Altitude Signal: Availed Technologies’ Trusted Distributor Partner

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Altitude Signal LLC, a distributor of advanced traffic signal and ITS products and trusted Availed Technologies partner, to discuss the rapidly growing RRFB industry.

Altitude Signal has been at the forefront of helping public agencies deploy next-generation intelligent transportation systems across the Mountain West region. Their focus on partnering with companies driving industry advancements allows them to deliver cutting-edge ITS solutions to signal shops and engineering departments.

In this Q&A, we’ll delve into Altitude Signal’s insights on the recent advancements in RRFB technology, and their experiences with the AV-400 RRFB.


Q: Can you tell us about Altitude Signal and how it has established itself as a trusted partner in the traffic control industry?

A: Altitude Signal is a local distributor of ITS products based out of offices in Nevada and Colorado. Altitude was founded in 2018 by Alec Meyerhoff, a second-generation traffic signal specialist who had grown up around the industry his whole childhood. After the company’s founding, Alec hired some of the most trusted professionals in our industry and together our team has grown Altitude into one of the top ITS distributors in the western US.

Providing excellent product support was one of Altitude Signal’s founding principles. We regularly provide onsite installation assistance when our products are being deployed and we stand behind products through the life of the systems. In addition to having a signal technician dedicated to field service calls, every one of Altitude’s sales professionals is IMSA Level 2 Field-certified and are not afraid of getting their hands dirty. Our customers have found the level of support our team provides to be unparalleled, which has made us a trusted partner for public agencies around our region.

Dedicated to a great customer experience, we stay local to our favorite place: the Mountain West. From the Sierras to the Rockies, we live, work, and play in the mountains, keeping our operations specialized to Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.

Q: Can you tell us about the products that Altitude Signal represents?

A:  A large part of Altitude’s recent success continues to be because of our partnerships with some of the best product manufacturers in the industry. By partnering with companies that continue to increase functionality, simplicity, and reliability, our organization has been able to grow substantially in recent years.

Along with Availed Technologies, Altitude also partners with leading brands such as GRIDSMART detection systems; Trafficware cabinets controllers and software systems; and EtherWAN networking equipment.

Q: How has the RRFB industry changed in recent years?

A: Dramatic improvements in solar efficiency have lowered costs for solar systems making solar the de-facto standard for pedestrian warning systems.

Altitude Signal is proud to represent Availed Technologies as they recognized these changes early on and specialized in providing a simple solar-powered RRFB system which is the most energy-efficient and easiest-to-install on the market.

Q: Where do you see the industry going in the coming years?

A: The effectiveness and relative low cost of solar RRFB systems have allowed agencies to improve upon their vision-zero goals. By seeing the success of cities going “all-in” on RRFBs, we expect federal, state and local funding of ped safety to continue increasing.

Additionally, we see public demand continuing to increase – as more RRFBs are installed, walkers, runners, and cyclists have come to expect warning systems at midblock crossings and increasingly at roundabouts. We believe that expectations of non-motorized road users will continue to encourage public officials to increase RRFB deployments.

This mass deployment of RRFBs has been very beneficial to industry as well as to the public as roadways become more pedestrian-friendly. We expect this to continue, if not escalate further in the coming years.

Q: What changes are you seeing in the use of RRFBs?

A: The mass adoption of solar-powered RRFB systems has been remarkable and the demand curve seems to still be increasing. The City of Westminster, Colorado recently ordered 20+ Availed RRFB systems and are currently in the middle of installation. Many agencies and contractors in the Denver metro have been impressed with the Availed RRFB-400’s power efficiency and ease of installation and our growth has been remarkable.

Our whole team at Altitude is very proud to have Availed Technologies as a partner and look forward to continued use of their product in all our states.


To sum up, Altitude Signal is a strategic ally and knowledgeable distributor partner for Availed Technologies. Their unwavering commitment to customer service and expert field support makes them an indispensable asset for traffic agencies in the Mountain West region.

As the prevalence of RRFBs continues to grow in the industry, Altitude Signal, backed by Availed’s cutting-edge tools and expertise, is exceptionally well-prepared to cater to the rising demand for pedestrian safety solutions.

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Availed AV-400 RRFB Now Approved for Use in Georgia Transportation Projects

We are thrilled to announce that the Availed AV-400 Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon has been listed as a qualified product on the Georgia Department of Transportation (Georgia DOT) Qualified Products List (QPL 48) for Traffic Signal & ITS Equipment. This is a major achievement, and we are excited to share this news with our customers and partners.


What is a QPL and Why is it Important?

QPL stands for Qualified Products List. It is a list of products that have been evaluated and approved by a particular agency or organization for use in a specific project or application. 


The purpose of the QPL is to ensure that only high-quality products that meet certain performance and safety standards are used for a particular project, and to streamline the procurement process by pre-qualifying products that meet the required specifications. 


In the context of transportation projects, QPLs are commonly used by government agencies to identify and pre-approve products that can be used for road construction, maintenance, and other related projects. This is particularly important for electronic  traffic signal and ITS equipment projects, where safety and reliability are critical factors.


Overview of the Georgia DOT Product Approval System

The Georgia Department of Transportation (Georgia DOT) has established a comprehensive approval system to ensure that products used in transportation projects meet the required performance and safety standards. This system includes the Qualified Products List (QPL), which is a list of products that have been evaluated and approved for use in transportation projects in the state of Georgia.


To be included on the Georgia DOT QPL, products must go through a rigorous evaluation process that includes testing, review, and approval by the Georgia DOT’s Office of Materials and Research. The evaluation process is designed to ensure that the products meet the required specifications and standards for use in transportation projects, including safety, durability, and performance.


Once a product is approved and included on the Georgia DOT QPL, it is considered pre-approved for use in transportation projects in the state of Georgia. This means that contractors do not need to go through a separate approval process for each project, saving time and effort. The QPL serves as a reference guide for Georgia DOT staff and contractors when selecting products for transportation projects.


The Georgia DOT approval system is a crucial component of ensuring the quality and safety of transportation projects in the state. By pre-approving products through the QPL, the Georgia DOT can ensure that only the best and most effective products are used in its projects. This helps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of transportation projects, while also enhancing safety for motorists, pedestrians, and other road users.


Temple Inc., Our Trusted Distributor Partner in Georgia

We’re proud to partner with Temple Inc., a leading distributor of traffic safety products in Georgia, to bring the Availed AV-400 RRFB to transportation projects in the state. 


With over 60 years of experience, Temple Inc. has built a reputation for delivering high-quality products and exceptional customer service to transportation agencies, municipalities, and contractors throughout Georgia. Their team of knowledgeable professionals provides expert guidance and support to help customers find the right products to meet their needs. 


Benefits of Using the Availed AV-400 RRFB

The Availed AV-400 RRFB is an innovative product that enhances pedestrian safety at uncontrolled marked crosswalks. Rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFB) provide a high-intensity flashing light to alert drivers to the presence of pedestrians at the crosswalk. 


RRFBs have been proven to increase motorist yielding rates up to:

98% and to reduce pedestrian crashes by up to 47%. The AV-400 is also durable, easy to install, and requires minimal maintenance, making it a cost-effective solution for crosswalk improvement projects.


The Availed Technologies Difference

At Availed, we are committed to providing our customers with high-quality, innovative products that enhance safety and improve transportation infrastructure. The inclusion of the Availed AV-400 on the Georgia DOT QPL is a testament to the quality and reliability of our product, and we are proud to offer it to our customers. 


We look forward to continuing to work with our partners in the transportation industry to enhance safety and improve transportation infrastructure across the state of Georgia.


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Exploring the Latest Update on MUTCD: Proposed Inclusion of RRFBs in Chapter 4L

In the world of transportation and road safety, staying updated with the latest regulations is crucial. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) serves as a comprehensive guide for transportation professionals, providing standards and guidelines for traffic control devices in the United States. In this blog post, we will delve into the pending update to the MUTCD, specifically focusing on the proposed inclusion of Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) in Chapter 4L, which covers flashing beacons.


Background on the MUTCD Update

On May 15th, a status update on the 11th Edition of the MUTCD was released, generating a buzz among transportation experts and practitioners. While this update may not introduce any groundbreaking changes, it is important to note that its release was in line with the promised date for the next MUTCD publication. Let’s explore the proposed addition of RRFBs to Chapter 4L in more detail.


Understanding RRFBs and Their Significance

Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) are a pedestrian activated warning system that are designed exclusively for the use at uncontrolled marked crosswalks.. These beacons have been proven to reduce crashes for pedestrians by up to 47% and increase motorist yielding rates up to 98%. The proposed inclusion of RRFBs in Chapter 4L of the MUTCD acknowledges their effectiveness and highlights their importance in improving pedestrian safety.


Key Considerations for Including RRFBs in Chapter 4L

The decision to incorporate RRFBs in Chapter 4L demonstrates how successful the device has been for the past five years under Interim Approval IA-21. By integrating RRFBs into the existing framework for flashing beacons, transportation professionals will have clearer guidelines and standards for their deployment.


Benefits of the Proposed Inclusion


  1. Enhanced Pedestrian Safety: RRFBs have proven to be highly effective in increasing driver awareness and improving pedestrian safety. By including RRFBs in Chapter 4L, the MUTCD aims to promote consistent and standardized deployment of these beacons, ultimately reducing pedestrian crashes and fatalities.


  1. Streamlined Installation and Maintenance: The proposed inclusion of RRFBs in Chapter 4L will provide transportation agencies with a structured framework for the design, procurement, and installation of these devices. This clarity will facilitate the efficient implementation of RRFBs across different jurisdictions.


  1. Improved Driver Compliance: The conspicuous nature of RRFBs can significantly influence driver behavior and encourage compliance with pedestrian right-of-way laws. By integrating RRFBs into Chapter 4L, the MUTCD aims to further establish Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons as a key tool for improving safety and accessibility at crosswalks..


Choosing Availed For Your RRFB Needs

The proposed inclusion of Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) in Chapter 4L of the MUTCD signifies the importance of what has become a standard device for many traffic agencies.. As a leading provider that is focused on the design and production of RRFBs, Availed Technologies is dedicated to helping transportation agencies and professionals design and implement this device


Partnering with Availed Technologies means gaining access to high-quality RRFB systems that are fully compliant with the Interim Approval IA-21 and with the proposed guidelines outlined in the MUTCD. Take the first step towards enhancing pedestrian safety by contacting us today. Together, let’s create safer roadways with Availed Technologies’ AV-400 RRFB.


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Texas Highway Products: Availed Technologies’ Trusted Distributor Partner

We sat down to talk to Texas Highway Products (THP), a trusted distributor partner of Availed Technologies, about the rapidly growing RRFB industry.

For 25 years, THP has provided traffic control products to municipal, county, and state agencies throughout Texas. As a long-time supporter and exhibitor at TexITE and IMSA Southwestern Section events, THP has the knowledge and expertise to support traffic departments throughout Texas.

In this Q&A, we’ll delve into THP’s insights on the recent advancements in RRFB technology, and their experiences with the AV-400 RRFB.

Q: Can you tell us about Texas Highway Products and how it has established itself as a trusted partner in the traffic control industry?

A: Texas Highway Products (THP) has been serving the municipal, county, and state traffic agencies throughout Texas for the past 25 years. We have earned our reputation as a top distributor by providing a high level of customer service and field support, and through our long-time support and participation in TexITE and IMSA Southwestern Section events.

THP has the knowledge and expertise to support traffic departments in Texas, whether it’s a small town or the TXDOT.

Q: Can you tell us about the products that Texas Highway Products represents?

A: In addition to Availed Technologies, Texas Highway Products represents other quality traffic products such as Q-Free, Clary, Encom, EDI, and Pelco. Availed’s products are available through Texas Highway Products and the Local Government Purchasing Cooperative Texas BuyBoard.

Q: How has the RRFB industry changed in recent years?

A: The RRFB industry has seen a rise in the use of standardized signposts for RRFBs, which has dramatically reduced the installation cost, time, and complexity. This has been made possible by improvements in power efficiency, allowing leading products like the AV-400 to be small and compact enough to mount on signposts.

Q: Where do you see the industry going in the coming years?

A: The RRFBs are still under interim approval with the Federal Highway Administration and will be included in the next edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) by May 15, 2023.

We expect the usage of RRFBs to increase even more once they are included in the revised MUTCD. You can find more information on it on the MUTCD site.

Q: What changes are you seeing in the use of RRFBs?

A: The use of RRFBs is on the rise, as cities throughout Texas are making improvements to be increasingly more pedestrian-friendly. For example, Fort Worth recently ordered the Availed RRFB and the city is taking great pride in the steps being taken to give their residents safer transportation options.

The City of Cedar Hill is another example of an agency that has been using RRFBs for improving pedestrian crosswalks. Cedar Hill plans to become one of the most walkable cities in Texas, and RRFBs will play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of pedestrians and cyclists on its roads. There are many other municipalities in both the Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio areas that are utilizing Availed RRFBs as part of their pedestrian improvements.

In summary, Texas Highway Products is a valued and knowledgeable distributor partner for Availed Technologies. With a focus on customer service and field support, THP services are an indispensable asset for traffic agencies in Texas.

With the increasing prevalence of RRFBs in the industry, and the backing of Availed’s tools and experts, THP is well-equipped to meet the growing demand for pedestrian safety solutions.


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Highlighter yellow Availed RRFB school crossing sign with arrow, with a tree and blue sky in background.

Availed Technologies Has Been Approved by Oregon DOT

We are happy to announce that the Availed AV-400 Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon is now listed as a qualified product on the Oregon DOT Green Sheets.

What is the Green Sheet Qualification Process?

Maintained by the Traffic-Roadway Section of the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Green Sheet Qualification process has a comprehensive evaluation process for a wide range of Traffic Signal, Illumination, and ITS equipment that includes physical, operational, and environmental testing.  For RRFBs in particular, the device is evaluated to ensure it is compliant with the requirements of the FHWA interim approval and the MUTCD and that it meets the requirements for mounting as shown in TM493.  Only prequalified RRFBs already listed on the green sheets will be approved for use for Oregon DOT projects under contract

The Importance of Energy Efficiency for RRFBs

As is very typical in the Pacific Northwest, many parts of Oregon have very low solar insolation during the winter months which presents a challenging environment for solar products such as the Availed AV-400 RRFB.  Key to ensuring reliable operation is energy efficiency, and this is where the AV-400 stands out.  All aspects of the product, from the wireless connectivity between units to the optical design of the LED lightbars has been designed to minimize power consumption.


For more about energy efficiency with RRFBs and how to specify products to ensure reliable operation see this article.


Availed Technologies – Now on the BC Recognized Products List

Here at Availed Technologies, we’re proud to announce that our AV-400 RRFB has been approved by the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOT) and is officially on their Recognized Products list.

Today’s blog outlines all you need to know:

What is the BC Recognized Products List?

The BC Recognized Products List is a comprehensive database of products that are approved for use for highway construction and maintenance contractors

Products on this list are frequently used in performing work as part of contracts with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure regarding the construction, rehabilitation, and maintenance of highways and bridges.

Approved products may be removed or suspended at any time if they do not perform or are found to be noncompliant or failing to meet ministry requirements.

The Importance of the BC Recognized Products List

The Recognized Products List is referenced during the following:

  • The road and bridge maintenance contract agreement
  • Project tender documents
  • Invitations to quote

It serves the important role of standardizing quality across different products and ensuring that approved manufacturers adhere to strict safety guidelines.

Approved Availed Technologies Products on the Recognized Products List

As an approved manufacturer, the following Availed Technologies products now hold a spot on British Columbia’s Recognized Products List:

  • The AV-240 Series, 24-Hour Flashing Beacon: A reliable, fast-installation flashing beacon with MUTCD-compliant flash patterns
  • The AV-400 Series, Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon: A purpose-built RRFB with a compact solar engine design, wireless operation, and a high-intensity light output that exceeds MUTCD requirements by up to five times

MassDOT RRFB Approval Announcement

At Availed Technologies, we’re thrilled to announce that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (Highway Division, Qualified Traffic Control) has experimentally approved our AV-400 Solar RRFB.

Learn more about the importance of this approval today:

The Impact of the AV-400 Solar RRFB

RRFBs play a crucial role in pedestrian crash countermeasures, and our AV-400 Solar RRFB is no exception.

Purpose-built from the bottom-up, the AV-400 series features both high-efficiency LED modules and an ultra-low power controller that remains dependable year after year.

It also touts:

  • A rated operating capacity exceeding 300 activations per day
  • High-intensity light output that exceeds the MUTCD requirements by up to five times
  • A sophisticated, compact solar engine design that is install-ready for all pole mount systems, making the installation process under 15 minutes
  • Zero configuration required for near-wireless connection between systems; one wire runs from the push button to the solar engine
  • Easily bolted or banded to any pole size thanks to its three-point pivoting lightbar mounting bracket and universal solar engine mount

Whether you are a Traffic Engineer responsible for designing and specifying an upcoming project, a Town Engineer seeking lower-cost, higher-powered alternatives to your municipality’s existing RRFBs, or a Traffic Technologist who knows that your city’s pedestrian countermeasures need an upgrade, consider the AV-400 Solar RRFB today.

The Benefits of Working With Availed Technologies

As established in the FHWA Countermeasure Tech Sheet, the average cost of one RRFB system is $22,250 USD– ranging from $4,500 USD to $52,000 USD each.

However, Availed Technologies makes it so you can install three-to-five RRFB systems for the same average cost of one. It’s all thanks to our RRFBs’ higher efficiency, smaller form factor, and minimized size.

That means each RRFB in our AV-400 series:

  • Offers lower material costs
  • Is easy to handle and fast to install
  • Can be pre-installed prior to being on-site and/or mounted onto existing sign posts

We are so proud that our AV-400 Solar RRFB is now included on  MassDOT Qualified Traffic Control Equipment List, under the Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons, Section 824: Flashing Beacons, Illuminated Warning Signs, and Lighted Barrier Arrows .

RRFBs in the Next MUTCD

RRFBs were first introduced under an interim approval with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 2008.  Since that time, and due to the high effectiveness of the device, the use of  RRFBs as a crosswalk enhancement has become widespread.

Today, we here at Availed Technologies are going to outline RRFBs proposed role in the next MUTCD– including the most significant proposed changes to it to enhance pedestrian safety.

Let’s jump right in:

The Absence of an Updated MUTCD

In the absence of an updated version of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD),  the RRFB has remained under an interim approval for well over a decade.  On March 4th, 2022 FHWA Issued a Status of Rulemaking for the Eleventh Edition of the MUTCD.

According to this update, The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act directs USDOT to update the MUTCD by no later than May 15, 2023.

As one would expect, RRFBs are a key feature of the recommended changes as noted in the FWHA, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) notice of proposed amendments (NPA). These recommended changes orbit around the incorporation of provisional traffic control devices.

The Incorporation of Provisional Traffic Control Devices

The incorporation of provisional traffic control devices currently under Interim Approval, including pedestrian-actuated rectangular rapid-flashing beacons at uncontrolled marked crosswalks, green-colored pavement for bicycle lanes, red-colored pavement for transit lanes, and a new traffic signal warrant based on crash experience.

It is also noteworthy that several other key proposed changes to the MUTCD focus on pedestrians and bicyclists, mainly:

  • Improvements to safety and accessibility for pedestrians, including the location of pushbuttons at signalized crosswalks, crosswalk marking patterns, and accommodations in work zones
  • Expanded traffic control devices to improve safety and operation for bicyclists, including intersection bicycle boxes,two-stage turn boxes, bicycle traffic signal faces, and a new design for the U.S. Bicycle Route sign

The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) recommended changes to the MUTCD are very similar to the Interim Approval (IA-21).  One significant addition is guidance on the use of RRFBs at intersections with two crosswalks on an uncontrolled approach.  Additional guidance is provided for the use of RRFBs with overhead-mounted signs.

The Role of RRFBs in the Future of Pedestrian Safety

Here at Availed Technologies, we have over 25 years of experience in the Solar LED industry. We understand that providing a best-in-class product demands the support of industry-leading partners, and we are very proud to be represented by some of the most trusted companies in the business.

We strongly encourage you to read more about the MUTCD proposed changes today– and, if you have any questions, to reach out to our team!


The Importance of Versatility and Standardization in RRFBs

Have you heard about the importance of versatility and standardization in RRFBs?

In today’s blog, the Availed Technologies team outline why this is so crucial, its many benefits, and a real-life example of versatility and standardization done right.

Let’s dive in.

What Are RRFBs?

RRFBs are a unique traffic control device designed specifically to improve pedestrian safety at uncontrolled marked crosswalks.  Uncontrolled crosswalks come in many different shapes and sizes from one-way or two-way roadways, from two to four lanes, and with or without median islands, curb bulb outs or extensions, etc.

On the other hand, uncontrolled crosswalks can be located at intersections where the major legs are through lanes or at mid-block locations such as school crossings or trail crossings. Other locations include roundabouts and bicycle corridors.

Lastly, crosswalk locations can sometimes have sightline issues due to curves or other features.

What is Versatility and Standardization in RRFB-Related Product Design?

With over 25 years of combined experience in the Solar LED industry (and, more specifically, solar LED for traffic safety), our team has both the knowledge and the skillset to deliver products that out-perform the competition year after year.

How do we achieve this?

By utilizing both versatility and standardization.

Versatility refers to how adept a product is at being used in a range of configurations that stem from the crosswalk and roadway design.

Standardization in this discussion is defined as the extent to which versatility can be accomplished with a single model.

For example, a key requirement for configuring RRFBs at the crosswalk is to have lightbars visible to oncoming vehicles on both the left and right hand side of the roadway.  This requirement, coupled with the wide range of crosswalk configurations results in the need for the RRFB device to be versatile.  Consider these scenarios:

  1. Two way, two lane roadway.  In this common configuration there are two back-to-back lightbars on each side of the crosswalk.
  2. Two way, four lane roadway with median.  In this configuration there are typically single sided lightbar systems on the curb sides and either one back-to-back system or two single sided systems on the median.  The systems on the median may or may not have push buttons.
  3. Crosswalks at a roundabout. In this application each crosswalk is for one-way traffic, therefore single sided lightbars are typically used.

As demonstrated here, RRFBs can include either one or two lightbars and be with or without a push button.  In some cases, such as when sightlines require it, the location of the lightbars will be different than where the push button should be located.  This scenario may utilize a system that consists of only the solar engine and the push button, without any lightbars.

In other cases, such as when RRFBs are installed in advance of the crosswalk with the Ahead sign, the system would consist of one lightbar and no push button.

In all cases with RRFBs, there is a wireless connection between systems so that when a push button is activated on one system the other system(s) at the crosswalk flash.  Ideally the wireless connection between systems is automatic and requires no field configuration.  Regardless of how many systems are used, all will turn on and off in a synchronized manner when the push button on any one of the systems is activated.

In the event that there are multiple crosswalks in proximity to one another there needs to be a means to avoid a push button actuation at one crosswalk activating lightbars at another crosswalk.  This is referred to as crosstalk and can be easily addressed by a field adjustable dial on the solar engine controller for channel selection.

Learn More About Versatility and Standardization for RRFBs Today

FHWA (IA-21) requires that RRFBs be on both the left-hand and right-hand side of the roadway for each approach.  This frames the crosswalk for drivers and is one of the reasons the system is so effective.  As we have seen, it does demand versatility in the system to allow for a range of installation configurations.

To simplify the ordering, inventory, and installation logistics an RRFB system should be able to have two, one, or no lightbars and either be connected to a push button or not.  In other words, it should be both standardized and versatile.

At Availed Technologies, all of our products are created and sold with both versatility and standardization in mind.

By prioritizing these two product design factors, we ensure that our RRFBs fit a wide range of crosswalk configurations and are easy and fast to install.

To learn more about how to utilize our best-in-class RRFBs, or if you have questions about how to implement RRFBs in your particular situation contact our team today.

What to Know About the Power of Solar RRFB Systems

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How much do you know about the power of solar RRFB systems?

In today’s blog, the team here at Availed Technologies outline common FAQs surrounding solar-powered RRFB systems: namely what the common array-to-load (ALR) variables are and what to keep in mind when maximizing power consumption.

Firstly, What Makes the ALR so Crucial?

The fundamentals for ensuring that the power of solar RRFB systems will be reliable year-round hinge on having a system where, on a daily basis, the power generated is greater than the power consumed. In the solar field this is known as the array-to-load ratio, or ALR.

Many of the variables for determining the ALR are intuitive, while others are less so. The following variables are considered the most common:

Time of Year, Latitude, and Historical Weather

A given system will have a much greater ALR installed in the sun-belt than in the Pacific Northwest. Time of year, latitude, and historical weather are all variables that are captured in solar insolation data available from NREL (the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.)

Industry best practices are to ensure the ALR of a system is a minimum of 1.2:1. To calculate this, the solar insolation value (measured as equivalent sun hours) for the month that has the lowest solar insolation for the year (typically December) is used.

Trees and Buildings

One often overlooked variable is shading from trees and buildings. Google’s Street View provides an excellent tool for determining the shade derating of a particular location, and it is important that this is factored into the calculation.

Why? Because more shade, of course, equals less daily power!

‘Under-the-Hood’ Variables

Also frequently overlooked are the ‘under-the-hood’ variables of solar RRFB systems themselves.

On the power generation side of the equation, this involves the solar panel and charging system that work together to deliver power to the batteries. Monocrystalline solar panels provide greater efficiency over polycrystalline solar panels; this difference is greatest during marginal charging conditions where, for an RRFB application, this is often when charging is most critical.

Similarly, Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) charge controller technology provides greater efficiency over PWM (Pulse Width Modulation, particularly during lower light conditions where power generation can be so crucial.

The variables discussed so far are on the power generation side of the equation. On the power consumption side there are often very significant differences between different manufacturers’ systems and the technologies that are used.

Solar RRFB System Power Consumption

Before outlining the power consumption variables of solar RRFB systems, it should be noted that there are some inherent ‘buffers’ that make RRFBs particularly well-suited for solar power.

During the winter months where solar insolation is at its lowest, there is typically lower pedestrian activity… particularly during inclement weather. In addition, with shorter daylight hours comes more activations occurring in darkness when the system runs at a lower intensity, as dimming is required by the MUTCD for RRFBs and works to mitigate the disability glare that occurs if the light intensity is too bright.

Now, onto key solar RRFB system power consumption variables:

LED Efficiency

LED efficiency is a key variable in power consumption of an RRFB system. LEDs have been described as the ‘enabling technology’ for solar traffic devices and the gains seen throughout the years have been a game changer.

The landscape keeps changing and today there are ultra-efficient premium LEDs that, while cost-prohibitive for many applications, provide energy savings for devices like solar RRFBs that are significant.

The light intensity specification for RRFB LED indications is SAE J595 Class I which requires a relatively narrow beam pattern, much narrower than the ITE specification for LED Traffic Signal Modules. Compared to school zone flashers and 24-hour flashers that utilize these modules RRFBs require far less power which makes the device particularly well suited for solar power.

At the same time, in part due to the directional beam pattern combined with the irregular flash pattern, the RRFB is far more effective than traditional flashing beacons for a pedestrian activated warning system at uncontrolled crosswalks.

Wireless Technology

Another determining factor of power consumption is around the wireless technology used.

When one RRFB system is activated by the pedestrian push button all other systems commence activation simultaneously through being connected wirelessly. A wireless system designed for this specific application will consume a fraction of the power of a system designed for more general ITS applications.

Similarly, a controller that is designed specifically for the RRFB application will consume far less power than a controller designed for multiple applications. A well-designed controller will manage all the functions of the system with microchip level components on a single printed circuit board assembly. These functions include charging, powering the LEDs, field adjustments such as flash duration, and wireless connectivity between systems.

In short, an inefficient system can consume nearly four times the power compared to a highly efficient system. The Availed AV-400 RRFB, with a 20W solar panel and 14Ah battery capacity, will have a greater operating capacity than a less efficient system with a 60W solar panel and 50Ah battery capacity.

Energy Storage

Energy storage is the other key factor that needs to be considered and properly specified. The purpose of including batteries in an RRFB system is two fold: to enable operation during dark conditions when there is no charging, and to enable the system to operate through extreme weather conditions where over a 24 hour period the power generated could be less than the power consumed (ie when the ALR ratio is less than 1).

Consider a scenario when there are heavy overcast skies day after day in the winter time when daylight is already greatly reduced. In these conditions, charging will still occur with systems that have efficient charging technology, however the system could run an energy deficit where more power is consumed than generated during a 24 hour period. Sufficient battery capacity will ensure that the system will continue to operate throughout these conditions.

Industry best practices are for a system to have an autonomy of 5-to-10 days. A system with a high ALR will maintain reliable operation even with a lower autonomy due to the system’s ability to maintain charging in challenging conditions.

Start Utilizing the Power of Solar RRFB Systems Today

Given the multitude of variables involved in both the power generation and power consumption, the best way to evaluate an RRFB is with a Solar Performance Report that provides the array-to-load (ALR) and autonomy calculations.

Need help getting started harnessing the power of solar RRFB systems? Reach out to Availed Technologies today.