The warning lights on your vehicle serve one purpose only – to warn motorists of your vehicle and personnel around your vehicle. There are a large number of warning light manufacturers on the market, and an even wider variety of quality.
It is amazing how many people who work on the roads every day, spend $80,000 on a truck, $30,000 on equipment in the truck, and then go out and buy a $25 light to protect it all. If you are going to invest all this money into your equipment, doesn’t it make sense to have a good quality warning light? Skimping to try to save $100 on a warning light is like putting an ineffective fuel filter on your $25,000 Cummins engine.
LED warning lights used to be very expensive, but changes to LED technology have allowed the major manufacturers to meet SAE Class 1 (the brightest class) with only a few LEDs and a simple optical (lens) design, and a much lower price.
When considering an LED warning beacon or mini-lightbar, there are a few basics;
- Make sure it meets SAE Class 1. This is the standard measure of lighting intensity. Class 1 is the brightest. Class 2 is technically still suitable under the SAE guidelines for roadside work, but we prefer Class 1. Class 3 is for “identification only” meaning it is for broadcasting colour, but has no intensity requirements (at least, none that are applicable to roadside warning). So, select a Class 1 light, unless your vehicle always works at night or inside (mining, large warehouses, etc.)
Make sure you are using new LEDs. If you have a light that has 50 or 100 LEDs in it, those are “Generation 1” LEDs. The whole “Generation” thing gets a bit blown out of proportion by different companies’ marketing departments, as there is no official definition of “generations” of LED. However, if you have the older style that uses dozens of LEDs in a beacon, that’s Gen 1. Gen 1 LEDs are 10 year old technology, and have all the problems of original LEDs – they are inefficient, not that bright, and horrible at off-axis viewing angles. Get current generation LEDs.
- Watch the amp draw. One of the benefits of LED is low amp draw, allowing you to turn off your vehicle and letting the beacons run off battery power. Typically, a good LED beacon will draw half an amp, so can be safely left on for hours without danger of draining the vehicle’s battery. Some manufacturers have inefficient optical or power designs, though, and will make LED beacons that draw 2-3 amps. This kind of defeats the purpose of LED. There are some exceptions such as our SLR beacon, but that’s a bit of a different story.
- Warranty; most manufacturers warranty their LEDs for 5 years. If you aren’t getting a 5 year warranty, don’t buy it.
- Rotating patterns; generally it is a good idea to stay away from rotating patterns. These ‘pseudo’ rotating patterns, or “faux-tate” as we like to call it, don’t really work well. To accomplish this, the manufacturer simply sequences the LEDs in a beacon. Unlike halogen beacons, where the rotating mechanism and resulting pattern are excellent for distance warning, LEDs aren’t focused like halogen beacon beams are, so there is no attention-getting “snap” to an LED rotator pattern. Many rotating patterns don’t meet SAE Class 1 since only a fraction of LEDs are lit at one time.If you really like rotating patterns, have a look at our SLR beacon. It is an LED beacon with a rotating mirror assembly. Essentially you get 12 LEDs focused into a 10 degree wide beam. It’s incredibly powerful and provides a true rotating pattern that has an extremely effective “snap” to it. It is unlike any other LED beacon on the market and really needs to be seen to be believed. Don’t like a moving part in your light? The SLR beacon has a 5 year warranty on the rotating mechanism as well as the LEDs.
If you are going to invest time and money in your equipment and your business, be properly protected. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get good lights. We have Class 1 LED beacons ranging from $130-$375 . Contact us for details.