Bright future for tractor lighting

HID, which stands for high-intensity discharge, is the gold standard in automotive lighting. The bulbs, which are filled with Xenon gas, are as much as four times brighter and last up to 10 times longer than conventional halogen bulbs do. Recently, HID lights have gained popularity as a premium option on tractors, machinery and indoor lighting as well.

For farmers, the most noticeable difference with the lights is a wider, brighter beam that illuminates a larger work area without drawing any more power than a conventional light. “These exceptional lights offer near-daylight color impressions that provide tremendous illumination,” says Andy Anderson, senior parts marketing representative at John Deere. “Obstacles and potential problem spots in fields are more visible and easier to recognize.”

Tractor upgrade

HID lights come standard or as a premium option on many new tractors. A farmer looking to upgrade his old tractor's headlamps or rear-facing work lights will have to go through a machinery dealer to get compatible HID lamps. Ag machinery companies and dealers buy the lamps through companies such as United Group, a major OEM supplier of HID lighting. United lists AGCO, Caterpillar, CNH Global, Franklin Equipment and John Deere among its major ag customers. Farmers can't buy direct from United Group, but anyone can access the company's Web site, www.unitedgroupcommerce.com. It has a technical specs page for COBO-brand HID lighting.

The next big thing — LEDs

Ask any grain trailer salesperson what's new in lighting and you'll probably hear about red-colored light-emitting diode (LED) safety lights. Gaining in popularity since the late 1990s, these highly efficient lights produce virtually no heat. That saves energy, allowing truckers to put more lights on a trailer without needing to upgrade the electrical system. You've probably seen red LEDs in lighted displays for electronic instruments such as calculators. Basically, an LED is a microchip that produces light. But in the electronics world, red LEDs are old news. High-tech semiconductor companies, such as Kopin (www.kopin.com) and Cree (www.cree.com), have come up with blue LEDs for use in electronic gizmos.

Blue LEDs have already turned up in automobile dashboards and mobile phone displays. What's the big deal with blue? For one thing, consumers seem to think blue looks cool. But as companies increase the number of LED colors, it appears likely that they'll be able to economically produce bright, white LEDs as well. When that happens, possibly in five to ten years, we'll see another lighting revolution for vehicle headlights as well as indoor lighting.

LED technology could produce lightbulbs that last for years and consume less than half the energy of conventional lighting. The federal government, which sees LED technology as a conservation initiative, has allocated $50 million a year through 2011 for research on what it calls “next generation lighting.” So we'll just have to wait for LED headlights.

In the meantime, you'll have no problem finding discounts on HID lights for your car or truck. HID lamps are common fare at most auto parts stores. And if you don't mind buying online to save a few bucks, you can log on to a distributor such as www.buytruckstuff.com.

HID lamps also work well for workplace and building lighting. Options include deluxe phosphor-coated lamps for better color rendering, self-extinguishing Saf-T-Gard lamps, and EZ-Merc self-ballasted lamps that can be retrofitted into incandescent sockets. You can find a list of stores that carry these lamps at www.gelighting.com - Wayne Wenzel

Bright idea

The Bil-lite S.U.L (sport utility light) is small enough to clip to the bill of your seed corn cap, and it's so lightweight that you'll barely notice it.

The unit's white light-emitting diode (LED) is powered by two 3v lithium batteries (included). The light mounts to a sturdy clip via a pivot that allows for a 360∞ rotation. There's no bulb to burn out, and it is nearly as bright as a Mini Mag light.

The big difference, thanks to the efficient LED, is that the Bil-lite will stay lit for three days of continuous use before you need to change the batteries. It will get dimmer over time, but at 48 hours, you'll still be able to read or replace a broken cotter pin after dark.

This useful advance in lighting technology was honored with a Best New Product Award at the 2002 National Hardware Show in Chicago.

Price: $19.95. Contact Q Lighting Inc., Dept. FIN, 750 Enterprise Dr., Lexington, KY 40510, 800/513-2256, visit www.bil-lite.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.