Let There Be (LED) Light!
We’ve been working with 12 and 24 volt LED lighting for 10 years and having just completed our fourth Southampton Boat Show we thought this might be a good opportunity to review some of the commonly asked questions about replacing conventional lighting with LED alternatives.
What Wattage LEDs bulbs should I be looking for?
You can expect an LED to use approximately 10% of the power of an equivalent output conventional bulb, so if you have a 10 watt incandescent bulb, the equivalent LED would use 1 watt, a 20 watt halogen would be replaced by a 2 watt LED etc. Replacing the 20 watt halogen would save you 1.5 amps per hour on a 12 volt system!
How do I replace a halogen bulb?
This is usually fairly straightforward once you know what wattage of halogen bulb you have. In most circumstances a flat disc LED with appropriately positioned pins will give you the best results although there will usually be a suitable alternative if a disc is not appropriate for your particular fitting. Do check whether the bulb fits into the rear or the side of the light fitting otherwise Royal Mail will do well when you return the incorrect one to the supplier!
Changing halogen MR11 and MR16 bulbs is simply a case of changing to an LED with the equivalent light output.
How do I replace a “Car Bulb” type bayonet bulb?
You can buy LED “tower” or cylinder bulbs with a bayonet fitting already attached to a bayonet connector and they will do an acceptable job in some circumstances. However, in most instances, starting with an adaptor which has a bayonet fitting on one and a G4 fitting at the opposite end gives you a lot more control over the light output, directionality and light colour than the fixed bayonet option.
Whether you have a single pole or a double pole bulb, whether your bulb fits into the rear or the side of your fitting, whether you need directional light from a spotlight or all round light for a bulkhead light, starting with an adaptor gives you a wide range of choices.
One important thought – don’t assume that because you have double pole bulbs in the main saloon that you won’t have single pole bulbs elsewhere on board! We regularly receive phone calls following Southampton Boat Show with requests to swap the adaptors!
Can we change festoon bulbs to LED?
Once again, the answer is yes but do check the length of the festoon (typically 37mm or 42mm) and the wattage.
Warm White or Cool White?
Most people find that Warm White LED is the preferred alternative as it is the closest colour of light to that of conventional lighting. Cool White LEDs will give you a brighter light but you may find the blue tones rather harsh although that’s very much a matter of personal taste.
To dim or not to dim?
An LED bulb has to be designed to dim so always seek advice before purchasing LEDs to be fitted into a situation where a dimmer is installed. Individually designed dimming systems can now be produced but we would need to know specific details about your set-up. This is mainly applicable to replacement LED bulbs as many new LED fixtures have the dimming capability as part of the unit.
What else should I look out for?
Always buy LED bulbs which have a wide voltage tolerance range (typically 10 – 30vDC) as this means that the bulb will be able to tolerate the variation in battery voltage output produced when the alternator kicks in or when you’re connected to shore power. This voltage will be more than sufficient for 12 volt systems and good quality bulbs will have sufficient extra capacity to accommodate the voltage variations produced in 24 volt systems.
The internet enables everybody to purchase directly from the manufacturers in China and this can appear to be a very attractive option. Do remember that most UK LED retailers have sampled products from many manufacturers before settling on their chosen supplier. If you’d like to gamble with your boat lighting then by all means buy direct from China and you may strike lucky!
Finally, if you want to upgrade or modernise your boat lighting there are some excellent new LED fixtures available to meet all requirements and budgets.
One last thought….with so many bulbs to choose from, if you’re unsure about anything, just ask!
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JMG LED Lighting