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New! Whelen's LED Spotlight

If there is one piece of equipment that almost all police vehicles have in common, it is the ubiquitous Unity spotlight. Unity Manufacturing Co. has provided spotlights for police vehicles since 1960. Every police sedan I have ever driven or worked on has been equipped with a Unity post-mounted spotlight. Motorists around the nation recognize its unique profile and brake accordingly.

Whelen Engineering Company, another veteran manufacturer of police lighting, recently introduced a Super-LED® PAR-46 insert for Unity’s spotlights. This drop-in unit replaces the original bulb and reflector assembly. LED technology had taken over the emergency warning industry in every other application, and its use in a post-mounted spotlight was inevitable. The current generation of LEDs offers the intensity and throw needed to take on scene lighting duties, and in most cases they meet or exceed halogen light performance.

In the case of the post-mounted spotlight, Whelen’s Super-LED replacement had some pretty big shoes to fill. Unity’s modern halogen spotlights produce 245,000 candlepower and project a very useful beam. Officers nationwide rely on them every day. Against this tough benchmark, and after evaluating it for more than 90 days, Whelen has produced one of its best LED products to date. Simply put, the Super-LED PAR-46 replacement offers incredible performance.

According to Whelen, the Super-LED PAR-46 lamp produces 2,000 lumens, which is double the measured light output of the halogen lamp. It operates at only 30 watts of power instead of 50 watts, allowing for less than one-third the amp draw of the halogen lamp (2.3 versus 7.5 amps).

The LED lamp has nine high-output emitters and is expected to provide 50,000 hours of use, far exceeding the 100-hour life of a halogen bulb. The unit is water resistant, rugged, and reverse polarity and vibration protected. The hard-coated polycarbonate lens is replaceable should it become damaged, clouded or yellowed with time.

Installation: Whelen states the swap should take “minutes,” and in my case, it took about 10. First, remove power from the spotlight by pulling the fuse or unplugging the handle’s power wire. Next, remove the small button-head hex screw on the bottom of the Unity spotlight’s bezel, and twist the bezel slightly to unlock it. Remove the lamp and reflector assembly using care not to drop and lose the foam spacers behind it. Wire the Super-LED replacement according to instructions, and put it all back together. Watch out for the spacers, and do not over-tighten the screw.

The Super-LED PAR-46 produced a focused, bright white beam with an intense hot spot and generous corona. Using a laser rangefinder to measure distance, I found the Super-LED spotlight easily illuminated a person at 700 feet with enough light to cause him to shield his eyes and allow me to determine if he had a weapon in his hands.

At 1,200 feet, I was easily able to identify vehicle color, make and model. At 1,500 feet, I could illuminate an entire house and see people moving around outside.

I found I preferred the new Super-LED lamp over the halogen version. The beam is more precise, evenly sized and brighter, adding up to a true spotlight effect. I even found it cut through window tint better than the halogen version. On nighttime traffic stops, the Super-LED lamp’s output flooded the violator vehicle with light but was precise enough to not interfere with oncoming motorists’ vision. It also produced less glare and spillback, helping prevent wash-out on video recordings.

Whelen’s list price (MSRP) for the Super-LED PAR-46 replacement lamp is $249, but agency pricing through authorized Whelen dealers should be significantly less. While a fleet-wide conversion may be a tough budget sell, the performance difference alone is enough to warrant consideration. Add in reduced maintenance costs and the 50,000-hour lifecycle—you will never have to replace it—to see the real value.

Matthew Ayers is the owner of Command & Control Installations in Sevierville, Tenn. He is currently a lieutenant with the Sevierville Police Department and a frequent contributor. He may be reached at

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jan/Feb 2011

Rating : 10.0

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Pro and cons

Posted on : Feb 11 at 11:16 PM By Gustavo

Please the pro and cons, of each one. Whelen vs Unity 335


Posted on : Mar 15 at 1:13 PM By Dan Meister

How does this light work in penetrating through fog and smoke? Most LED flashlights cast a wider beam and cant penetrate through fog and smoke like incandescent bulbs do.

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