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Light Towers Information

light towersLight towers are portable lighting solutions containing an array of electric lamps affixed to the top of a mast. Light towers are positioned to shine the light on a designated area. The mast attaches to a trailer-like base that serves as an anchor to balance the tower, allowing the unit to be towed from site to site.

Before the discovery of electricity, the most common and recognizable form of light towers were iconic lighthouses built high on the seashore on coastlines around the world. These massive structures have been around for hundreds of years and originally used fire to create light. Over time lighthouses were retrofitted with electric lights. Numerous lighthouses are still in operation today.


American cities sought a quick and inexpensive way to light their streets at night during commercialized electricity in the late 1800s. The approach cities took to solve this problem was to erect hulking “moon towers”—oil derrick-like structures with a powerful light on top that worked to bathe entire towns in a moonlike glow.


As the internal combustion engine improved during the early and mid-20th century, the technology was combined with the original design of light towers. They evolved into portable light towers and remain a critical component of work sites and other uses today.


Types of Light Towers


The manner of a power source that generates electricity for the lights and the design of the base define the type of light tower. Many have large and heavy trailer bases while others use small cart-like bases. Types of light towers include:


  • Internal combustion engine-powered models such as compact standard duty, compact heavy duty and industrial heavy duty
  • Battery-powered
  • Solar-powered units containing a battery or multiple batteries to store solar power generated during the day
  • Portable lighting carts with a small base and compact generator utilizing a shorter mast, allowing movement without hitching the apparatus to a vehicle


light towersThe trailer or cart-like base of the light tower contains a battery array or an internal combustion engine fueled by diesel, gasoline, natural gas or propane. Generators are in place to provide regulated voltage to the lights. The generator receives its power from an engine or batteries. Electricity flows from the generator to electrical cables positioned along the mast and connected to the light or series of lights. Various battery-powered models come equipped with solar panels mounted on the base. The solar arrays are capable of collecting and storing enough energy during the day to power the lights during a full evening.

Features of Light Towers

The most prominent features of a light tower are the height of its mast and the power of its lights. The combination of the two specifications determines the area of illumination and intensity of light needed within a certain space. The power source determines the length of time lighting will last before refueling or recharging is required. Additional power options, such as solar panels, extend use beyond the primary power source.


Options to raise and lower masts are available. There are several forms of this feature, such as systems of collapsible poles or inflating and deflating air based masts. Many sizes of light towers are available which determines its portability characteristics. Large light towers have a trailer chassis with a hitch and highway-ready tires. Medium to small units contain integrated carts that are moveable by hand.




Light towers are an important accessory for many construction sites. Crews can work in multiple shifts where the outside light is critical.


Light towers are an essential part of jobs performed in remote or difficult to reach locations such as:


  • Road Repair and Construction
  • Railroad tracks
  • Wind towers
  • Tunnels


Lighting towers serve an important function for military use in forward operating bases (FOB). Major sporting events utilize light towers when additional safety measures are taken to account for increased pedestrian traffic inside the venue or outside the area. In addition, transportation improvement projects require light towers for late evening work performed during minimal traffic times.





  • Power source specifications of light towers include:
  • Fuel type and fuel capacity for internal combustion engine models
  • Engine horsepower rating for required wattage rating and electrical load
  • Engine noise output rating
  • Storage capacity for battery-powered models
  • Operating efficiency
  • Operable hours before refuel or recharge
  • Emissions rating


Additional specifications are provided for physical dimensions, weight and mast height. The number of lights used and the technology of the bulbs determine lumens output specifications. Light bulb technologies consist of halogen, metal halide, incandescent, fluorescent and LED.

What Are Light Towers Made of?

Materialslight towers


  • Rubber tires rated for highway use or tires of harder rubber and plastics for portables
  • Steel, aluminum and other metal alloys used to construct the base
  • A durable metal or combination of metal and plastic for the shell containing the internal combustion engine, generator or battery array
  • A metal pole or inflatable mast
  • A lighting array consisting of metal, plastic, fiberglass and other hard materials engineered to house multiple bulb types and withstand high degrees of heat

Several considerations determine the light tower best designed for a particular application. The size of the area requiring light is a major factor. Measuring the maximum mast height and wattage output of the light system provides a basis for coverage and brightness capacities. In addition, costs of operation and maintenance must meet budgetary constraints. The need to balance up-front purchase costs with ongoing fuel expenditures and future overhead narrows the range of selection. While battery arrays and solar panel options aid in reducing costs, these features have life expectancy ratings and maintenance considerations that add to the total cost of ownership.


For indoor or small construction project needs, cart-like or compact trailer models are the best choice. This is especially true if the unit needs to be frequently moved during use.


Industrial, large commercial construction and public lighting applications require larger units with higher durability rankings made to withstand unclean environments and extreme climates.




Image Credits


Grainger Industrial Supply



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McElroy Manufacturing, Inc.
McElroy Manufacturing, Inc.


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