Red, Blue and Inescapable

LEDs are proving to be the bright spot in lightbar innovation

The department decided to go this route for a number of reasons, according to Newbury. One of the most important is that these bars are much less demanding on the starting and charging system of the vehicle.

"Without question, the lighting systems were the biggest draw on our vehicles' electrical systems," he says. "Dealing with the increasing demand on the electrical system was, and is, a continuing problem that all agencies struggle with. The LED lightbars offer a huge advantage because they have very little amperage draw in comparison to rotating or strobe lighting."

It also was felt that LED bars produced brighter, crisper lighting - an important safety consideration - and were more durable.

The department replaced its rotating lightbars via the typical replacement cycle - purchasing an LED bar with every new vehicle ordered since 2002.

"It's been a significant investment," he says, "but one we feel was necessary."

He advises agencies looking into these bars to develop a good rapport with the manufacturer's rep.

"I talk to a lot of local agencies that just call a local vendor when they need a lightbar and oftentimes they get talked into equipment that does not meet their needs," Newbury explains. "You need to take advantage of the knowledge, expertise and service these manufacturer's reps can provide." (See "What to consider" on Page 72 for additional tips on product selection.)

Although these bars may be beyond the reach of some agencies budget-wise, (however, the energy savings, durability and longevity offset the costs, manufacturers point out) the good news is as more 1-watt diode manufacturers enter the arena, the costs will go down, says Berke.

"A few years ago there was only one company that made 1-watt diodes; today there are as many as a dozen," he says. "Over the next 10 to 20 years, LEDs will be used everywhere and will replace incandescent sodium vapor and most other kinds of lamps. It will happen as higher-powered diodes are developed."

Sources of LED lightbars
A variety of manufacturers offer lightbars featuring LED technology. Following are several options when looking to implement LED bars.

911EP Inc.'s Galaxy Series lightbars (the Galaxy and the Galaxy Elite) have a patented, modular design and provide vehicles with 360-degree warning lights.

Charles Ricci, general manager of the Jacksonville, Florida-based company, explains that each component works in a "plug-and-play manner," which allows for more than 2 billion possible flash combinations.

"We use the Lumileds - Luxeon 1-watt and 3-watt emitters," Ricci says. "In addition, the Galaxy Elites can quickly take advantage of new LED advancements. For example, takedowns have traditionally used halogen lamps. We now have white LEDs that perform better, both in color rendering and depth perception. In current draw, they are more than seven times more efficient."

Measuring 1 5/8 inches, the Galaxy Series design is low profile, reducing drag and wind noise (a benefit when it comes to protecting against hearing loss, says Ricci) and increasing the stealth factor of the vehicle. The bars also offer the ability to reprogram and change flash patterns as agency needs require.

"All of these features and benefits are for the safety and security of the law enforcement officer," Ricci says. "We want the lightbars to be clearly seen by oncoming motorists, targeted vehicles in pursuit or simply clearly marked at intersections."

Federal Signal Corp.'s ROC (Reliable Onboard Circuitry) and Solaris LED reflector technology figure prominently in the Arjent S2 and Legend LED lightbars, according to Rick Arlen, product manager for Arjent S2.

"ROC technology eliminates 85 percent of the connections found in a typical lightbar assembly," explains Arlen. "Wires, connections and assemblies have been replaced by multiple PCB assemblies - reducing repair time and, therefore, increasing the hours the vehicles stay on the road."

The Solaris S2 LED reflector assemblies optimize light output for greatest coverage - even at 90-degree, off-axis angles, warning signals are maximized.

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