Shed Light on Lighting Requirements

Match lighting to both the application and the equipment to optimize performance.

A complete lighting system, such as this one from Airstar, offers an alternative when you need to illuminate larger areas.
A complete lighting system, such as this one from Airstar, offers an alternative when you need to illuminate larger areas.

For any contractor who works after dark, auxiliary lighting can increase safety and productivity. But the best results require a little research. There is a wide variety of lighting products on the market that offer varying degrees of illumination.

Consider the case of spotlights. "To get the illumination you want may [require] a bit of trial and error," says Chuck Bunstock, Golight Inc. "To compare lights' performance without testing them side by side can be difficult since there are no standards in place for evaluating light output. That should change in the near future. Recently, a group of flashlight and spotlight manufacturers have joined together to develop ANSI standards that the consumer can use to compare light performance."

The difficulty in comparing auxiliary lights is partially due to the number of variables that affect performance. This includes the design of the reflector, as well as the brightness and efficiency of the bulb. But you must be careful not to confuse the wattage of the light with the light intensity produced. Different light sources may have the same power requirements but not produce the same light output.

Understand lighting requirements
With any auxiliary lighting, you must ensure that the electrical system is up to the task. Consider that wattage is actually a measure of current draw, while amperage is the rate that electricity flows through a wire. The standard equation relating wattage and amperage is: wattage = voltage x amperage. This means a light that draws 5 amps in a 12-volt system has 60 watts.

For example, the Golight auxiliary lamp needs power for both the positioning motor and the lamp. "That maximum amp draw for one Golight is 5.5 amps with the lamp running and motor operating," says Bunstock.

Vibration is also an issue when mounting lights directly to the equipment. Again, some auxiliary lights are better suited to the rigors of the off-road environment. "Golight has had an independent lab run tests regarding vibration, among other things," says Bunstock. "The lab ran an SAE J1383 and the light passed."

A little extra time spent properly mounting and wiring auxiliary lights can eliminate a lot of frustration. "Manufacturer instructions should be followed when mounting lights," says Bunstock. "A flat surface that conforms to the flat base is important when mounting Golight spotlights. Lights should be mounted in an area where they will not be damaged by moving parts of the vehicle or by external objects. Golight manufactures a clear security dome that will fit over the Golight and Radio Ray models for added protection."

Ensure sufficient power
For more demanding applications, you may need a complete lighting system. "We are a complete light source vs. auxiliary light," notes John Wessels, Airstar. "One Airstar is enough to light the work area. A single 2K unit will illuminate 15,000 sq. ft., and the 4K version will light 32,000 sq. ft."

But these systems demand higher electrical output. "Know the limitation of the piece of equipment," says Wessels. "If you are using onboard power, know exactly how much power you have to work with. For safety measures, figure 80% of what is available can be used. If you have 1,000 watts, then you have 800 watts of power available. If equipment does not have power through the hydraulic system or additional onboard power, we recommend a generator be mounted to the equipment."

The total amperage draw really depends on the light and the amount of coverage. "At max illumination, the Sirocco 2K needs 20 amps, but the lamps are interchangeable so a customer can go from 100 up to 2,000 watts just by changing the lamp," explains Wessels. "If they only had enough power for 1K, then they could put two 500-watt lamps in our unit instead of two 1,000-watt lamps. Our 4K needs two 20 amp circuits and 5K worth of power."

Airstar offers a solution for high-output lighting requirements. "We are currently working with several paver manufacturers who are offering their units with our lights," says Wessels. "These companies are setting up separate power (20 amp and 2,500 watts) per light to ensure proper electrical requirements."

Again, vibration resistance is important with any lighting system used on off-highway equipment. "The Sirocco 2K... and the 4K halogen systems were designed to mount to moving equipment," says Wessels. "The lamps and lighting harness are spring loaded and suspended from a protective grid in the middle of the lights. On that rare occasion that vibration exceeds the norm, we have available a vibratory roller box that the mounting pole fits into for additional support. This would be used if doing work in rough terrain. Our system is also equipped with two lamps to ensure continued use if one lamp is damaged."