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LED Warning Strobe Lights Shine Brighter, Use Less Power


Grote Amber Strobe

Amber Strobe    Enlarge Photo

December 26, 2018 - Flashing strobe lights capture attention to warn of a potentially hazardous activity or situation.  

Now, LED hazard and warning lights offer low electrical consumption and long life that can far exceed traditional halogen or gas-discharge options, says Grote Industries, a manufacturer of vehicle lighting and safety systems that is headquartered in Madison, Indiana, and has offered warning strobe lights for more than 20 years.   

Making this choice more attractive is the dropping price of LED technology, which is making brighter Class 1 lights available for a minimal price differential over Class 2 lights. 

“Today, the entire hazard and warning light industry is undergoing a significant sea change – namely, the industry’s shift to LED technology,” says Chris Cammack of Grote. 

“The reason for this migration comes down to three factors: energy efficiency, longer service life, and brightness,” adds Cammack.  “LEDs consume less power than any other lighting technology on the market and are powered by low voltage, allowing for minimal draw of electrical current from the vehicle’s battery.” 

By contrast, halogen lights draw an excessive amount of current, which can eventually lead to draining the vehicle’s battery.  In addition, they are known for poor energy efficiency, with halogen lights losing as much as 95% of their energy to heat. 

Gas-discharge strobe lights are equally inefficient. However, unlike halogen lights it is not due to excessive current draw, but instead the intense and concentrated heat generated by the strobe, which can significantly shorten the life of the flash tube. 

LEDs consume only 25%-35% as much power as gas-discharge and halogen strobe lights. As a result, LED strobe lights live 10 times as long—often 70,000 hours or more. 

LED quality has also continued to improve. In the early days of LEDs, they were not bright enough to meet SAE requirements for luminous intensity of hazard and warning lights, measured in candelas.  However, technology has advanced and LEDs are now as bright – if not brighter – than the average strobe or halogen light. 

“LEDs today are much brighter,” says Cammack.  “Today, they are more than bright enough to meet the SAE standard for candela over 100’.” 

Another barrier to early adoption was the initial price, another aspect that has dramatically changed in the past decade, says Cammack. 

“The cost to upgrade to LED strobe lights was prohibitive, at least initially,” explains Cammack.  “Fortunately, the prices have come down significantly in the past 10 years, and now they are about the same.” 

Cammack believes LED models will soon become less expensive as fewer manufacturers make models with outdated technology.  Companies like Grote have phased out other technologies in favor of LED only. 

“Fewer companies are manufacturing gas-discharged strobe warning lights, so the price of those units is actually going up,” says Cammack.  “In a couple of years, it will cost more for a gas-discharge or halogen strobe.” 

Grote offers Class 1-3 permanent, vacuum, and magnetically mounted beacon lights in both regular and high profiles and myriad strobe patterns. Most of the company’s LED offerings only draw 0.4 – 0.35 amps at 12 VDC.

The company also offers LED directional surface-mount strobes in 3, 6 and 12 diode options that feature 12 different selectable flash patterns in either of two phases, including “steady-on.”  These too, require only about 0.1 amp per diode. 

Cammack adds that it is important to be careful when purchasing inexpensive, imported LED products.  Although they may cost less initially, some overseas suppliers use lower quality LED components.

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