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Mark on Camper 58
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199 Posts
Nice article & lots of good info for the do-it-yourself types. I particularly like the advice to make your cabin fixtures dual bulb with the option of using the incandescent bulbs when necessary. This is very good advice also from the point of having an installed spare.

We have a large offshore ketch cruiser. I have also done a lot of research on LEDs for our boat. We operate at 24 VDC so the variation in voltage on our boat will be far greater. Control of current through the LED is key to its life and brilliance. LEDs have a cut off voltage below which they will not operate; a design voltage at which their properties will be as advertised. Above this voltage, the life will be seriously shortened. Since most sailboats operate with a variety of charging systems and conditions, it is critical to control the current flowing through the LED. The resister method described is the simplest but has the unfortunate side effect of consuming some of that energy we are trying to save. The resister method works better on low voltage systems where the voltage swings are least, however, there are several other methods of powering LEDs that do control current without as much lost energy. This is essential for 24 VDC systems and operation of 12 VDC systems is also improved. I will not go into detail regarding these but refer you to a few of my favorite suppliers. They have technology help pages that explain the details. We have opted for Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) for many of our replacement bulbs and fixtures. In this control system, there is a high speed switching device that can switch the power to the LED on and off at 20 to 30 kilohertz and controls the on-time to off-time ratio so that the average current allowed to pass the LED is correct. Our spreader lights are Marine Beam http://www.marinebeam.com/ and will operate from 10 to 60 VDC with no change in output or life. Item# SL-10-01. These are like continuous flash guns at 800 Lumins each. They also offer direct replacement PWM bulbs for many standard fixtures. Also check out http://www.bebi-electronics.com/ and SignalMate at http://kimberlitemanufacturing.com/. All offer exceptionally good product and are technically superior to the LED & resister basic system. I have also checked out LOPO lights. They have a very goodd product. It is PWM as well. Consider LOPO if you plan to replace fixtures since they do not sell replacement bulbs.

We have replaced all lights aloft with LEDs. Marine beam had direct drop-in bulbs to fit the incandescent of our Aqua Signal lights including the Tri-Color mast, anchor, and steaming lights. I installed 6 of their spreader lights as well (3 main & 3 mizzen). I added Signalmate deck-level Nav Lights on the bow and stern as redundant back-up. I am working with the good people at Bibi for a special purpose light for the Windex. This should be available soon and may be the only such LED option around. We will probably begin changing out cabin lights this season.

I encourage you to study the various methods to control current to your LEDs. This is key to lowering your power footprint and longer bulb life. I also made a Wikipedia search on this subject and found a huge amount of detailed explanation on the why and how to. If you want to build your own PWM or other control, the method is described.
 

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Mark on Camper 58
Joined
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199 Posts
I understand the CG is not in the business of certifying anything. They do not have a testing facility for light bulbs. Vendors may claim their products meets CG requirements. Some may even claim "certification". I had some long discussions with various fixture and replacement bulb makers by E-mail and at the boat show in Chicago and this is what they told me.
 

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Mark on Camper 58
Joined
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199 Posts
I have added a gallery of our LED replacements. I will keep this updated as we go. http://www.sailnet.com/photogallery/showgallery.php?cat=657 The photos show some of the fixtures and special modifications along with brief descriptions.

We have concentrated on the aloft lights for now and will move on into the cabin lights later. In short, I replaced AQUASIGNAL 10 and 20 watt IC bulbs with MARINE BEAM. I added SIGNAL MATE sealed NAV fixtures on the pulpits as installed back-ups. I replaced the 4-1/2 inch diameter sealed beam deck spots (200 lumen; two per mast at the lower spreaders) with MARINE BEAM high intensity 800 lumen single LED spots and floods. There are three per mast at the lower spreaders.

I worked with Michael at BIBI to develope a new fixture for the WINDEX. I was unable to find a proper LED light for this function and so worked with BIBI to invent one. Phots show the first one built. I now have a Beta unit (generation 2). The first emitted too much side light so I added a perforated PVC inverted cap to shieled the sides. The new unit uses an LED with less side emission. I have not installed it yet.
 

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Mark on Camper 58
Joined
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199 Posts
Interesting point. I wonder if anyone else has had this experience. I also wonder about the LED nav lights. Is this a characteristic of LEDs or do standard IC lights also blow? I too just replaced all interior ICs with mostly IMTRA - boat show special. There were abut 60 lights.
 

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Mark on Camper 58
Joined
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199 Posts
we have been hit twice in 4 years, once just before we bought. Last hit was July 5 in Muskegon Michigan. A direct hit vaporized the main mast Windex. We lost:
Wind instruments
boat speed
VHS
AIS
1.5 KW back-up alternator
3 of 6 spreader lights on two masts
all mast-head lights
all nav lights
all bow wiring was fused
3 LED bulbs in the bow cabin
transom paint was spauled
2.5 KW Xantrex off line (re-boot fixed it)
60 amp shore power breaker smoked

Curiously, the lightning arrestor was un-damaged :)

We have 60 cabin LED bulbs and 13 LED lights aloft. Even with all on at once, 0.4 amps. I haven't done the math but the diesel to charge & wear & tear on the batteries is the reason to have LEDs.

My observation: all lights, radio & any device should have its own local two-pole switch to interrupt totally both power & ground with an air gap. I installed our Simrad this way as well as its radar and depth scanner - no problems. This may not save everything every time but it is a definite preventative to induced spikes.
 
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