We all know about the advantages of LED over incandescent lighting, as well as some of the disadvantages. On the plus side is much, much lower current consumption for the amount of light produced, as well as longer life and lower heat production. On the down side, some LED lights are rather harsh and unpleasant, and many ‘marine’ LED lights are just down right expensive. Actually, that applies to many things ‘marine’, and is generally a function of price differentiation. Essentially, price differentiation is the marketing term for charging more for an item based on the market in question. Typical premium markets include ‘marine’, ‘yacht’, ‘equestrian’, ‘military’ etc. Take for example a stainless steel hose or ‘jubilee’ clip. We use lots of them in the typical ‘yacht’. A typical 11-16mm ‘marine’ stainless hose clamp would typically cost around £2 in the chandlers (even online), while a very high quality 18/8 high grip stainless hose clip can be had for around £1.20 retail from a fastenings vendor. The high grip clip is actually the better product despite being around half the price.
When I started looking for LED lights for Elijah, the price was fairly horrific. A single spot lamp for nearly £50!!!
Even worse, many of these don’t have replaceable bulbs or constant current driver circuits. Constant current drivers are important in LED lighting as LED’s are current driven rather than voltage driven. Using simple limiting resistors will allow LED’s to operate at 12v, but the DC circuit of a typical boat will vary between around 11.8v (discharged) and 14.2v (engine running). Using simple limiting resistors can result in a dramatic difference in current between these extremes, which can result in low output or severely shortened life. – Generally not good. Decent LED systems however use constant current drivers to ensure the LED operates at the correct current rate irrespective of battery voltage.
I have decided to dispense with ‘marine’ lighting and go with something a little cheaper. Standard domestic GU4 LED bulbs already contain a constant current driver and are designed to operate at 12v. These ‘bulbs’ can be purchased for around £3 a piece in most supermarkets, and fit industry standard light fittings.
Something like this:
These are generally around £17 a pop, designed originally for halogen G4 bulbs (the same base, pin spacing and diameter)
Of course I could also throw in a few of these
Generally available at about £10-12 each but really need separate constant current drivers (a couple of quid each).
The GU4 LED capsules above, contain built in regulators, so should last well and be stable over a range of voltages. They are also a ‘warm’ white light rather than a harsh ‘blue’ white. This is far more comfortable than the harsher variants and closer to an incandescent lamp in colour.
Each cabin is currently fitted with a single 25w halogen reading lamp (GU4) which will be replaced in the current fitting by a GU4 LED module, the light output is expected to be similar, with the LED rated as a 22w equivalent. The current 25w halogen draw around 2 amps each, and this is expected to drop to around 0.4 amps each. Futher similar lights are found in the galley, stair well, and an additional pair in the saloon. All told these lights currently consume a whopping 12 amps alone if all running.
Of course navigation lights will also be going LED, with one of these at the masthead
not particularly cheap, but who wants a big bulky light at the top of their catamaran, and I know I don’t like going up the mast to change bulbs!.