Manufacturers of new boats are always in a constant race to bring to market the latest and best in performance and reliability enhancing marine technology in order to stay ahead of the competition. Among the many new technologies boat builders have embraced to make their vessels more practical and efficient, LED lighting systems have proven to be one of the most effective. LED lighting has proven to be far more efficient than the traditional incandescent lamps once standard on new boats, and their cooler operation and extremely long operating lives have also served to further add to the savings potential they provide. The end result has been that new boats equipped with LED lighting systems are more efficient, cost less to operate, and require less maintenance to keep operating at their most efficient.
LEDs are primarily known as a “green” technology: that is, LEDs use far less energy to operate and as a result less fuel is needed to run engines and generators to replace the power they consume. Additionally, LEDs have no toxic materials such as mercury in their design, making them more environmentally friendly when it comes time to dispose of or recycle them. A quality LED light can require up to 80% less electrical power to produce the same amount of light as a comparable incandescent lamp Mars Hydro 300w. A typical 40 watt incandescent light bulb for instance produces about 500 lumens of light output and draws about 1.5 amps of current. A 10 watt LED light on the other hand can produce 600 lumens of light output while drawing as little as.45 amps, making it far more efficient. Even better, if installing LED lights inside an area such as the cabin, LEDs will produce only a fraction as much radiant heat, which means your onboard air conditioning systems will have to work less as well to maintain a comfortable cabin temperature.
Some boat manufacturers take the installation of LEDs a step further and add solar power options as well. Some solar power systems harness the power of sunlight to help replenish battery banks during sunny hours, and when combined with the extreme efficiency of LEDs provides a one/two punch that really puts a dent in the cost of producing onboard power. In fact, some smaller LED fixtures like those used for walkways or deck illumination can even be completely independent of the electrical system and run off their own built in solar charged battery, much like those trendy solar powered landscaping lights many homeowners have become fond of using. This last option is particularly attractive to owners of sailboats who have to rely almost entirely on gensets and power stored in battery banks for their lighting needs.
One of the really great things about LED lighting is that it is not only available to builders of new boats. Owners of older boats built before the introduction of LEDs can benefit as well and can greatly improve the efficiency and performance of their vessel in less than a day with an upgrade to LED fixtures. Most LED fixtures designed specifically for boating applications are intended to be direct replacements for many types of existing incandescent fixtures. Because of this, it is possible to find LED fixtures that will bolt up and wire in without the need for any modification to your existing mounting setup at all. Because LEDs draw so much less power, you wont need to worry about running heavier wires or increasing the load carrying capability of your breaker systems either.
LEDs can be used in pretty much any place a standard light fixture is installed. They can also be used to create some innovative and unique lighting setups to provide a custom lighting system. For example, many boaters like to use dim red lights in the cockpit while navigating at night because they feel it helps to protect the eye’s ability to acclimate itself to dark conditions. If you’ve ever gone from a dark room to a very bright room, or had a camera flash go off in your face unexpectedly, you can understand how easily a bright light can momentarily blind you once your eyes have become used to dark conditions. LED cockpit lights are available that can be connected to a multi-position switch and toggled between a choice of colors for just this purpose. These lights can produce either red light for night time navigation, or normal white light when preserving your natural night vision isn’t so important.
Another way boaters take advantage of LEDs is by using the wide variety of available fixture designs to produce lighting that is hidden yet effectively illuminates a galley or cabin area. LED strip light designs are ideal for this type of application and allow you to mount the fixture under the lip of cabinets or along the base of moldings, thus providing a well diffused source of illumination that isn’t directly visible when the lights are switched on or off. The fixture itself remains hidden, yet the light is spread much as you would expect the light from a typical fluorescent tube lamp to be distributed. Many boaters are getting very creative with LED strip lights and installing them along stair edges, under gunwales, and even in engine rooms to provide a well light path that is almost impossible to miss even when all other illumination is switched off.
These early problems with do it yourself LED conversion had a lot to do with the early poor impression boaters formed with LEDs. It was later when boat lighting manufacturers began producing fixtures designed specifically with LEDs that the technology really began to take hold among boaters. LED boat lights being made now feature more mature LED technology, with LEDs producing much better light quality and much higher output. These LED fixtures can produce light output that visually looks “warmer” like and incandescent, and the output has increased to the point where LEDs are now up to 50% more efficient that they were ten years ago. Even better, the dedicated LED boat lights now available are designed to take into account the directional nature of LEDs, resulting in fixtures that radiate light more effectively and over a much larger area, similar to the way an incandescent fixture would.
Probably the best advantage to be had with dedicated LED boat lights is the simplicity of installation. Whereas before the do it yourselfer had to wire, solder, and modify their old incandescent fixtures in order to accommodate LEDs, these new fixtures are direct replacement for old incandescent units that require little more than attaching their wiring and securing the fixture with screws. While an entirely new LED fixture may indeed cost more than a do it yourself retrofit, the savings in time, durability, reliability, and increased performance, really more than make up for the simple savings of a one time cash outlay. Add in that the excellent efficiency and long life of the LED will reduce your fuel and maintenance costs, as well as increase the overall enjoyment of your boat, and there really is little reason for boaters to continue trying to retrofit old fixtures to accept new LED lighting technology.
Although many saltwater aquarium hobbyists have depended for years on fluorescent or Metal Halide bulbs for their main source of lighting, these old staples are taking a back seat to LED (Light Emitting Diode) systems, both because of the LED bulbs’ energy operating savings and the many choices of lighting spectrums available.
What’s So Great About LED Aquarium Lighting?
The primary characteristics making LED lighting so popular are their long life and the much smaller amount of energy used in lighting up LEDs. Although they can cost a lot more up front, an LED bulb for a saltwater aquarium can last up to five years or 50,000 hours in the right circumstances, and they use a tiny amount of energy compared to an incandescent or fluorescent bulb.
Also, unlike fluorescent or metal halide bulbs, LED bulbs do not use mercury as a key component for operation. Another advantage to LED lighting is that it produces less heat, making it easier to control the amount of heat released into your covered aquarium. However, the presence of excessive heat can reduce the lifespan of your LED bulb, so avoid marine aquarium lighting systems that place the much hotter running fluorescent or Metal Halide bulbs next to LED bulbs.