At this point, every boater should be beginning the change-over to LEDs on their boat. While the up front cost of these lights can seem a bit imtimidating, it is the long-term savings that must be recognized. And LEDs can be put just about anywhere a standard incandescent bulb once inhabited. Common uses now are as courtesy lights in the cockpit or helm areas as well as in the cabin, running lights, and now, underwater.
The benefits have been well documented over the last few years as LEDs really exploded onto the marine market. But here is a quick recap to justify the cost. Imagine a light that lasts upwards of 30,000 hours! Many incandescent and halogens are measured in the HUNDREDS of hours. And in fact, replacing a halogen is not exactly cheap, either. By the time you replace the incandescent or halogen bulbs enough times to equal the longevity of the LED, you have likely paid for the LED many times over.
Incandesacents (and haolgens) also suffer from significant inefficiancy in heat loss. Your battery power goes only partially to creating light. The rest is lost as heat generated from the filiment and thus creating the limited lifespan. LEDs do generate heat, especially the new "Super Brite" versions. However, their efficiency is much higher than incandescents. In fact the overall power draw is significantly less, often measured in milli-amps. This means u
So, less power draw, more efficient, significanlty longer life. There are very few downsides to the LED phenomenom.
In applying these desirable features to underwater lights, there are a few things to consider.
The fact that these lights last so long, has allowed manufacturers to get creative with mounting styles. Unlike Halogens, which may "expire" while installed and need to be changed while the boat is in the water, many LED UW lights are surface mounted. You typically may only need a small 1/2"-3/4" hole in the transom to feed the wire through. A traditional Halogen is in a 2" or larger housing that allows for cooling and access from inside to change the bulb.
LEDs come in an array of colors that are straight from the diodes themselves. So there is no colored lense to scratch or fade (imagine how older running light lenses fade to nearly white with age). There seem to be varying theories about what color lights to put in different regional waters. Here in the Northeast, we dont have the clear blue water like Florida and the Bahamas. However, according to Erik Goodin, Sales Manager of DeepSea lights, "The blue LEDs tend to be preferred for seawater conditions. It typically travels further than the white or green, and also gives the water a nice, “clean” look. The green LEDs tend to be preferred for fresh water applications and the white LEDs are a good option when color rending is important (i.e. identifying a fish based on its markings)."
The cooler running LEDs mean with many models, you can leave the lights on while you are underway, a flashy feature which is sure to turn heads. Just remember, any additional lights on a boat cannot interfere with your required lights. DeepSea has taking this feature a step further. Some of their models have a "self preservation" feature. If you are running with the light on and the light begins to heat up because you are on a plane and the transom is now out of the water, the lights will self dim to reduce heat. Some models will simply shut themselves off. This is a feature in the circuitry designed to preserve the long-life of the LEDs.
This leads to another unique feature from the DeepSea lights. Two of their models are dimmable. Early on, the expense of dimming and LED was a legitamate negative. But, the DeepSea 12LED On-Hull light and the new Micro Matrix can be put to a knob for dimming. This is desirable if your lights are perhaps just a little too bright for a marina or anchorage or just to mellow the mood out a bit.
For fisherman, the DeepSea LEDs can be connected to a switch for strobe effect. This will be good to attract bait fish. Then you can turn on to a solid light to see what the strobe has attracted. The SAME light can work all three ways: solid on, strobe, dimmable.
As we approach launch season, give Blue Frontier a call to ask about installing some underwater lights. Or, if you are beginning the process of switching over your incandescents to LEDs, we can help with selection, layout and wiring.