Boat Lighting—Reduce Battery Drain with LED Lighting.
By Brian Brown
Right off the top you can choose to spend a fortune on boat lighting at West Marine or you can shop it on the internet at the Marine or RV websites. But having adequate and good lighting is really a plus. The key things to look for are brightness and low voltage consumption.
Let’s start from the top down. For you sailors you generally have to have two mast lights–anchor and steaming—and even if they are fitted with the old style bulbs/sockets you don’t have to change the sockets out. Instead, buy LED’s bayonets bulbs and you won’t have to worry about battery drain. Yeah, they are three or four times the cost of a regular bulb, but you’ll be so happy when they don’t drain your battery…I’ve left my anchor and steaming light on for a couple of days without bottoming out the battery.
Now let’s move to the deck and cockpit.
Many people have opted to use spreader lights which are a big boon when working or moving around on deck. Having them actually makes the deck safer! The problem is the old style ones draw way too much current and keeping them on overnite can drain even a pretty good sized battery. But a 15 watt LED equals 100 incandescent watts and draws only 12.4 watts. A regular incandescent bulb draws 100 watts. That’s a big difference!
Another plus for upgrading, the shapes of the fixtures for LED’s are much more flexible in size and can fit more applications than the old style bulbs. That includes spreader lights. The rectangular ones fit right under the spreader bars whereas the old styles were round and stuck out past the spreader bars.
Now let’s talk about your running lights.
You are required to have a bow light and stern light at minimum. Again, you can purchase LED’s for old fixtures but the new ones with fitted LED’s are fabulous.
Alright, it’s a pain to run wires from the battery room/area to anywhere on the boat but let me tell you, having cockpit lights is really a great thing. You can mount them under the pedestal or right under the lip for the seats…or if you’re really creative…run a wire through your bimini supports/struts and clamp a few on there. Again, LED’s beat anything else on the market for style, durability and long life. By the way, most LED’s last for 50,000 hours. Incandescent bulbs last for 1,000 to 2,000 hours.
Working our way into the cabin, I strongly suggest that you replace every incandescent or fluorescent light in the cabin with LED’s. I did that and I can leave all of my cabin lights on all nite long and the battery does not drain down so that I have to worry about not starting my engine. I have ten lights…so that goes to show you how little LED’s do consume. I found several places to buy marine grade LED’s and superbrightleds.com is one and they are also very very inexpensive and have a great warranty policy—no questions asked just return the defective lamp and they’ll replace it no charge (you pay the freight back).
What are the other reasons for using LED’s? I find that the color of the light is generally brighter than incandescent bulbs. Brighter light means better light…especially in a boat where there are many dark areas. As I get older I can see better—and without my glasses—if the light is bright enough and LED’s do a much better job at it than incandescent or fluorescent.
What types of LED’s are available? Many. Marine spotlights (they come in 10,000-1 million candle power and last for hours), decklights, LED accent lighting, almost all current marine bulbs are replaceable, underwater lights, dome, puck and recessed light, exterior lights to highlight the sides of your boat and more.
Safer, better, more long lasting, LED’s are great and really do a better job. The one thing you’ll be tempted to do after you see how little voltage they take is to put them everywhere…in from the engine compartment, to the ice locker, to storage…anywhere you can run a wire you can put a low consumption LED. By the way, my interior lights were $19 at SuperbrightLED’s and at West Marine similarly styled ones were $80 plus.
Hope you had a Happy and Safe Fourth of July fellow members. I’m always looking for interesting topics so feel free to suggest some. See you in the next Mainsheet.