Cliplight Vector 7 NUV LED Inspection Lamp, retail under $100 (
Manufactured by Cliplight (
Last updated 07-17-10

When you first get one of these, you might think "Oh boy, a rechargeable flashlight!".
But when you take it out of the box and charge it up like it says in the instructions, the Vector 7 starts to look a bit different - because it is!!!

You DON'T want to aim this flashlight at your eyes and push the button, not because it's bright, but because it has 7 near-ultraviolet LEDs behind 7 custom lenses. This light isn't very good for your eyes (when shined directly in them), but you *can* use it to find leaks in air conditioning units - that's what it's made for.

I haven't worked with air conditioners, beer coolers, refrigerators, and the like for many, many years; but as I understand, you shoot up into the system you're checking with a small amount of dye, and any freon that escapes from that point on will glow brightly with this flashlight, so you can easily find out where the leak is and then fix it.

When I used to work on this type of equipment, we had a "halogen detector", a device that had a negative air pressure wand, and who's tone would change if you brought the business-end of the wand near a freon leak.
Back then, we used a refrigerant called "R-12"; I'm not sure if that detector works on the "R-22" that's in common use today. But the Vector 7 would! If you can introduce the dye into the system, this light should show the leak right away.


The Vector 7 is *almost* ready to use right away, but you'll want to charge the unit for a few hours first before you use it. To do that, turn the flashlight over and look for the AC charger jack on the flashlight head. Plug the AC charger plug into this jack, plug the square "wall wart" into any 120VAC outlet, and set the flashlight somewhere where you can see the LED on its top (where the light's switch is). It should glow a steady green when charging, and then go off when charging is done. Same with the DC charger - only instead of a "wall wart" that plugs into a household outlet, you plug the big end into the cigarette lighter jack in whatever vehicle you're using at the moment.
Expect to have to charge it for 2-3 hours when you first receive it, and as much as 5 hours if you run the battery all the way down.

Once the Vector 7 is fully charged, unplug the cord from the light, and unplug the AC charger from the wall (or unplug the DC charger from the cigarette lighter plug in your vehicle).

To use the Vector 7, aim it at the spot you're checking, and press the rubberized button on the barrel. Press it lightly for intermittent (momentary) use; or press it a bit harder for constant-on. Press it again the same way to turn it off.

Because this product is rechargeable (it uses a 1,800mAh NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) battery), using a built-in "smart charger" and a 9VDC 500mA charger, this section doesn't apply. Not like it would for a product powered by disposable cells, anyway.

Battery life is quoted as "6 hours", and recharge time (from dead batteries) is about 5 hours. This 5 hour recharge figure is very conservative according to somebody from Cliplight; it would normally be closer to 4 hours or sometimes even a little less.

As of 10-05-03, I'm running it through my computerised battery destroying satanic robot death machine (a charting DMM, a computer, some wires, a solar cell, and a couple of pieces of computer software), so I ought to have a chart up here in around a day.

And here is the battery chart. It runs for about 6 hours before it starts whirling down the {vulgar term for feces}bowl.

I have a new Vector 7 (as of 04-10-04), and it is currently in the computerised battery destroying satanic robot death machine, so I should have another chart here later today.

The new Vector 7 was running for just a hair over six hours when a flashlight package fell on the computer keyboard and somehow triggered a "Meter not found on COM port" error, terminating the test at that moment. I'll re-run this test tomorrow (04-11-04) and be more careful with flashlight packages. ;-)

Update 04-11-04: I have the new Vector 7 battery retest in progress, and, barring equipment failure or accident, should have a replacement chart up here around 4:30pm PDT. I started the retest around 9:20am PDT, so it's not quite 4 hours in as of this writing (1:14pm PDT).

And here's the new chart for the Vector 7.
The red LED on the flashlight was on for approximately the last 20 minutes of this test.
Looks like the Vector 7 was running for just under 7 hours (looks like 6:50) during this test; the meter plot updates every 10 minutes.

(The picture shows some dust and stuff on the lenses the light does not come with!)

The lenses that focus the LED beams were custom-designed by Don Klipstein, and they really do work!
All 7 LED beams coalesce within about 4" to form a bright, single beam that you can easily shine around inside whatever AC or beer cooler you're fixing, and you're able to find the leak that way.

The Vector 7 feels nice in the hand, and has a ribbed rubbery piece on the bottom to help you "keep a grip on things", even if your hands are a little greasy from tinkering around the compressor, hooking up hoses, and whatnot.

An anti-roll fin is present on the Vector 7 just behind the bezel on the barrel; this helps prevent the light from rolling away when it is set down on an uneven surface.

The light isn't waterproof, so your alcohol-fueled attempt to drown it in the toilet will probably be successful. But who would want to drown such a nice looking flashlight?
If you're working near one of those Auto-Chlor sinks though, try to keep the Vector from falling in. A little water (such as from rain, snow, or a leaky pipe) should cause no harm to befall it - just try not to dredge it.

The instructions also state the LED life at 100 hours, but the whole LED module can be replaced if it starts to dim out on you.

The Vector 7 has a "smart charger" built right in, so when it's time to recharge it, you can just plug it in and go about your business. The batteries can't become "overcharged" if you forget about the light and leave it plugged in too long. A pair of LEDs just in front of the switch show what's going on with the Vector 7.

If the red light marked "low" comes on, that means the batteries are just about pooped out, and you've got about 15 more minutes of "useful" UV before they crap out alltogether. A green light marked "chg" comes on when the light is being charged, and goes out when charging is finished.

NOTE: The red "low" light and the green "chg" light come from that large area directly above the switch, not those two small "dots" flanking it. The LED that indicates these conditions is a single bi-color LED deep inside the flashlight; this is shone into a "light pipe" that ends in that area just above the switch. The two "dots" on each side are structural components of the light pipe itself, and do not emit any light.

From an email by a user of the Vector 7:

There is even some functionality of the Vectors' uniform beam with sharp edges: I have noticed a psychological effect already known to Cliplight's president: You can find tiny/faint fluorescent specks faster if you have a visual indication of what is and is not being illuminated. Although expectation of seeing something glowing here and not seeing something glowing somewhere else does not make it actually more visible, it helps the user find it faster.
Both {censored} and I have noticed that we can find fluorescent specks faster with a light producing a visible illumination of the area being irradiated than with a light producing only invisible radiation. One would think that contrast between a fluorescent speck and its surroundings is maximized by invisibility of the exciting radiation and that is true, but the psychological expectation of finding fluorescent specks in a visibly illuminated area and not outside that area helps find them faster.
Given the hourly rates caharged by auto mechanics, there is a significant economic advantage to finding leaks faster.
And a leak of fluorescent dye can be very small. Nowadays it is getting to the point that a leak of just a couple ounces of refrigerant per year is worth repairing rather than just topping off the refrigerant, due to the high cost of some refrigerants and environmental regulations. Since a slow leak of dye can be washed away by grease or whatever before it spreads much rather than accumulating into a big fluorescent mass over a year or two, a mechanic sometimes needs to find a fluorescent blob of only pinhead size.

There is mention of the Cliplight Vector 7 in a police newsletter, for use in fluorescing fluorescent fingerprint powders.

Beam photograph from 12" away.
The camera overexposed the central portion, which is why it looks white.

Same shot, but underexposed to try and eliminate the white hotspot in the center. This eliminates the corona too, which is why this shot looks like it's of a different light.

Picture of an orange UPS tag from about a foot away, with light held ~3 feet away.

Spectrographic analysis
Spectrographic analysis of the LEDs in this light.

Spectrographic analysis of fluorescence of a piece of green acrylic that's very similar in colorant composition to the type of dye one would "shoot up" into the cooling system being worked on with this light.

Spectrographic analysis of fluorescence of a piece of green acrylic that's very similar in colorant composition to the type of dye one would "shoot up" into the cooling system being worked on with this light.

Fluorescence of the red body of this product when irradiated with the Handheld Blue (violet-emitting) Laser Module.

Spectrographic analysis of the fluorescence of the red body of this product when irradiated with the Yellow DPSS Laser Module.

Sample was received on 06-02-03, and is in the earliest stages of testing.

I don't have an air conditioner here to test the leak detection with, but this light produces the brightest 405nm near-UV beam I've seen, so I don't at all doubt it would work in reality.

Note that ALL epoxy body UV LEDs will have a short device lifetime - not just the Vector's. According to tests by another well-known LED guru, an average "halflife" [where UV output has faded to half its original level] at 30 mA is about 150 hours - not 100,000 hours like some LED manufacturers say. The Vector overdrives its LEDs by a little to get increased brightness, so the "halflife" is even shorter. The recommended time to change the lighting module is 100 hours, or about 600 tests with refrigeration equipment.

The "wall wart" charger outputs 9 volts DC at 500mA. If you lose or forget this charger, be sure the one you plug into this light is 9VDC at 500mA, and that the polarity of the plug on the end is center positive, barrel negative.

It also comes with a cigerette lighter charger with a generous coiled cord. Since I do not own or have access to a vehicle, I cannot test it in the manner in which it was intended.

Warranty information was not found in the instructional material or on the Cliplight web page for the Vector 7, so I honestly don't know how long this product is warranted.

UPDATE: 06-04-03
The following picture is of a slightly leaky capsule of air conditioner dye from 14" away, and was taken by another owner of the Vector 7.

The picture was slightly retouched to give a closer approximation of how you would see it in real life, because digital cameras just hate UV. :-)

UPDATE: 06-06-03
Here's another picture of a slightly leaky capsule of air conditioner dye. The Vector 7 was approximately 16" away for this picture, and I took it with my camera and my Vector 7.

This picture was retouched to show what the dye capsule would look like to the eye.

UPDATE: 06-21-03
The Vector 7 now ships with both an AC charger that plugs into any standard 120VAC wall outlet AND a 12VDC charger that plugs into the cigarette lighter socket of your vehicle. So it can be charged up pretty much anywhere if that red light comes on in the middle of a job.

UPDATE: 10-30-03
I have very recently heard from somebody who wanted a bright near-UV light to find golf balls on the golf course with at night. I didn't know those things fluoresced, but apparently they do. I recommended this light because it's the most intense near-UV "flashlight" and throws the farthest because of the custom optics - so I guess it's good for more than just finding freon leaks in refrigeration systems.

UPDATE: 04-09-04
The Vector 7 has been slightly improved. The switch button "feels" a touch better, and the charging circuitry inside the flashlight supposedly runs cooler. Now, I haven't tried to disassemble the flashlight and take temperature measurements during charging, so I cannot verify this first hand. But the button does have a slightly better "feel" to it than the original Vector 7's switch, that much I can say for certain. It also reportedly has more stability throughout its battery life; though the average user probably won't notice this very much if at all.

I also received a 12VDC coiled cord cigerette lighter charger, however since I do not own or have access to a vehicle, I cannot test it.

UPDATE: 04-10-04
I have the new Vector 7 in my battery testing machine, so I should have a second battery discharge analysis chart up here later today.

An hour and a half into the test, the head measures a peak temperature of 99F (37.2C). While this is a little warm, it isn't terribly so. You won't burn yourself on the light if that's what you were worried about.

UPDATE: 05-18-04
Here's a picture of the Vector 7 lighting a pair of fluorescent rulers from 12" away.

UPDATE: 05-22-04
Here is a photograph of the Vector 7 illuminating acrylic pieces from 13" away.

This acrylic fluoresces very similarly to the dye used in refrigeration systems.

UPDATE: 09-04-05
For some reason, I neglected to place this product in The Trophy Case on my website, despite it having been awarded 4 1/2 stars. Oversight corrected.

UPDATE: 10-02-05
I found a white golf ball late this morning, so this is an update to the 10-30-03 update regarding a near-UV source to find golf balls on a golf course at night with. Took almost two years, but here you (or "ya") go.

As you can see, the golf ball fluoresces strongly in the Vector 7's radiation.

Feels great in the hand
Wierd looking lenses really do work
Rechargeable - never buy disposable batteries for it
Smart charger built in - just plug it in and walk away
Entire lamp & lens module can be changed if necessary
Light has an anti-roll fin near the bezel

Not waterproof
Short lamp module life (~100 hrs)
Lenses could get banged up in a toolbox or if set down on a crappy surface.

    MANUFACTURER: Cliplight Manufacturing Co.
    PRODUCT TYPE: Rechargeable UV leak detector
    LAMP TYPE: LED, 405nm near-UV
    No. OF LAMPS: 7
    BEAM TYPE: Tightly collimated
    SWITCH TYPE: Pushbutton on/off
    BEZEL: Rubbery ring surrounding custom-made lenses
    BATTERY: Internal 4.8 volt 1,800mAh NiMH Rechargeable
    CURRENT CONSUMPTION: Not able to measure
    WATER- AND PEE-RESISTANT: Light splash resistance only
    ACCESSORIES: 120VAC charger, 12VDC charger
    WARRANTY: Unknown/not stated


    Star RatingStar Rating

Cliplight Vector 7 Inspection Lamp * (

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