ANSI / NEMA FL1 2009 – What is it all about ?

Recently it was hard to find on the market technical norms defining equipment of such little importance as headlights or torches for outdoor enthusiasts. Mine lamps and specialised lighting equipment is defined with a horrendous number of standards and regulations. However popular equipment is free of them. Besides the IP protection rating in terms of intrusion of solids and liquids into the device, there are no standards regulating popular headlights and torches.

Group of manufacturers bringing together the biggest companies on the market such as: Petzl, Princeton Tec, Black Diamond, Streamlight or Cat Eye decided to unify labelling on their products to create a stable marketing platform for themselves to block the cheap competition, who will be obliged to make expensive tests.

Basically, this standard was not created for You, dear users, but to tackle the competition ;) Unlike EN/UI standards, ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standard are not binding for equipment producers and one can but is not obliged to follow them.

What is ANSI / NEMA FL1 about and what is in it for a user ?

  • Simplicity in products comparison
  • Clear markings

If the producer decides to mark his equipment with ANSI FL1 markings, he has to perform certain tests on it.

The light output.

The amount of light must be measured using integrating sphere between 30th second and a 2nd minute after the device is launched - it includes losses in lights on glass, lens etc. The result will be over 10% lower from the amount of light emitted by LED diode.

But let’s face it. Heat protection in bigger lights works only when they are already heated, which takes more than 30 seconds.

If the measurement is carried out between 20 and 25 minutes, that would be a completely different kettle of fish ...

For example Petzl Ultra after 30 seconds and then after 10 minutes from turning on:

Maximal beam intensity.

Value specifying the focus of light beam for the user - it is very close to the light range Measurement - is made between 30th second and a 2nd minute from the distance of 2, 10 and 30 meters, calculated with the following equation:

Intensity in luxes * (distance in meters)^2 = result cd


In my opinion, it is the Petzl’s heritage in this standard - the range is measured until a visible difference between measurements will smaller than 0,25 lux.

It allows manufacturers to reach incredible ranges specified on the box :D.

For visualisation - pictures taken from the distance of 10 meters (hotspot of 60x60cm) and 130m (hotspot on the building of 10x10m) for the same torch:

I think that while measuring it in accordance with ANSI, the range would be of 300m - so out of sight and possibility of light focusing to its useful level while using mirror or lens in a portable device.

Burn time.

Burn time is measured from turning on in maximum mode until the intensity of light reaches 10% of its initial value. Depending on the system of current regulation or the lack of it - settings of switching moments to a lower mode we may receive very interesting results. For example, 200 lumens PT Apex powered with 4xAA shines in a maximum mode for only 72 hours and 277 lumens Fenix HP11 also powered with 4xAA shines 206 hours in accordance with the standard - note that both lights have very decent current regulation.

What is most interesting, Petzl, which took part in creating this standard, promotes itself as the one giving more realistic burn time than the one specified in standard (Petzl Pixa 2 burn time, below):

ANSI vs Petzl Constant Lighting

Waterproofness and watertightness.

This one is clear - the first marking means compliance with IPX4 so it's rainproof. The second marking IPX7 (submerging to 1m) and IPX8 with depth statement for IPX8 - the device must last 4 hours on a specified depth. Regarding water tightness, components (batteries, joints, driver, LED diodes) must be protected from water for waterproof light.

Those are driver after spending some time with water.

Resistance to drops

At last! Something new! Take 5 lights and drop them from 1m on a concrete floor (dropping them in 6 different positions). Light cannot break or get damaged to a point preventing further usage. It may, however, require reassembling, but without any tools. That last point is cool, but there should be an extra line (if the user finds all the parts and batteries). All scratches and dents are acceptable.



Personally, I name ANSI / NEMA FL1 as “fancy pictures” norm, as besides clear markings and the real measurement of a maximal amount of emitted light, it does not introduce any important changes for the end user. As it could be seen in the example, the amount of light right after switching on the device may differ significantly from the one visible after a few minutes - what is stated by standard co-creator himself on the basis of Pixa 2 model, which undermines the ANSI/NEMA FL1 objectives :-P.