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Old 29-12-2009, 22:13   #16
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"Only buy CG approved LED's. If they don't exist, "
Well good luck there, because the USCG does not approve or certify ANY BULBS, regardless of whether they are LED, tungsten, or other design. What the USCG will approve is a complete "light" meaning the entire fixture, lens, and bulb as one unit. They don't care how you build it or what you build it from, but the complete assembly must be able to meet the requirements in COLREGS.

I'd also suggest Bebi for lights, the owner is focused on quality and very much aware of the technical issues. LEDs can be problematic in that cheaper LEDs have limited life, lower brightness, poor quality control, are usually packaged without spike or voltage protection, and that's just where the list starts.

Case in point, Nichia makes some of the best "white" LEDs and they have the exclusive patent to make them. They're considered tops in every way. But if you want to order them by the thousand? The LEDs that come off one fabrication line are sorted into three colors and three brightnesses (each almost twice as bright as the next) making 9 visibly different bulbs all coming off the same production batch! If you buy them unsorted, you get a mixture and that's a wide variation (8x) in brightness across the batch. If you buy cheap white LEDs from China...you don't get that option, so how can you plan to meet a COLREG brightness spec without massive overkill, and wasted power?

As to worrying about liability issues when using lights that are not USCG approved? Not necessarily. There is no legal requirement for pleasure craft to use USCG approved lights. The requirement is that you meet or exceed COLREGS and your state laws. If for some reason, someone said "I couldn't see his running lights" and if for some reason, the question came up as to whether your lights were USCG approved...It still wouldn't mean much. Even if they were approved, there could be reasons that they were dim (i.e. low battery, corrosion) and the question of whether they met the legal standards could still be answered by simply replicating the "custom" light and demonstrating that it did. A potential issue? Yes, but not a stopper. It is also very easy to build or modify or buy a navigation light that far EXCEEDS the minimum required for your boat, and if you are concerned with being seen, that's probably the way to go.
USCG approval tells you that a light meets certain standards--but the lack of approval doesn't say anything.

In order to match the output, for color, brightness, and light distribution (degrees of visibility) of a conventional fixture, you need to spend top dollar on LEDs. That's why an LED "tail light" on a car may cost $800, versus $50 for the old fashioned kind. Prices keep dropping, but they're still not cheap.

Decisions, decisions. :-)
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Old 30-12-2009, 07:07   #17
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Way too many lawyers out there, at some point does common sense take over? When I replaced my running lights I replaced one, got in my dinghy at night and circled the boat. The four Led cluster I MADE was MUCH brighter than the stock running light in the other side, good enough for me. Maybe I should put a lawyer on retainer I'm scared of toast.
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Old 30-12-2009, 10:09   #18
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I agree, way too many lawyers out there. If I were carrying cargo, or chartering passengers, or sailing a huge boat, I might worry about this.

My intention is to try a few different brands, and compare them for color, brightness, arc of visibility, and longevity. I will also carry a complete set of incandescent bulbs as a backup. It's not like they weigh anything or take up valuable space. They're lightbulbs for cryin' out loud.

As far as being "toast" is concerned, what's the legal difference between an LED that is uncertified, but bright as an incandescent, vs. being anchored with a dying battery and incandescent bulbs that are putting out 1/3 of their rated output?

Either way, a lawyer is going to try to fry you. It just changes the arguement that they'll use. Just stay at home.

Hellosailor: I rescind my original statement about only buying CG approved bulbs. Thanks for the education. I think that if you study the problem thoroughly, you can arrive at a safe, reasonable solution.
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Old 30-12-2009, 10:47   #19
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I agree, way too many lawyers out there. If I were carrying cargo, or chartering passengers, or sailing a huge boat, I might worry about this.

My intention is to try a few different brands, and compare them for color, brightness, arc of visibility, and longevity. I will also carry a complete set of incandescent bulbs as a backup. It's not like they weigh anything or take up valuable space. They're lightbulbs for cryin' out loud.

As far as being "toast" is concerned, what's the legal difference between an LED that is uncertified, but bright as an incandescent, vs. being anchored with a dying battery and incandescent bulbs that are putting out 1/3 of their rated output?

Either way, a lawyer is going to try to fry you. It just changes the arguement that they'll use. Just stay at home.

Hellosailor: I rescind my original statement about only buying CG approved bulbs. Thanks for the education. I think that if you study the problem thoroughly, you can arrive at a safe, reasonable solution.
Forget the lawyers or the USCG how about your own insurance company?

We all know insurance companies are in the business of denying claims not paying them. A guy over on SBO had another boat hit his boat while it was in the slip. The insurance company argued that his bow hung out beyond the finger pier, just as every other boat at that marina did, so their client was not at fault. Not at fault? His boat was slipped and not occupied!!

For the cost of the payout this guys insurance company refused to subrogate the claim as his hull deductible covered nearly the entire repair. Long and short this guy was out big $$$$ in hull deductible because the insurance company was looking for an out, as they usually do.

I would simply call your insurer and ask their opinion on non-certified nav lights. I have, and the answer was basically "No you would likely not be covered".....

Just another aspect to consider, beyond lawyers...
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Old 30-12-2009, 11:54   #20
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I use the Dr LED bulbs in Aqua Signal series 25 and 40 housings. Very pleased with the performance, anchor bulb is CG approved but bow and stern are not. I don't like the risk but accept it. Better a non approved but adequate light than an approved light not used. Dave
I agree with DaveOnCudjoe there. I also found this before I switched bulbs:

http://www.doctorled.com/Dr_LED_PRESS_RELEASE_0612.pdf

The press release is dated Jan. 2007......There must be more light now. From what I can tell, I have done the "prudent mariner" thing. I am very pleased with the results. I can keep the lights on now with no worries about draining my system.

Oh by the way, as mean as it sounds, there is very little liability scares and the paranoia in Mexico. It makes for cheaper Doctors, Mechanics, construction, boatyards...you name it...
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Old 30-12-2009, 12:14   #21
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"My intention is to try a few different brands, and compare them for color, brightness, arc of visibility, and longevity."
I'd suggest that's the hard way to do it. There are a handful of top brand names and then there's "everything else from small importers and China". The brand name manufacturers all supply technical data sheets--which usually can be trusted--that will give you the output for each LED, in terms of candela/lux/candlepower and beam spread horizontally and vertically as well as power consumption and often a rating for brightness-vs-life, i.e. how many hours of operation typical till 50% brightness or something similar.

You'll see that some LEDs are built to emit a wide light pattern (i.e. 90 degrees horizontal and vertical, like a cone) while others are focused down to 10 or 20 degrees in order to put out higher brightness, in the smaller area. In order to accomplish the nearly 360x360 degree coverage of a tungsten bulb, you need lots of LEDs. In order to meet COLREGS and perhaps accomodate 20 degrees of heeling...you might only need a 60 degree vertical spread, which trims the needs down a lot.

But with the tech sheets that every reputable source has, and a little real simple math, you'll narrow down the contenders real quickly. Then you just need to add spike protection and a current regulator to each fixture, and make sure the LED has a heat sink area that meets or exceeds those same spec sheets.

Or...you buy a whole mess of real cheap LEDs and assume some will burn out but what remains will keep you "close enough". That's how many marker/tail lights on trucks and busses running LED lighting are built. Cheap and redundant, and they just swap out the whole thing during depot overhauls. Depends on how much you like going aloft to replace things. :-)
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Old 30-12-2009, 13:02   #22
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I looked at the DrLED website today, and it looks like they have a new design in the works for the PolarStar40 drop-ins for the AquaSignal 40 series of lights. Instead of a number of the small 3mm or 5mm LEDs pointing in different directions, the new design looks like it will be a single high power LED oriented axially and driven at 1 watt with a cone type reflector to give a 360 degree light spread. I think this is going to be a better design, since it is easier to sink the heat from the high power LEDs and they should be more reliable because of that.
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Old 30-12-2009, 14:25   #23
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I looked at the DrLED website today, and it looks like they have a new design in the works for the PolarStar40 drop-ins for the AquaSignal 40 series of lights. Instead of a number of the small 3mm or 5mm LEDs pointing in different directions, the new design looks like it will be a single high power LED oriented axially and driven at 1 watt with a cone type reflector to give a 360 degree light spread. I think this is going to be a better design, since it is easier to sink the heat from the high power LEDs and they should be more reliable because of that.

This is very true, I own the new version for my back up anchor light and have had it in use since last May. Sadly though the new single emitter bulb is NOT the bulb that got the USCG certification with the AS Series 40 all round. Dr. LED is very sketchy & misleading about its USCG certification but suffice to to say that the new series 40 High Flux bulb is not the bulb they claim USCG certification on.

Dr. LED, IMHO, is very, very misleading and dishonest in his marketing. I have personally asked him to change his web site to be more honest but he apparently is still at his game of misleading people.

The new bulb "may" actually be better than the old one but until it is tested by a third party that is certified to do this testing to meet the parameters, we'll never know. Perhaps he is still in certification with this bulb but I have had it since about May...

I was basically ripped off, as I see it. I bought a supposedly USCG certified bulb but the one I got, the series 40 High Flux version, was not, and is not USCG certified unless Dr. LED can show me the money and the documentation, which he apparently can't.

This combo, despite the misleading marketing, is not USCG certified as this High Flux bulb was NOT the original Polar Star 40 they got certification on. Buyer beware with Dr. LED..


This bulb and fixture will be replaced this spring with a true USCG certified product as my insurance company says I should have..

If you don't care about certification, and neither does your insurance company, then this High Flux Dr. LED bulb is actually a decent unit..
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Old 30-12-2009, 14:48   #24
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I replaced all our bayonet incandescent globes in our Aquasignal 60's with wide angle LED replacements three years back. Like several others have noted, ours are just as bright as the older tech globes and still going strong.

I personally think the warnings about the 'risks' that official action may result to be way over the top. What matters to me is practical effective lighting. Which we have.

But so we can all understand the extent of the risks I am happily taking - just HOW MANY on the site have EVER had blame placed on them for not using USCG or other 'approved' lamps?

I mean, anyone with a classic craft taking similar risks using oil lamps?

I am sure there are thousands out there happily sailing around with 20 year old plastic old lenses so crazed they really restrict the light.

So anyone ever been hauled in? Anyone ever had a insurance claim fail as a result?

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Old 30-12-2009, 17:04   #25
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Maybe I should put a lawyer on retainer I'm scared of toast.
Mmmmmmm.........TOAST. I had toast for breakfast
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Old 30-12-2009, 20:11   #26
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Electricity savings thanks to LED lights
The main interest for most of us in LED lights is that they use only 10-20% energy of conventional lights and that they do not produce any heat (in hot climates, that is well appreciated). So when I started replacing most of our lights, I made a list of their power consumption and the average hours/day I use them. From there I started little by little to replace the ones that were using the most energy. And except for the anchor light, all the other lights I replaced first were interior lights! Interior lights do not have to be USCG or other approved!
The new generation of interior hi-power LED offers a super nice color of white, very close to the warmth of a nice halogen light. I have 2 LED of 3w each that light the dining table and give a flattering color on all dishes set up on the table! I have tiny 1W spotlights we use as reading lights. I installed a flat strip of tiny LED on the davits and now the stern is lit when we board the boat at night! I even installed some 0.3W LED (in white, green and red) on our dinghy ... running on a old small UPS battery! I took my expired personal EPIRB battery and connected one of these 0.3W white LED block (3) .. I have been using it as a hand torch for 6 months now and my expired EPIRB battery is still ok Plenty of applications of LED on a boat and very few concerned by regulations! For nav lights, I recommend Bebi lights made by a cruiser for cruisers in Savu Savu, Fiji. For interior lights, you can find great quality lights at much lower prices than Dr LED or other US online store. By example, my 0.3W only cost $5!
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Old 30-12-2009, 22:46   #27
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I recently read an article in some publication (us boat) that explained that LED bulbs could be more visible from a distant than comparable monofilament bulbs, but that the light was very directional, and that the visible spectrum of light was also narrower.

They are also more sensitive to fluctuations in voltage. But most fixtures have circuitry to minimize the issues caused by this.

For these reasons, they recommended replacing the entire fixture instead of just the bulb.

I recently purchased an attwood "2 mile led' bi color from amazon.com for about $35, really cheap considering replacement bulbs.

I haven't mounted it and tested it yet, but it's notable that it had a clear lense, the color comes from the LED directly instead of a white light behind a red / greed LED.

And it carries the following in the add "Our line of 3500 and 5500 series navigational lights exceed US coast guard requirements with the fewest and lowest watt LEDs of any navigational light manufactured today" which, if saved with the receipt, will probably send any lawyers trying to blame your lights off to find something else. (I'm not a lawyer, but I do understand that in the US they view "established" court decisions as law, so until someone cites court decisions regarding the coast guard certification of a light, or lack thereof as a reason to find someone negligent, I'm personally ignoring the argument).
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Old 31-12-2009, 11:29   #28
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For these reasons, they recommended replacing the entire fixture instead of just the bulb.
Next step would be to them manufacturers to recommend that we replace the entire boat if it does not fit their fixture :-))))

Off course any manufacturer will insist we buy a 300 USD fixture rather than a 50 USD bulb. This explains why the LED lights cost 6 times the price of their incandescent counterparts (even though they buy LEDs in gross amounts, from China, where they are made at roughly 0.1 USD each.)

Now try to think what we replace if some of the LEDs in a LED fixture refuse to co-op. Well, yes, we buy another fixture ....

The greed of the capitalist, supported by the wit of their marketing hordes may overthrow the common sense of any boater.

A boat is a boat is a boat. I say replace the bulb if you already have the fixture.

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Old 31-12-2009, 11:42   #29
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" (I'm not a lawyer, but I do understand that in the US they view "established" court decisions as law, ..."
So you're an alien sojourning in Washington?

49 states in the US share common precedents and English common law as their legal background. Louisiana does many things differently, with the Napoleonic Code as their older common law, since they were acquired from France.

"common law", "case law", precedents, all tend to be followed by courts in the same venue (city/state/federal court distrcit) but they are not legally binding the way that a statute is. And they regularly tend to be overturned and reversed, except for the long-established ones. That applies even at the US Supreme Court level. In lower levels of the federal courts, each district usually follows their own precedent--even if it contradicts another district. That doesn't get resolved until and unless the issue goes up to the USSC.
City courts, state courts, federal courts, civil and criminal courts...We don't have just one system, even though there are "suggested" or agreed "uniform" standards that many jurisdictions follow, by choice or requirement.

The issue of "Your lights weren't USCG certified" is only an issue of presumption. Regardless of the court, the question is whether you or the other guy have to prove negligence--or not. And in some courts (admiralty law being yet another niche that might not be the same as any other) it is enough to allege "Well, his lights weren't sufficient, he has to prove they were." Or, you might not have to prove anything, the guy accusing you might have to prove the lights were deficient. That's something that might vary, the same way that a civil court might require proof of something wrongful, where a criminal court requires proof "beyond reasonable doubt", which is how OJ Simpson was acquitted in criminal court--but found guilty in civil court, on the same matter.

Then there's insurance and insurers. That's a matter of contract law--which is yet another niche entirely. If your contract with your insurer (the policy) requires you to have USCG certified equipment or to meet standards, and your insurer finds out you are not in compliance, they can say "Sorry, you have no insurance, go pay that million dollars yourself." And a court might overrule that, but meanwhile, you're stuck paying a fast $50,000 in legal bills AND dealing with the claim against you.

So the argument in favor of using USCG certified lights isn't all paranoia, there are real issues, and more than one court has been as predictable as a roll of the dice, as to how they will rule. Odds are, certified lights won't be an issue. The question is, whether anyone considers those odds good enough for their own decision.

And, as we say in the States, that's what makes horse racing.


Barnakiel-
Some mfrs buy LEDs cheap from China, I'm sure. But ask Bebi or other makers directly, I suspect they are paying more like $5-10 PER LED because they are buying prime sorted products from better sources. Unlike Radio Shack. :-)
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Old 31-12-2009, 12:19   #30
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Barnakiel-
Some mfrs buy LEDs cheap from China, I'm sure. But ask Bebi or other makers directly, I suspect they are paying more like $5-10 PER LED because they are buying prime sorted products from better sources. Unlike Radio Shack. :-)
You may be right. Maybe the ones used in space craft are not made in China, but Bebi or not Bebi, I believe the cost of LED in say AquaSignal or Hella LED nav lights is marginal as compared to the outrageous prices they ask for their LED products. Back in 2003 it was because it was labeled 'new technology', today it is still labeled 'new technology' and I cannot see any drop in their prices.

Sure LED is the future, a bright and expensive one ;-)

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