Your current lighting setup works just fine right? You can see your decks well in the night, you get by just fine with that single small reading light in the cabin, and heck, you just make sure you’re extra careful when running your systems so you don’t end up draining the battery banks. So why bother going with LED lights instead of those nice cheap incandescent bulbs you’ve been using all these years?
If this is your way of thinking when it comes to the lighting onboard your boat, the chances are very good you are wasting a lot of money and dealing with a lot more hassle than you probably realize.
Most boaters are well familiar with the need to manage onboard electrical power. Since all power for electrical devices must be produced, stored and supplied independently of onshore sources, boaters must rely on generators, solar panels, wind turbines and battery banks to produce and store electrical energy. Because of this, the amount of power that can be generated and stored is severely limited and close attention must be given to maintaining adequate power levels for the operation of vital equipment as well as luxuries in order to avoid increased costs through excessive fuel consumption and potentially dangerous situations where battery reserves are depleted to the point of being unable to start engines or operate safety lighting.
Because it can become expensive to run generators frequently, and alternative power sources such as wind and solar are limited in their ability to replenish supplies, most boaters resort to rationing power use. While larger battery banks and generators can provide increased generating and storage capabilities, the cost of fuel still remains a stumbling block and only increases with such additions. Many boaters will resort to battery powered lamps, running only a couple small cabin lights sporadically in order to make it possible to at least get to the head without banging a shin, and running the most minimal anchor and mast lighting possible while still meeting compliance with regulations. While all of these things and more can indeed reduce power consumption, they take away from the overall ability to enjoy your time on the water, and this is a serious problem when we consider that for most boaters, the whole point is to enjoy the luxury and relaxation that comes with spending time onboard.
Although they are not the most power hungry devices, lights represent a major part of the electrical system and due to their critical nature, are impossible to do away with entirely. It is ironic indeed that for something which is so important to the general safety and functioning of onboard activities, they are often treated as non-essential when it comes to power management. The good news though, is that this no longer has to be the case.
The most important benefit boaters can realize from switching to LED lighting onboard their boat is greatly reduced energy consumption. Whereas a typical 25 watt halogen bulb may draw over 2 amps and produce only 425 lumens, an LED fixture producing 500 lumens can use only 10 watts and pull less than 1 amp. That is more light output using less than half as much power. This kind of efficiency is impossible with normal incandescent lamps and allows you to produce more light, using fewer fixtures. For a boater who is loathe to leave cabin lights on for any length of time, this means you can install half as many lamps and produce the same illumination, while cutting the power draw by up to three quarters. This mean no more reading by the weak yellowish light of a battery lamp, or making so with dim cabins and hard to work in galleys or cockpits.
While LEDs do cost more initially than traditional lamps, they provide other cost saving benefits besides efficiency, which further help to offset their higher price and provide net savings over the long term. Lamp life is one of these peripheral benefits, and it can be extended over ten times as long using LEDs. A typical incandescent bulb will last approximately 500 to 1500 hours, causing frequent outages and the need for equally frequent replacements. Each time you replace that lamp, you incur additional costs. An LED boat light on the other hand will last in excess of 50,000 hours on average. That means that you would have to replace an incandescent lasting an average of 1,000 hours 50 times to equal the longevity of your LED lamp. If we say your incandescent bulb costs $1.00, that’s $50.00 over the course of 50,000 hours. With LED bulbs now available for as low as $24.00 for quality units, it is easy to see a net savings in maintenance and replacement costs alone. Add in the power and fuel saved as well, and it is clear that LEDs are actually more cost effective over the long term.
Two other very notable improvements LEDs offer over incandescent lamps are cooler operation and much greater durability. Most boaters are well aware of how warm it can get below decks in the summer. Now imagine placing several small heaters in that small cabin as well. Things can get rather warm quite quickly, obviously. Well, this in effect is what you are doing when you turn on those hot running halogen or incandescent cabin lights. This in turn causes air conditioning to run harder and more often, using more fuel and draining more power. LEDs on the other hand run cool enough to touch with your bare hand, even after hours of operation, reducing the heat added to the cabin, often the AC needs to run, and improving your overall comfort.
LEDs can also survive rough handling that would destroy a normal glass incandescent bulb. LEDs have no wire filament, no glass, no gases or mercury, and can withstand jarring, vibrations, and even impacts from dropping or accidental hits without any change in performance.
Overall, the reasons for switching your boats lighting system over to LEDs are numerous. You can run more of them, and for longer periods. They need less maintenance and cost less to operate over their lifetime. And last but certainly not least, they’ll allow you to spend less time worrying about maintaining your battery reserves and more time actually enjoying your boat. And that, friends, is why you should install LED lights onboard your boat.