The 6 types of LED Emergency Vehicle Lights
When it comes to buying emergency vehicle lights there are plenty to of things to consider. From the type of light you need (light bars, dash lights, deck lights, visor lights, traffic advisors, etc.) to the type of optics, colors and flash patterns and more.
We created this guide in order to help you better understand exactly what you need to know in order to help you figure out what sort of emergency lights you need.
Before we get into the 6 types of emergency light options you have, we'll first outline some basic terminology.
Light Bar Installation & Optics:
We have a more detailed installation and maintenance guide available on our blog. But there are some other important things to note about the emergency vehicle lighting options. Some light models come with cigarette lighter power plugins; others have control boxes that are hardwired in. You’ll also want to ensure the lights come with proper mounting brackets. You’ll have the option between permanent mounting brackets or suction-cup mounts for easy on/off application.
You can also pick solid or split color combinations on your emergency vehicle lights with the most popular options including red, blue, white, amber, and green. There are 15 or 30 flash pattern options that all come standard with pattern memory.
Some of the most important safety features associated with LED lights are options such as; optics, flash patterns, takedown & alley add-ons, stop-turn-tail modules and traffic advisory. In order to better understand which type of optics and add-ons you’ll need, we’ll explain each term in more detail below.
TIR vs Linear Optics:
Before we outline the difference between the 2 types of optics, you’ll want to consider some of the follow questions when buying your lights:
- What are you going to try and do with the lights?
- In what ways will you be using it?
- Where are you thinking of mounting them?
- Do you need a tight, spot beam of light in one exact direction, or a warning light that spreads light everywhere (i.e. a snow plow)
The TIR – “Total Internal Reflector” optic was the first type of emergency vehicle lighting optic developed back in the mid 1990’s. A TIR light works a lot like a flashlight, as the internal reflector captures scattered light and focuses it forward. As a result, a round, narrow output is projected that lasts for great distances.
You’ll notice on emergency lights with TIR lenses that they’re ridges along the lenses. These ridges work to help throw the light across a wider area since the TIR optic is designed to project a round narrow output of light. These ridges work to an extent, but for this reason, you’ll also want to include other types of optics in your set up in order to get more angle lighting.
As a result, TIR optics highest and best use comes in the application of completely forward or rear facing light only. For example, a construction truck parked on the side of the road may want to use a TIR dash light as and rear facing surface mounts. In this case, the driver would expect all traffic coming straight on, and none coming from the sides so the TIR optics work perfectly.
However, let’s say you have a service vehicle parked at an angle on the road; the driver would want off-angle lighting options, which is where liner optics comes in.
Emergency vehicles using linear optics will be seen from almost any direction. The linear optic lights are designed to have all LEDs surrounding an optical reflector. The reflector will then capture the light from all the LEDs in a unit at the same time, creating a brighter and wider light spread.
Linear optic emergency vehicle lights work extremely well for emergency vehicles that work around intersections and parking lots, thus need to be seen from all angles.
The only downside to linear optic emergency lights is the fact that they tend to use more power. This means that a TIR emergency light will be brighter than a linear emergency light with the same number of leds and wattage.
Some other terms to consider when purchasing led emergency vehicle lights:
Takedown and alley lighting:
You’ll see the term takedown lighting or alley lighting as an add-on option when browsing emergency vehicle lights. What this means is “bright [emergency] lights directed at a person while shadowing the cruiser occupants. Meaning that the light will include a feature that helps shine/focus the light on the target almost like a scope, generally used for police lights.
Stop-Tail Turn modules: Stop Tail Turn Lights combine all three stop, tail and turn functions into one led light. This is very beneficial if you plan on using the lights on public roadways.
The following outlines the most popular types of emergency lights, their uses and what to look for while shopping around.
#1. Mini Light Bars vs. Full Size Light Bars
Depending on your needs, there are two general size categories for emergency light bars - mini light bars (18 inch - 27 inch) and full size light bars (30 inch - 63 inch).
Mini light bars are obviously smaller but they tend to have their advantages, like the fact that they are much easier to install, and generally a more affordable alternative to the full-size LED light bars. A mini light bar will still be able turn the top of your vehicle into an absolute beacon of brightness that cautions traffic and pedestrians from miles away.
Sometimes there’s just no need to install a full size light bar, as you’ll still get plenty of light with a mini emergency light bar. They work perfect for construction workers, public safety, tow truck operators, police officers, volunteer firefighters and more.
Full-size light bars on the other hand are great for large trucks and other types of service vehicles, helping to increase visibility not only for you but also for others. Most full size light bars are built with sleek aerodynamic designs to help maintain efficient airflow and minimal drag on the vehicle. These types of emergency light bars are widely used for police light bars and tow truck light bars.
#2. Undercover Visor Lights
The undercover visor lights are one of the most popular types of emergency and police lights for undercover and volunteer emergency responders. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars and having to install a permanent full size light bar on your roof, you can take advantage of the stealthy, undercover visor light options. These types of lights are the perfect cop light option.
Not only do led visor lights have intense output with multiple flash options, but they also cannot be seen. The big thing people like about them is their ease of installation. They’ll come with simple mounts that allow the lights to fit perfectly flush up to your windshield or directly in your sun-visor. Then you simply plug them into the cigarette light and you’ll be ready to light up the night.
#3. LED Deck/Dash Lights
Not every emergency lighting situation calls for an exterior light bar. There are lots of situations where interior LED warning lights are a much more practical and cost effective solution. Although they are much smaller light, they still boast sleek, low profile housing, 3-watt leds creating powerful output that can last upwards of 100,000 hours.
Dash lights are generally extremely compact and easy to install, since you simply just plug in and switch on. The high-grade suction cups make the install super easy and the cigarette power adapter makes them plug and play.
Dash and Deck Lights can either be permanently installed or left with just the suction cups for easy in/out applications.
Dash lights work great for police, firefighters, security, service trucks, and highway construction and service vehicles.
#4. LED Hideaway Lights
LED hideaway lights have become a popular alternative to old fashioned led strobes. Since they use high powered leds and innovative inline flashers, heatsinks and rounded lenses, they are able to create a massive amount of light output for such a small, hidden light. Hideaways work great for undercover cars since the lights are completely hidden when not in use.
They generally come with rapid flashing strobe patterns that can be seen from miles away, even in the daytime. Lots of people underestimate the amount of light output hideaways are able to produce so don’t worry about having “enough” light.
You’ll notice first responders and service vehicle owners will install hideaways in their headlights and tail lights in order to turn them into extremely bright strobe lights.
Check out this video of come hideaways in action (Skip to 21:25 mark to see in action):
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LED Hideaways are perfect for undercover law enforcement officers, first responders, and construction vehicles in need of proper strobe lighting.
#5. Grill & Surface Mount LED Emergency Lights
These are the absolute most versatile option when it comes to LED emergency vehicle lighting. Surface mounted lights operate with high-powered LEDs that are self-contained and capable of being mounted anywhere inside or outside of your vehicle.
You have plenty of options when it comes to type of optics (TIR/Linear) as well as mounting spots and brackets. All the new grille and surface mount lights come with flashers included and ready to install right out of the box. They are not only sealed tight, but are also capable of light synchronization, meaning you will get a much more effective light output while also maintaining the vehicles aesthetics. Look for lights that are built with heavy-duty housings made of aluminum and polycarbonate as polycarbonate lenses can take an absolute beating without cracking or shattering, even when installed on running boards.
Grille lights are perfect for close range lighting needs and a high-up surface mounted light works perfect for long range lighting needs. This is what makes led grille and surface mount lights so awesome, the fact that you can customize your light set up and ensure you have warning lights coming from all necessary positions. They by far offer the most versatility and visibility when it comes to emergency lighting options. These rugged little lights are best used in pairs and mounted on any flat surface of your vehicle.
LED grille and surface mount lights are becoming increasingly more popular in the emergency light world. And we highly recommend them if you need to improve your vehicle’s visibility at night but yet need something that is affordable and still long-lasting.
#6. LED Traffic Advisors:
Traffic advisors are a type of emergency vehicle light bars that flash in a directional manner to instruct traffic on how to act/where to go and which way to move (move right/move left/etc.). You’ll see them on construction vehicles when working on the side of the road, instructing drivers to move in a specific direction around the site.
You’ll find traffic advisors range in size from 5 to 38 inches, with Amber being the most popular warning light color. Each advisor will have multiple flash patterns including left-to-right, right-to-left, and center-out patterns. Traffic advisors all range in light output from 16 to 48 watts, projected through your choise of TIR or linear lenses.
Their lightweight aluminum frame makes it extremely easy to install anywhere on or around your vehicle. They’re also completely sealed and waterproof, so no worrying when it comes to poor weather.
There is simply no other emergency light solution that gives motorists so much direction when it comes to instructing them to follow a specific traffic pattern. LED Traffic Advisor Light Bars are the perfect solution for everything from your personal work vehicle, utility vehicle, or even on first responder vehicles as a way to not only enhance your safety, but also motorists.
Chameleon (Dual Color) Series Traffic Advisors:
The Chameleon series traffic advisors simply means “dual color”. The chameleon series bars come with red, white, and amber lighting options. Amber is widely understood as “traffic warning”, while red and blue are generally known as “emergency.” The beauty about the Chameleon series is that you can easily switch between the colors with the flick of a button, allowing you to get two uses out of one light bar.
The chameleon series (dual color) traffic advisors are perfect for police, EMS, fire, construction, or towing vehicles.
LED Strobe Beacons
Probably one of the oldest forms of emergency lighting is the strobe beacon. It not only provides a full 360-degree lighting solution but they come in a variety of styles and sizes.
They are generally known to be round and either mid or low profile in height and you’ll have the option of either rotating or flashing light patterns. LED beacons are the perfect solution for police, fire, and rescue vehicles, as well as for tow trucks, snowplows, or warehouse forklifts
That pretty much sums up the 6 main types of warning lights you’ll find on the market today. If you have any questions at all, feel free to contact us.
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