Tools & Materials:
- Wire Strippers
- Wire Cutters
- Digital Multimeter
If you're just changing a light bulb, expect to pay $4 or $5. Each new complete light fitting could cost up to $50 or more.
LEDs are nothing new. They're comparatively old technology, and they've been used as indicator lamps on TV sets and electrical panels for many years. Scientists have known that the longevity of the LED "bulb" coupled with it's low power consumption would make it an ideal replacement for conventional incandescent bulbs, if only they could produce an LED that delivered a white light and high enough light output. With recent improvements and innovations, these challenges have been largely overcome, and LEDs are now being routinely changed to by owners or are fitted at the factory by the manufacturer.
- Long life
- Less electricity
- Much less heat
- Virtually fit-and-forget
- Higher Initial Cost
- May require special fixtures
So Can I Simply Replace My Existing Bulbs With LEDs?This depends to a large extent on the light fixture. Normally, most reading lamps and those with bayonet-type connectors can be easily exchanged. This is often a good place to start if you're not sure if LEDs are right for you or your boat. I first converted my red and white light over the nav station to LED lighting, then went on from there.
Color TemperatureAll light, either artificial or naturally occurring, has what is known as a color temperature. This rather misleading term has nothing to do with how hot a bulb gets but refers to the characteristics of the light that it transmits. Color temperature is measured in Kelvin, with 5,600 K being the temperature (color) of daylight at midday.
Any color with a number higher than this appears colder (bluer), while each color with a lower number looks warmer (yellower). Most artificial lights used for reading and other tasks will have a Kelvin rating in the 3,000 to 4,800 range, which represents a good balance between warmth and clarity, and which makes the interior of a cruiser's saloon feel warm and inviting.
Some LED products are labeled with their color temperature. Others are called simply "warm white" because we lay persons think of the yellowish glow of an incandescent light as "warm." Ironically, such LEDs have a color temperature close to that of relatively cool incandescent lights.
Tip From Mark Corke
Power SavingsOne of the main reasons to change to LEDs is saving power. Although it's difficult to give exact comparisons, a 25-watt 12-volt bulb uses just over 2 amps. An LED light fixture with a similar light output may use between one-fifth and one-tenth of the power. If you add up all the lights on the average cruising boat, your savings can be significant. I have 10 lamps on my boat in the saloon alone. I'm now able to burn all the lights without fear of the house bank getting severely depleted or having to start the generator to keep the batteries topped up.
Factoring In CostsLED lighting isn't cheap, but you need to factor into the equation that you may never need to change a bulb. Over the life of the boat, the savings both in terms of replacement costs and lower energy bills should more than offset the higher initial outlay. As an example, a 12-diode bayonet-type bulb used as a direct replacement for a 25-watt bulb of the same pattern will cost around $9 versus $2.50 for the standard tungsten-filament version. As more and more consumers and boatbuilders incorporate LEDs, we'll see a further fall in cost.