Winter is never a season I look forward to working in. Besides colder temperatures, we have less daylight—a lot less, depending on where you live. I frame and side in the Pacific Northwest, and on January 23, when I wrote this review, we started work at 6:30 a.m., and the sun didn’t rise until 7:57 a.m.; then, it set at 4:35 p.m. Days like that are when temporary jobsite lighting becomes a fact of life, and it always seems like there isn’t enough.

For several years, our go-to jobsite lighting has been supplied by various iterations of Milwaukee’s battery-powered M18 LED floor and stand lighting, which I’ve periodically reviewed for JLC since 2016. When I learned about Milwaukee’s new MX Fuel Rocket Tower light/charger, which is designed more for commercial sites, I asked the company to send one to compare with our existing lighting. On its brightest setting, it offers an eye-popping 27,000 lumens, compared with the 9,000 lumens offered by the M18 Radius site light (see “Smart Work Lights,” Jan/20).

Part of Milwaukee’s MX cordless equipment line, the Rocket Tower is the mother of all battery-powered lights. In addition to providing up to 27,000 lumens of illumination, the lights extend as high as 10 feet tall, with outriggers to stabilize the unit on uneven surfaces. It collapses to a 44‑inch height, making it pretty easy for one person to wheel around, though lifting the 108-pound unit in and out of the van is easier with two. With an IP56 rating, the Rocket Tower can withstand airborne dust and windblown rain, and it features Milwaukee’s One Key tracking for security.

The Milwaukee MX Fuel Rocket Tower light extends to 10 feet and has outriggers that help to stabilize the unit.
The cordless unit puts out as 27,000 lumens, enough to fully illuminate the side of a house or a cavernous workspace.

The unit has four adjustable heads that can be rotated and pointed where you want. Milwaukee claims that the LEDs will never need to be replaced and backs up this claim with a limited lifetime guarantee. While the light can run off battery power, it can also be plugged into a regular 110-volt circuit.

In use, we found it charges quickly. When working outside, we’d typically turn it on when we first arrived at a jobsite and turn it off once there was enough daylight, and we needed to recharge it only about once a week. When working inside, we would plug it into a wall outlet first thing in the morning to have light all day at full brightness while topping off the battery. According to Milwaukee, the battery will last three hours at full brightness, which under battery power is 20,000 lumens. You get the full 27,000 lumens only when the unit is plugged into A/C power.

The MX Rocket Tower comes with a hefty $3,300 price tag. While that’s not a small sum to spend on jobsite lighting, we’ve found that it’s been invaluable to the way we work, allowing us to start early and stay late if needed. Because it is faster to set up and take down than all of our other lights, it has largely replaced them. For example, the light is great for siding work, because we can illuminate an entire wall. Another example is the driveways for a pair of spec homes we are building, which we had been putting off because of rain. Finally, after waiting two months for a nice day, we lined up our flatwork sub and concrete for one of the driveways, which they finished by 11 a.m. Because we had lighting, I was able to get another delivery of concrete, and our sub and his crew stayed and poured the second driveway, placing 50 yards of concrete in one long day. This allowed us to schedule the final inspections and list the homes for sale that week. To me, that more than justifies the expense, not to mention the extra safety that good lighting provides on a jobsite.

Lighting has come along way since I reviewed our set of metal halide Wobble lights back in 2014. Good jobsite lighting isn’t cheap, but it’s a necessity, so buy the brightest and most convenient lighting you can. Remember to include tools as a line item on your job budgets and make sure you account for them come tax time. It takes the right tools to do our job and do it well, so don’t cheap out on lights.

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