Scene Lighting – What’s Right for Your Department?
By Peter Lauffenburger, Global Product Line Manager for Akron Brass
LED seems to be the latest buzz word when it comes to emergency scene lighting. There are some really good reasons to look at LEDs, but good old fashioned halogen technology may be all your department needs. Halogen scene lights are usually chosen because they are “good enough”, not because of their performance advantages. At the end of the day, you need to do what is right for your department. So how do you know what is right for your department?
There are a number of options to consider before making your decision. Consider the following:
- Color of light
- Amount of light required
- Typical area being illuminated
- Tolerance for maintenance
- Available power source
- Available funds
LED vs Halogen
Let’s take a closer look at each of these. First let’s look at the color of the light. There is quite a difference in light output between LED and halogen lights. LED lights typically have a much whiter light, whereas halogen lights have an output that is yellower in color. The color of the light is referred to as color temperature and measurement in units of kelvin. LED lights are typically anywhere from 4000 to 5500 Kelvin. The higher the number, the whiter or bluer the light appears. Halogen lights are typically around 3000 Kelvin and thus appear yellow in color. As a reference point, average daylight at noon is around 5000 Kelvin, so LEDs provide a light that is closer to average daylight than halogen lighting. This is a factor to consider when choosing your light.
Amount of Light
The second, and perhaps more important is the amount of light that is required. LEDs typically provide much more light for a given amount of power. Take a look at a typical 500 watt halogen light. These lights are rated for 10,500 lumens of light output. A typical LED light is between 150 and 220 watts and provides 15,000 to 20,000 lumens of light. If 500 watts of power are available on your vehicle for scene lighting, two LED scene lights can be used and will provide a total of 40,000 lumens. This is almost 4 times the light output of the single 500 watt halogen light. The amount of light output is an important factor in your decision. If you have an application that you do not need to light up a large area, halogen lighting may be adequate for your needs.
One of the other things to consider is the area being illuminated. When looking at this, evaluate where the light will be used and under what circumstances it will be needed. Both LED and halogen scene lights are available with flood and spot patterns. Both offer good flood patterns that will illuminate the overall scene as well as good spot patterns that will light up a smaller area at a farther distance. Halogen lights are only available in flood or spot and you will need to choose which one is better for your needs. Because LEDs are smaller and there are many of them in a light, it is possible to combine spot and flood patterns into one light. This is available with some LED light offerings and does have advantages. Figure out what your needs are in this area and decide if the advantages of flood and spot lighting combined are important to you and your department.
One of the big advantages of LED technology is the low maintenance. LEDs are typically rated for 50,000 hours of operational time. If they were on 24 hours a day, they could last for almost 6 years. Since typical operational time is far less than this, they could potentially last as long as your vehicle without requiring any maintenance. Halogen bulbs are just that, bulbs. They are subject to breaking like every other bulb and will need to be replaced. On the other hand, they are typically straightforward to replace and can be replaced quickly. The question that needs to be answered is this: how tolerant is your department for replacing broken bulbs? If you have people capable of doing this and can be without your scene lighting while repairs are made, then halogen lights may suit your department just fine. If up time is critical and you can’t stand to be without your scene lighting while a bulb is replaced, LED scene lighting should be considered.
As discussed earlier, LED and halogen scene lights consume different amounts of power. LEDs are more efficient and require less power. They are also available in both AC and DC voltages. Because of this, your available power sources need to be considered. You will need to know if you plan to operate these on battery voltage (DC) or if a generator (AC) is available. Your available power may guide you towards LED or halogen. Halogen lights are typically higher power and don’t offer good options for DC voltages. If a generator is going to be used and there is ample power available for the scene lighting, then halogen lights are probably fine. LED lights offer some good options for operation from a battery system and are also lower power. If you have a lot of equipment running off of your generator and not much extra space available, LEDs may be a better option.
Finally, the last factor to consider is your available funds. LEDs are typically 3-4 times more expensive than halogen scene lights, so they will put a dent in your pocketbook. If you are pinching pennies, halogen lights are going to be the best bet. If you have a little extra funding available, LEDs offer some significant performance and maintenance advantages and should be considered.
As you can see, there are some good reasons that “LED” is the latest buzz word and these reasons have people talking and in many cases switching. As with every decision however, there are many factors to consider before selecting the best scene light for your application. After taking a look at all of these factors, it is up to you to decide what technology is best for your department.
Recommended LED Scene Lighting
Akron Brass offers a wide selection of scene lighting options to meet your needs. Locate a distributor near you or contact a product expert for a demonstration.