One project we have seen growing demand for is upgrading existing on board lights from incandescent, halogen and fluorescent lights to LEDs. LEDs are now available for just about any location on your boat; from navigation lights to floodlights, interior to underwater. And with the number of products and applications growing, the cost to the consumer continues to drop. And switching to this new technology is not just about having that cool blue or red deck light when you are sitting at the dock. This is a power saving technology that has a trickle down effect on your entire boating budget (not to mention the environment!).
LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are part of a small circuit board, they are not a filament bulb. As such, there is very little energy lost to heat and this greatly extends the life of the LED. Most are guaranteed to burn for anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 hours. Compare this to only a couple of hundred hours for a typical incandescent bulb.
How long is a 20,000 hour light? Over 800 twenty-four hour days. If your boat is in the water for 180 days a year (typical in New England) and you left this light on for the entire time, it would still last you almost five years! Extend that over a more realistic timeline (hopefully you don't leave your lights on all summer) and it is not unreasonable to think that the LEDs will probably still be shining bright even when you move on to your next, bigger boat. No more cleaning the contacts on the festoon bulbs to try and squeak out another month before replacing them.
Another big advantage is the power draw, or lack there of. On a twelve volt system, an 25 watt incandescent bulb will cost you over 2 amps of power and waste a lot of it creating heat. That is only one light, never mind all the other lights, the navigation electronics, and the refrigerator! The amperage's can add up quickly and be a real imposition if you are at anchor and trying to avoid running the engine to charge the batteries in the middle of the night or waking up to dead batteries.
Amperage's on LEDs are often measured in DECIMALS of amps or MILLI-AMPS. They draw a fraction of the power for the same amount of light. The trickle down is that you are reducing battery draw. This, in turn, helps reduce the number of charging cycles on your battery system, which helps preserve the overall life of your batteries. Plus, LEDs come in several cool colors!
For interior lights, you should be aware of the differences between colors like "cool white" and "warm white". Cool white is a brighter, "cleaner" white, while warm white tends to be a softer, more "yellowish" color. Also keep in mind that colors may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, despite having the same label, i.e., blue, white, etc. This means it is worth budgeting to do an entire area at once to avoid having potentially mismatched colors later.
If you really love your light fixture and don't want to replace it with a fully integrated LED fixture, you can purchase LED bulb replacements that will insert into the original incandescent sockets. While this does give you the power savings of the LED light, you are still going to be susceptible to corrosion in the socket. This is particularly true of bulbs for navigation and exterior courtesy lights which are more susceptible to salt spray. For the cost, we recommend a full replacement to a device that has the LED board integrated and sealed into the fixture.
Switching to LEDs is a great project for over the winter while the boat is wrapped. It is a nice upgrade that will give you illumination for years of worry free boating.
Contact Blue Frontier if you have questions about LEDs or are looking for product ideas to replace some of the lights on your boat.