For any emergency responder, law enforcement officer or anyone else utilizing emergency LED lights on a regular basis, the quality of these lights is of paramount importance for informing others of your presence and keeping the situation safe. For many in this position, understanding the precise makeup of their LED lights is valuable, and helps them grasp exactly how their lights are put together plus how to care for them more easily.
At LED Equipped, we’re proud to provide our clients with detailed specifications and information on how all of our products are made, from our LED light bars and mini light bars to dash lights, beacon lights and numerous other options we offer. We know that a quality LED light bar can make the difference between safety and unnecessary risk, and we only utilize materials built to stand the test of time.
Focusing in on our LED light bars specifically, what are the common components typically found in these and others on the market? Here’s a full primer to help you learn more about the inner workings of some of your most important tools.
Housing and Basic Construction
First and foremost, emergency LED light bars must be housed in proper materials to ensure their components are protected. This housing will offer protection against water, dust, debris and other elements that could cause damage to the inner components of the light bar.
Generally speaking, there are two material options available for modern LED light bar housing:
- Aluminum: Likely the top choice for LED light bar housing is aluminum, which has the benefit of being lightweight without sacrificing strength. Aluminum is both rust resistant and corrosion resistant, ensuring that your LED light bar will stand up to almost any atmospheric conditions you may be dealing with throughout the course of your day. It’s also very easy to clean and maintain, and yields a sleek, modern aesthetic. Finally, aluminum is both odorless and non-toxic, meaning it’s safe to use in any setting and has plenty of folded tensile strength. It’s even ideal for hot days, serving as a heatsink that will limit the temperature from getting too high within your lights.
- Polycarbonate: The other main option here is polycarbonate, which refers to a wide class of thermoplastic materials with similar qualities. In fact, these light bars are actually made from high density polycarbonate, a variation also referred to as “Lexan,” which was the first material for this type. This offers excellent impact resistance while being durable and lightweight, plus offers transparency you typically can’t get from aluminum housings. Thin diffusion lenses found in these lights also allow for fantastic clarity, making it easy to read signage or other text. One tip for polycarbonate housings: They’re often supplemented with felt material that will further protect the elements within.
Next up within your LED light bar is the actual light lens that’s being used within the housing. Once again, there are two major types used today:
- TIR lens: Short for “total internal reflector,” TIR lenses create a direct beam where 100% of LED light is sent. They’re often used for spotlighting and other situations where a thin, concentrated beam of light is preferred. The TIR lens has been around since the mid-90s, and has since been adopted by numerous police departments and other public safety agencies. They’re perfect for everything from shining a light on a suspect or situation to directing traffic.
- Linear lens: For many other situations, the linear lens will be the ideal choice. This lens option allows the light source to remove “hot spots” from the light output, creating a smooth and widely dispersed beam. This offers a flat cutoff up to around 20 degrees, eliminating the glare that might otherwise be produced when shining your light on an object or person directly. These lenses are frequently used for lighting up wide areas in various settings, plus they’re popular options for many driving lights. However, because their spread is so wide, they do not have the concentrated power you’ll find from TIR lenses, and aren’t quite as powerful.
In many situations, first responders and other emergency staff will purchase a combination of both TIR and linear lenses. This allows them to have the ability to cover every situation more effectively, giving them the option to customize their lights for whatever they need on that given day or night.
Circuit Board Wiring
Also vital within your LED light bars will be the circuit board, which will usually be connected directly to the light bar itself. LED circuits are typically linear, applying a regulated current to the light directly. The efficiency of this lighting method is extremely high, at more than 90%, which makes for an effective lighting solution that will use less energy and produce fewer heat concerns.
These boards may also be used in conjunction with thermal paste between them and the LED lights, which serves as a conduit for faster dissipation of heat. This can directly affect the life of your LED lights, which is why it’s important to make sure you’re applying enough paste between them and their circuit boards for better heat management.
In addition, circuit boards provide an excellent opportunity for qualitative testing. There are simple methods to determine whether connections are tight enough, plus whether any issues like burned-out diodes or incorrect voltages are present — issues that may allow you to submit a warranty claim with your light manufacturer if there’s a problem. Even limited knowledge of your circuit board will allow you to perform this testing, plus perhaps even perform minor repairs in some cases.
Light Bar Mount Options
Finally, the mount components chosen for any given emergency LED light bar set up are vital in multiple ways. They dictate the way your lights will be viewed from a distance — will civilians be able to quickly determine your position? What about the area that you’ll be covering, and what sort of materials are being used up top? Will they be durable enough for regular usage?
As with all other parts within your LED light bars, there are numerous mount components out there. Some of the most common include:
- Hard mounts: Hard mounts refer to protected bracket clamps, plus various mount brackets and internal mounts that will be either clamped, screwed or hooked onto the platform. Hard mounts are some of the most stable available, but even they don’t offer a 100 percent guarantee of complete safety. For this reason, many have begun to adopt the three-piece clamp system for their LED lights. This uses two brackets and one steel support bar for a super-stable foundation that doesn’t exist in a single point on your vehicle — making it more secure than other options, and a smart choice for anyone involved in tactical operations. Once these mounts are secured, it’s very difficult for anyone to remove the bar from your vehicle without specific tools and plenty of time, meaning they won’t be at risk of theft or burglary.
- Magnetic mounts: Magnetic mounts, as their name indicates, will use magnets to secure your LED light bar in place. These can be attached directly to the steel body of your car, and also include an adhesive metal plate for other outside surfaces. Once these mounts are in place, you may easily attach or detach them from either surface without any trouble at all. These mount options are commonly found in situations where responders need portable lights or more flexibility in their positioning. If lights are only used infrequently, for instance, it may not make sense to mount them entirely using a hard mount, and utilizing a more portable magnetic setup might be the ideal method for you.
For more on the various important components found on emergency LED light bars, or to learn about any of our emergency lights, flood work lights or other products, contact the pros at LED Equipped today.