himself has a big warning on his charger signup thread saying "IF YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT THE DANGERS OF THESE BATTERIES, DON'T BUY". So what's a noob to do? What exactly are the dangers? Overcharging? Undercharging? Age? Temperature? Leaving them idle in the flashlight too long...?

  19. #19
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    LOL

    Newbs.

    OK, I have this other hobby...and the equipment runs on this stuff that catches fire so many times that we actually COUNT ON explosions. This stuff the equipment runs on is flammable, gives off toxic fumes, can cause cancer, and blows up about everyday.

    We call it "Gasoline".

    We use the equipment that runs on this very dangerous fuel because we LIKE IT, and, it simply WORKS BETTER than other fuels when we factor in price, availability and performance.

    I read a lot about how people die from gasoline every day, and how dangerous it is....and I wonder if its safe to use it around my wife and kids, I mean, IS IT WORTH THE RISK!?

    I should sell everything I own that runs on gasoline, or maybe destroy it all so as not to endanger anyone else?!

    I've read about so many deaths, its just too risky to use...that's IT!


  20. #20
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    Buttrock Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Quote Originally Posted by spongefile View Post
    Total battery noob here. Just ordered a 40DD which takes a 10180. Looked around for chargers, and the threads are full of "buy this crappy charger and mod it" suggestions which, taking into account the above post, now sound pretty iffy. Cottonpickers himself has a big warning on his charger signup thread saying "IF YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT THE DANGERS OF THESE BATTERIES, DON'T BUY". So what's a noob to do? What exactly are the dangers? Overcharging? Undercharging? Age? Temperature? Leaving them idle in the flashlight too long...?
    It IS overwhelming. The PROBLEM is there is sometimes TOO MUCH information.

    Its the moral equivalent of asking what time it is, and having everyone launch into a heuristic presentation on how to build a clock, the nature of time, is time travel possible, whether you mean time for the observer, or time for the individual experiencing it, what type of watch to get and avoid and why, the potential joys of existentialism, and so forth.

    After several days of reading...the OP realizes they still don't know what time it is.

    In the case of lithium ion batteries...they are a powerful reservoir of energy, and do require respect, just like piloting a 2 ton steel projectile through a maze of similar projectiles and obstacles (Driving a car)....it sounds complicated if you explain to a 16 yr old how hydraulics, internal combustion, and how to calculate the LEL and UEL of a volatile organic compound, but works if you tell him how the car will blow up if he smokes while filling it with gas or crashes it into a tree, etc.


    That said:

    For the most part, ALL the reported battery/cell explosions, etc, are from any combination of cheap/knock-off batteries, and people who are driving w/o a license.

    IE: A kid who's driving for the first time, w/o a license, on crappy tires, and bad brakes...and surprise! There's an accident.

    They need to learn to drive, and take care of the car.



    What I'd tell my kid to avoid the vast majority of battery problems:

    1) Only buy the PROTECTED batteries that are recommended in battery reviews conducted here (There's enough to choose from, and it simplifies searches)

    2) Only buy chargers that are recommended in charger reviews conducted here (There's enough to choose from, and it simplifies searches)

    3) Only get good lights, that take one battery to start with if possible...its the combo's that lead to other troubles

    4) Get something that read volts, like a multimeter, digital is easiest (A Digital Multimeter or DMM), and learn how to use it to measure the voltage of the batteries. (The ones you have specifically)

    5) Once you know how to read voltages, you can check if your charger is working properly..and you are ready to charge some batteries

    6) After using the batteries, check the volts, and recharge them, then check the volts again...put batteries with the same voltage in groups.

    7) If you have a light that takes more than one battery, say 3 batteries, etc...MARK THEM THE FIRST TIME YOU LOAD IT UP...and use those as a group, together, for THAT LIGHT.

    8) Monitor that group's voltages at the end of the runs, etc...and see if they are still a good match to each other. (If they are DIFFERENT, current flows from MOST TO LEAST..and that generates HEAT - The bad part) - If one is behind the others, etc, swap in another set of three from the same voltage group...so you always have a matched set of batteries with the same history, etc....it avoids "Differences". - The odd battery can be relagated to duty in a single battery light for example.


    The above will probably be overkill for 99% of the users out there...but, for the 1%, well, its nice.



    As you gain experience, you can add to the above as appropriate to YOUR use, etc. You hear about heel and toe driving techniques, 4 wheel drifting, power shifting, throttle induced over steer/that they are cells not batteries, and other finer points that will overwhelm you now...but make sense down the road.

    - Hope that helps!
    Last edited by TEEJ; 03-05-2012 at 05:48 PM.

  21. #21
    Moderator Kestrel's Avatar
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Atwood View Post
    I mean, ask yourselves honestly, given the amazing output of the newer generation of LEDs is all this risk really worth it? Do you really need more than 100-200 lumens OTF for most applications? I don't. Just saying...
    Just a FYI, the OP (member # 553, joined in 2002) posted this thread after reading up on the various risks of LiIon technology; he is unsure that given what he has learned, if LiIons are worthwhile for him.

    There are lots of threads on CPF about the specific risks and how best to avoid them, I think that this is more of a discussion thread than a 'what-do-I-do?' thread.
    In the past we have had a light which flickered, in the present we have a light which flames, and in the future there will be a light which shines over all the land and sea.
    - Winston Churchill

  22. #22

    Default

    @Teej yes, that helps a lot.

  23. #23
    Flashaholic* archer6817j's Avatar
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    Default

    IMHO, for basic use, stick to single cell lights. I'd say that's the biggest precaution besides quality (protected) cells and chargers. I actually give this a lot of thought as I sell lights and don't want someone to have an explosion, or worse. The main reason I only sell AW batteries is because of their safety record. I someone wants to use other batteries or charger, all bets are off. It seems that most of the time people run into problems with multi cell lights, rechargeable or not, or with unprotected cells. In my mind, single cell lights and a quality battery/charger combo mitigates nearly all the risk. I guess it's also responsible manufacturing practice to use a driver with voltage cut off that will actually disable the light before the cells protection circuit trips.

  24. #24
    Flashaholic* LEDninja's Avatar
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    I gave away a Fenix L0D one Christmas Gifts and threw in a 10440 and Nano charger. The recipient mentioned with the 10440 the light was very bright but got too hot too fast so decided to stick with AAA.

    I never got CR123A lights. The batteries are too expensive around here.

    I got into 18650 as the early P7 lights only come that way. Did not like my MTE. Flaky UI plus have to cycle through strobe to change levels. Got a single mode Elektrolumens EDC P7. Used these lights so rarely the batteries self discharged to nothing. Tossed half a dozen so far.

    I currently EDC a Quark neutral X 2AA head, 1AA body with AW P14500.
    The other lights I use are AA/AAA.






    And my Elektrolumens 3C P7 Mag when I need bright.

  25. #25
    Flashaholic* bshanahan14rulz's Avatar
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!



    What is that yellow light on the right called? I had a similar one, but it was a standard flashlight shape, 2xAA, with twisty clear head, rubber O-ring, and came with a light pipe attachment. Just curious if that is some sort of standard design or if it is the trademark look of a certain company. That was a cool little light

  26. #26
    Flashaholic* hank's Avatar
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    And watch the Nano charger. I use RCR123s (protected) and usually wait til the flashlight's not lighting up to recharge. Today I thought, gee, it's been quite a while, and put the battery in the Nano to see. Got the red light, ok, it was getting low (duh, didn't check the voltage). Came back 20 minutes later and the light was green, and the voltage was 4.25.

    Dang. Put it back in the one-cell light and ran it down to 4.1 fairly quickly, didn't blow myself up ...

  27. #27
    *Flashaholic* StarHalo's Avatar
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Quote Originally Posted by bshanahan14rulz View Post
    What is that yellow light on the right called?
    Underwater Kinetics; they sell them over at BrightGuy. I had one ~15 years ago, coolest incan beam I ever owned..

  28. #28
    Flashaholic* LEDninja's Avatar
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    Default Re: You Guys are Making Me Very Very Nervous!

    Quote Originally Posted by bshanahan14rulz View Post


    What is that yellow light on the right called? I had a similar one, but it was a standard flashlight shape, 2xAA, with twisty clear head, rubber O-ring, and came with a light pipe attachment. Just curious if that is some sort of standard design or if it is the trademark look of a certain company. That was a cool little light
    uwkinetics UK2AAA eLED® Mini Pocket Light.

    the straight line LED one is called UK2AAA eLED® Pen Light S

    Looks like they have updated the light. It is now 7 lumens 15 hours instead of 3 lumens 20+ hours.
    They also have a more powerful unit UK2AAA eLED MPL I - 35 lumens for 3 hours.

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