Copyrighted by Practical Sailor Start a Subscription to Practical Sailor – Click Here!
The Sensibulb’s LED crystals are mounted in a patented heat sink.
Ordinary LED lights aren’t the miracle light some developers had promised. Yes, they’re amp misers, and well-made bulbs (actually clusters of LEDs) should last many thousands of hours, but the harsh light lacks the warmth of incandescent. These cluster LEDs make excellent courtesy lights. They also work for reading, so long as you keep the page close under the tightly focused beam. Try mounting one above a saloon table and you may as well be dining under a flashlight.
At the Miami Boat Show, we came across an LED light like no other we’d seen. The Sensibulb, made by Sailor’s Solution, incorporates LEDs that produce a consistent, warm, golden light, that, although not quite as intense as a 10-watt halogen bulb, will make a much more suitable replacement bulb for common bell-type or dome interior lights than the usual LED cluster.
We replaced a common halogen dome light in the V-berth of our test boats with the Sensibulb, and noticed that although the berth was not quite as bright as it was with the halogen bulb, the softer Sensibulb produced ample light to illuminate the berth. We could easily read Practical Sailor (strangely, there was no paper glare), even when we were 10 feet away and at an angle of about 90 degrees from the light’s center. The light, which incorporates a heat sink, was warm, but produced far less heat than the halogen bulb. The light is dimmable, which drastically cuts the amp usage. We measured .18 amps (as opposed to 1.5 amps for our halogen bulb) undimmed, and dimmed down to candle-light, it drew just .03 amps.
The basic Sensibulb costs $40 and fits a standard G-4 halogen socket, or, with an adaptor ($2), a bayonet socket. For bell-type reading lights, you’ll need a mounting bracket ($4). Installation is simple: Fit the Sensibulb’s two wire terminals in where the G-4 bulb’s barbs went (polarity doesn’t matter), stick the Sensibulb in place with its adhesive backing strip, and flip the switch. Wires for a dimmer are built in, and for an additional $20 you can add a micro-controller to add dimming capability to a light that doesn’t have it.
Two kinds of reading lights and a two-color nav station light bulbs and fixture are available for between $130-$140. If you really want to get fancy, you can wire in a $40 wireless controller, which can be used to operate just about any device on the boat from about 75 feet away. (Wish we had one of these when we wired a switch at the companionway for our spreader lights.)
The makers say the Sensibulb will last 50,000 hours. If we’re still around when ours burns out, we’ll let you know.
I have 12 of these bulbs onboard. When I'm on the hook I leave most of them on. Not afraid of the dark but high powered drunk stinkpotters running with no lights for excitement. 12 bulbs burning 2.8 amp draw.
Leds are quite attractive from an energy management standpoint. What they do well is deliver a high intensity focused beam with very low power draw. So they can light up a navagational fixture, create a spot beam for reading, but they do not provide very good area lighting. One measure of light output is a lumen. LED lights are much lower in lumens per watt than flourescent bulbs. To get the most interior area lighting per watt look to flourescents. There is a new technology cold cathode ray tube technology that promises even better results but I have not located a viable source yet. So for me it's interior general lighting - flourescent, task/reading - LED, and Nav - LED. Good flourescents can be purchased from Alpenglowlights.com even with a led night time option.
I can answer your questions for you as I have been trying different kinds of LED lighting on Quietly for the past three years.
First, don't confuse todays LED's with those of even a year ago! Huge improvements have been made. Your questions:
1. The color of the light produced by the SensiBulbs is very "warm." It reminds me of the light that comes from a kerosene lanturn.
2. We have several (11) SensiBulb's on our boat having replaced all of our dome lighting with them. We used two SensiBulbs in each fixture in the salon, and one in all the other dome lights. We are very pleased with the results. We find that we can turn on as many lights as we want in the evenings and still draw less power than one of our old lights. This has made living aboard much more like home.
However, I would not recommend the SensiBulb LED's as replacements for your reading lights. The SensiBulb LED are a little too warm!
Instead, we found Magnum Ring lights from DR LED (http://www.doctorled.com/p2.htm) that make wonderful reading lights. They are bright and more like a standard incondecent light in color. We use two sizes of the lights from Dr.Led. For reading lights in our bunks, we use the MR11 lights in both the Bayonett and G4 mountings as required by our fixtures. In the salon we used the MR16 lights to go in our larger reading light fixtures providing more light for the larger area. We like these light so much that we installed six of them under the cabinets in our galley. Four might have been good, but we wanted lots of light when working in the galley. Just like home!
3. All together we have 11 SensiBulb overhead lights, four MR11 readings lights for the bunks, three MR16 reading lights in the salon and six MR16 light for the galley. We also have an LED Tri-Color/Anchor Light and LED Running Lights. The only incondecent lights on the boat are the spreader lights.
We are very please and our typical energy consumption in the evenings is now only 2.9 Amps with the boat as bright as back home!
Doing this was not inexpensive. However we use far less electricity and our home is bright and inviting in the evenings.
SV Quietly Cruising in the Caribbean
Currently in Trinidad for Carnival