Dangers of LED navigation lights - Page 5 - SailNet Community
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post #41 of 67 Old 09-23-2013
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Re: Dangers of LED navigation lights

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Originally Posted by Alan33412 View Post
We've been fabricating purpose-built molded in, flush mount USCG certified navigation lamps for over 8 years, for powered yachts up to 50 meters.

They are also fully potted and have a 5 year warranty, the longest in the industry.
I too would be curious which manufacturer you represent.

As far as warranty Lopolight for one has a 5 year warranty.

And what about non powered boats - they need lights as well.

Brian
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post #42 of 67 Old 09-24-2013
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Re: Dangers of LED navigation lights

Pardon this new member chiming in (I joined because I'm researching buying a sailboat and you have to sign in to search), but I'm a pretty big astronomy buff. I don't really understand the original claim. LED lights are less like starlight than incandescent lights, not the other way around.

1. Stars aren't one singular color of white. They come in a variety of colors, ranging from blue (e.g. Deneb) to yellow (our sun) to red (e.g. Aldebaran). Some of these colors (especially Aldebaran) are very obvious to the naked eye. Incandescents bulbs tend to be stronger in the yellow/red range (why your indoor photos frequently look yellow) while white LEDs typically have a color somewhere between daylight and blue. That just means LEDs look like some stars, while incandescents look like other stars.

2. Stars are broad-spectrum, emitting light across the full visible light spectrum. This is also the case for incandescent lights. Fluorescent and LED lights are different. They inherently produce narrow-spectrum light. In order to produce "white" light, they have different phosphors (fluorescents) or doping materials (LEDs) which emit light of different colors. The combination of these colors approximate white, but the spectrum is never as even as an incandescent light. This is why incandescents are still preferred for artwork. They have what's called a high CRI (color rendering index) - their emission spectrum is flatter, like the sun's, and lacks the spikes which characterize fluorescent and LED lights.

3. The intensity (brightness) of the light drops off as distance squared. So regardless of type of light, there will always been a certain distance at which the light's brightness blends in with background stars. Having a brighter light shifts this distance further away, thus minimizing the risk of a collision. The type of light is irrelevant. All that matters here is brightness.

4. LEDs can be turned on and off instantly. They're frequently dimmed by making them flicker on and off hundreds of times a second. If the USCG really wants to make them easily distinguishable from stars, they should mandate the LEDs be strobed at around 25-50 Hz. At that frequency the light will appear constant if you look at it, but if you scan your eyes side to side, the LED will show up to your eye as a dotted line instead of a continuous streak like stars and incandescent bulbs. That would make it obvious the light is artificial.

5. Stars twinkle. They're so far away the light we see from them covers a very tiny angular width. Consequently, a tiny speck of interstellar dust or a slight disturbance in the atmosphere can momentarily cause the star to dim. Thus they twinkle. Planets and navigation lights do not twinkle.
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post #43 of 67 Old 09-24-2013
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Re: Dangers of LED navigation lights

Thank you for a well thought out, and reasoned first post!

In return; The SailNet search feature is virtually useless. I perform searches of SailNet by using Google. Enter your search term, then use the qualifier /site:www.sailnet.com

For example; a google search on "LED navigation lights" /site:www.sailnet.com should bring you here...

Oh yeah - Welcome to SailNet


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post #44 of 67 Old 09-24-2013
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Re: Dangers of LED navigation lights

For the average, recreational boater, this topic is so over-hyped.

When I think of how many recreational boaters I see on the Chesapeake Bay running with no lights, partial lights, or improper lighting configurations (anchor light on while steaming, etc), I just feel grateful when I see a vessel displaying some shade of red, green and/or white. While I can often tell the difference between and incandescent bulb and an LED, I don't flip out and call the USCG or the NRP because the color wavelength is slightly different from an LED.

As a sailor, I'm probably far more likely to be rammed by a powerboater because I'm running a masthead tri-color or masthead anchor light instead of deck-level lights vs. being rammed because my LED colors aren't "perfectly" aligned with old, incandescent bulb colors.

I installed colored LED's in my incandescent, Attwood deck fixtures, and verified that they could be seen over the proper arc of visibility. I laughed when I installed a USCG-Approved, AquaSignal LED, transom mounted stern light and observed that the color was more of a pure, brilliant white than the "warm white" of an incandescent bulb.

I really am done worrying about this. I'll take the lesser evil of running a non-USCG approved LED that displays the proper color over the proper arc of visibility vs. sailing in rough water at night and having an incandescent bulb blow out when I can't easily replace it.

How many sailboats do you see at night with dark anchor lights because they don't get up the rig to replace the bulb? I'd rather they display a slightly off-color LED that works 99% of the time, vs a blown incandescent.
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post #45 of 67 Old 09-24-2013
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Re: Dangers of LED navigation lights

Some argue that many LED anchor lights really do look like stars and most incandescents don't.

Not me, personally. But some.

It's 5 o'clock somewhere:


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post #46 of 67 Old 09-24-2013
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Re: Dangers of LED navigation lights

Not to drag this thread off topic, has anybody noticed bebi-electronics are closed?
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post #47 of 67 Old 09-24-2013
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Re: Dangers of LED navigation lights

Bubblehead pretty much nailed it. Basically, if your nav lights look like they're the right color, then they probably are within the COLREG specs.

The fact is the the specs (in COLREG Annex I, Section 7; Color specification of lights) are pretty broad. The main concern in most of these discussions seems to be centered around "white" and "green" lights. If you look at the specs in the COLREGS, and compare those to a CIE chromaticity graph, you'll find that any "white" LED with a "temperature rating" below about 6500K is fine. This includes all "warm white" and "natural white" LEDs. For "green" lights it's a little trickier. But, again comparing the COLREG specs to the CIE chromaticity graph, you can see that the acceptable range of "green" is pretty large. In fact, it dips quite a bit into the "bluish green" part of the CIE chart. So, if it looks pretty damned green, it's fine. Even slightly blue-green is probably fine. If it looks more blue than green (i.e., "greenish blue" on the CIE graph), then it's time to be concerned.

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post #48 of 67 Old 09-24-2013
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Re: Dangers of LED navigation lights

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Originally Posted by HipToBeSquare View Post
Not to drag this thread off topic, has anybody noticed bebi-electronics are closed?
Yep. I was gifted a Bebi anchor light this weekend, from a friend. When I visited the site to investigate them, I got the message.

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post #49 of 67 Old 09-24-2013
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Re: Dangers of LED navigation lights

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Originally Posted by BubbleheadMd View Post
For the average, recreational boater, this topic is so over-hyped.

As a sailor, I'm probably far more likely to be rammed by a powerboater because I'm running a masthead tri-color or masthead anchor light instead of deck-level lights vs. being rammed because my LED colors aren't "perfectly" aligned with old, incandescent bulb colors.
Keep in mind that if a powerboater did ram you at night his lawyer wouldn't be doing their job without investigating your lights. If they were found to not be approved lights at least a portion of the blame would be yours, if not all. And after that your insurance company, and maybe the powerboaters insurance company, wouldn't even have to write a cheque for your damage and injuries.

Trilights are useful well offshore but shouldn't be used in congested waters for the reason you give - people look ahead, not up.

Brian
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post #50 of 67 Old 09-25-2013
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Re: Dangers of LED navigation lights

Guys,

Passing this testing is not as easy as some make it sound.

The main lab that tests these lights to USCG specifications fails MANY of them. I looked into building an LED anchor light and part of the costing analysis was to talk with the lab that does the USCG standards testing.

The testing is not that expensive when you consider what a worthy production run would be. Testing for a single anchor light was under $1000.00, about $925.00 IIRC.

This means that for a production run of 1000 lights it is adding less than $1.00 per light to sell a USCG certified navigation light. Outrageous? Not at all, especially to know your product meets the legal criteria for a navigation light.

If you submit a complete package of lights there is also a major discount on this testing. They will also stop testing at the first sign of failure, which just happens to be color when they are testing LED fixtures.. If it passes color, and many anchor lights fail because they are too blue, they stop and charge you only for that portion.

Remember that all these failures are lights built by companies who feel strongly enough they can pass the requirements to send in their fixtures and pay for the testing. They also test LED products for intensity over time. They have tested numerous products that meet the standards when first turned on but after a few hours they no longer pass when the intensity has fallen off.

You can now buy USCG certified navigation fixtures for not much more than a bulb only, so why not stick with something that keeps you known to be legal? LED navigation lights have come way down in price.

While I fully agree that ANY light is better than no light at all some of these lights I see out there can be outright dangerous. Pinks, blues, dim, cut off angles poor etc. etc.. Last summer I was working on a customers boat and noticed a "festoon" style LED bulb he had inserted into an Aquasignal Series 25 navigation light fixture posing a dangerous situation. Perhaps through vibration, or maybe he installed it that way, it had rotated around and was facing backwards. The incandescent originally designed for this fixture emits light 360 degrees so if it rotates there is no change in how the nav-light performs. These light fixtures have no reflector and the festoon was single sided.. It was not even facing the lens... Doh'....

Of course I do have a vested interest in this having had one of my best friends father killed in a boating accident where navigation lights were involved. I do not wish this on ANYONE. My friend and her family went though days of forensics testimony on the navigation light portion of the investigation & trial, not fun.....

When one of you guys has someone you know very well die in a night time boating accident I would be interested in talking with you after that incident about your views on navigation lights...

BTW this just happened last week, at night, here on Casco Bay. The USCG investigation is well under way. They hit so hard it literally blew the bow nav-light clean off the boat..


Hamilton Marine one of our local chandleries feels so strongly about not being involved in the liability chain they have this sign hanging right next to the LED lights where you can't miss it:






And this is the back of a package of an IMTRA LED bulb.


Seems no one wants to accept the potential liability for installing aftermarket LED's not even the people making them, or the people selling them. That says a lot to me....

I guess that; "The operator of vessel assumes all liability when using this product as a replacement for the original approved light source." means it is all on you to decide if using aftermarket LED's in existing fixtures is a worth while venture.

For me it is not, but your boat, your choice....

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Last edited by Maine Sail; 09-25-2013 at 09:21 AM.
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