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Old 14-01-2012, 13:01   #1
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Lightbulb My New Affordable and BRIGHT Interior LED Fixtures

Hello all,

A while back, during the full rewiring of our W32, we built wood light fixtures from douglas fir mimicking Alpenglows. We originally affixed cold cathode fluorescent lamps within them, but they proved to be unreliable on an unstable battery bank's voltage. Over the recent holidays I had the opportunity to replace all of the CCFLs with LED strips.

I purchased two five meter rolls of waterproof SMD 5050 LED strips (300 LEDs/5m) via eBay for $36 each. From these two rolls I outfitted six of my home-built 12" fixtures with three 1' strips each, as well as two 5', one 3', and one 2' long douglas fir strips with grooves routed in the faces for recessing a single continuous strip of LEDs each.

The 5' wood strips were mounted on the overhead of the vee berth for brightly illuminating that area and are controlled by a switch mounted in little panels I had previously built for DC outlets and fan mounting, the 12" fixtures are mounted throughout the boat, the 3' wood strip is mounted diagonally over the galley to provide additional light to the 12" fixture, and the 2' strip is mounted over the main hanging locker and chest/dresser area adjacent to the head. The 3' and 2' strips are switched on via standard in-line rotary switches that are traditionally used on small household lamps.

Pictures say way more than words, so you can check out a bunch via the link to the album below, and I've attached a few key pics to this post. Suffice to say, the boat is VERY well lit and we are EXTREMELY satisfied!


Photos of the LEDs here.


With the cost of building the fixtures, including wood, switches, lenses, wire, and the LED strips, I estimate to have spent $140 total in lighting the interior. Each 12" fixture draws .4a and puts out a LOT of light (~900 lumens.) The 5' strips draw .5a, the 3' .4a, the 2' .3a. With all of the lights in the boat turned on, there is 7.1 amps being drawn.

In addition to these larger, bright lights, I also previously built small 6" fixtures in which I already had mounted lower-lumen white and red LEDs that provide excellent low-level lighting. These probably cost in the realm of $60 total, with the low-power lights coming from mastlight.com (although I think better LEDs are now available for less via superbrightleds.com) There is ample red light available in every area of the boat for functioning at night, and when you need the bright guys, they are a click away and amazingly bright!

Hopefully other can outfit these great LEDs to their boats and save $$!


Happy sailing!
Aaron N.
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Old 14-01-2012, 14:27   #2
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Re: Affordable, BRIGHT Interior LED Fixtures

Looks nice. How do you control the current? do you cut to length based on the voltage you plan to place on it?

here is a link on this site for LED cabin lights.

Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting
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Old 14-01-2012, 15:30   #3
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Re: Affordable, BRIGHT Interior LED Fixtures

Very nice work and very similar to what I'm doing. My boat saloon is trimmed in black cherry wood and lucky I have a black cherry tree and plenty of old stumps I can turn into routered blocks for a similar effect. Thanks for "lighting the way".
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Old 14-01-2012, 16:25   #4
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Re: Affordable, BRIGHT Interior LED Fixtures

Quote:
Originally Posted by S/V Alchemy View Post
Very nice work and very similar to what I'm doing. My boat saloon is trimmed in black cherry wood and lucky I have a black cherry tree and plenty of old stumps I can turn into routered blocks for a similar effect. Thanks for "lighting the way".

So can anyone steer me to commercially made LED's that will do a comparable job. Please don't tell me to do it myself (seriously -- I have other fish to fry.)
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Old 14-01-2012, 17:23   #5
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Re: Affordable, BRIGHT Interior LED Fixtures

Raku, there are commercial LED strip fixtures that you can buy in the big box hardware stores--but expect to pay $5-10 per linear foot for them, WAY more expensive than the rolls of SMD LEDs that you can buy on eBay. Which have a self-stick adhesive backing, so installation really can be easy, no fixture needed if you can "bury" them next to a molding, etc.

AFAIK the rolls are all using built-in resistors to regulate the current, they're not going to be as efficient as actively regulated LEDs but they do make life real easy. Just cut to length (usually in clusters of 3 LEDs, cut lines marked on the strip) and then solder power leads onto the circuit tracing with a small soldering iron.

If that sounds too hard, just use the end that has the power wires attached to it, cut as needed and throw away the rest. It's still going to be a tiny fraction of the cost of buying light strips at a store.

REAL easy, really economical. The hardest part is choosing yellow white versus blue white, or amber or red for night vision. There are two types of SMD LED strips, the "SMD 5050" are the brighter ones.

Then there are three flavors:
1-Plain strip, no protection.
2-Strip covered with plastic seal, water resistant.
3-Strip enclosed in plastic tubing, waterproof.

The water resistant ones are probably the best choice for interior lighting, the covering makes them very durable, doesn't cost much more than the bare ones. The waterproof ones would be better above deck obviously.
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Old 14-01-2012, 20:37   #6
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Re: Affordable, BRIGHT Interior LED Fixtures

What hellosailor said. Yes, there are other details of heat and voltage regulation, but these are strips for area lighting: There's no need to go nuts. If you want "spotlight" LEDs, sure, go for Sensibulb, DrLED, Bibi, Imtra or the many types available. But if you just want to clap 10 or 15 LEDs under a bookshelf to light up a berth, or want to do pretty much what the OP has done, acquire a long roll of cheapo warm whites, router a groove in a strip of nice wood, varnish it, drill holes for leads and have at it.

I would choose water resistant for interior lights, personally, because if my ceiling's getting soaked to that degree, I have bigger problems than the cheap-ass LEDs shorting out their tiny draws.

By the way, you can plug any of these into a 9V battery and have lights anywhere in the boat, independent of "ship's power". I've mentioned this idea elsewhere.
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Old 15-01-2012, 09:50   #7
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Re: Affordable, BRIGHT Interior LED Fixtures

Remember the old advice about getting what you pay for. I suggest you follow the link I posted above to other discussioin on LED cabin (and nav) lighting. Follow the links there and learn about current regulators and why resistor regulated systems fall short if you are even slightly interested in converting to save power.
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Old 15-01-2012, 10:07   #8
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Re: Affordable, BRIGHT Interior LED Fixtures

My day job is a diesel mechanic and a fleet supervisor, but I used to personally own a small at home business years ago of building LED flashlights and all my vehicles were converted to LED many years ago before almost anything was on the market.

But anyway here is a suggestion for anyone wanting a very waterproof super simple LED lamp in either white, amber or red, go find a fleet store or a truck stop or buy online those round or rectangular sealed replacement lamps used on trucks. The 4" round lamp is usually under $20, the rectangular ones a few dollars more, they are completely sealed and even the emitters inside are in epoxy. They are for 12vdc, you just have a 2 or 3 prong plug pigtail, I use a marine grease in those, a simple plug and play for those electrically limited, mounting though does require some creativity.
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Old 15-01-2012, 10:56   #9
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Re: Affordable, BRIGHT Interior LED Fixtures

"go find a fleet store or a truck stop "
It helps to bear in mind what those truck/bus LED assemblies are made for. If your vehicle only gets depot maintenance once or twice a year, sooner or later it will be riding around with a burned out (conventional) marker/tail light, and that can cost the operator/driver a fast hundred dollars.
So you replace a cheap $2 light bulb with a cheap $20 LED marker, and you eliminate the risk of getting that ticket. So what if half the cheap LEDs burn out, what's left is still legal until the depot maintenance replaces it. So what if it is inefficient and sucks power just like the tungsten bulb dd, you've got a huge alternator always running anyhow.
They do serve a purpose, and serve it well. If "proper" LED assemblies were used they'd probably cost $200 each and quickly be stolen, so for trucks and busses, the cheap assemblies might be perfect.
And the cheap packages usually won't see anything near the 50,000+ hours of use that "proper" assemblies will have.
On sailboats, where there's less theft risk and more need to conserve power? You might do the math differently. Or not.
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Old 15-01-2012, 11:37   #10
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Re: Affordable, BRIGHT Interior LED Fixtures

I don't want to give the impression that what is good for an 18 wheeler is good for a boat, but for the most part any RV or mariine interior LED housing tends to be pricy, I used a white LED rectangular sealed white backup lamp for over my stove in one of my travel trailers, and I used a pair in a friends engine compartment of his fishing boat.

Lots of folks are getting boats nowadays are working on tighter budgets. And again many are just dropping in with limited electrical skills so fabricating a proper LED lamp using SMD emitters and even using voltage controllers is way above them.

My ideal LED lamp system is to have every single housing with just enough of an emergency battery in itself to power that lamp on reduced power, the boat can charge all of the lamps but should for some reason that you lose your main battery connection each lamp housing can run for hours on reduced emitters off of its own small NMHD type of battery.

Basically any light on board is also an emergency light.
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Old 15-01-2012, 11:51   #11
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Re: Affordable, BRIGHT Interior LED Fixtures

GEEZ, I THINK THEY LOOK GREAT! As to current limiting, sure I agree that resistors are not as efficient as other means such as current limited pulse modulation. But even without additional info, they must be more efficient than the halogens I now use. They may not be for everybody but they should be considered.

And if heat becomes an issue, I will look for something that I can control with pulse modulation.

A general comment about LED lumens. The amount of light is only limited by the number of LEDs in a fuxture---within reason. Many cities are replacing their street lights with LEDs hoping to save on electric costs. Unfortunately, the electric companies in many cases have just raised their kilowatt cost.

Thanks for your post!

Foggy
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Old 15-01-2012, 12:00   #12
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Re: Affordable, BRIGHT Interior LED Fixtures

Worse than that "Hellosailor". All of those on the road LED's are designed for infinite power as you point out. They are also designe to expect constant voltage. Many of these things will work poorly with the variable voltage on sailing charge system or may need to be off durring your bulk charging cycle or they fail prematurely. All of the marine use replacement bulbs have self-contained current regulators and they don't even care about the polarity of your wiring. The replacement bulbs I point to below are typically less than 20 bucks and if you shop at the boat shows you may score in the 12 dollar zone for interior lights. I have a 24 volt system so I may see as high as 28 volts charging. My lights will aslo continue to work at full brilliance to their drop-out voltage, anywhere from 9 to 17 volts depending on the bulb. I copied my post from the other discussion group below.



Sorry for the length of this post. I have so many lights and studied this for so long its hard to hold back. I think I could write a very boring book on the topic.

The common error most make is shopping for LED replacements by price alone. I suggest you check out the primers offered at:

BIBI
Bebi Electronics-What Our Marine RV & Off Grid LED Specifications Mean
Bebi Ultrabright White LED Marine, RV, and Off-Grid Light Bulb Assemblies

Marine beam
Marinebeam Idiots Guide to Marine LEDs
- Output in Lumens

The important fact to take away from these is that LED's absolutely need current regulation. They are quite intollerant of excessive current and will burn up. These are about the best beginner's guides. Most cheap bulbs use a choke resistor to limit the current through the diodes such as those sold for vehicles. These expect constant voltage in order to get constant current and also assume massive power availability. The choke & LED often uses nearly as much TOTAL power as the IC bulb you replaced. On a sail boat, your voltage will vary with battery discharge and the reason you bought the darn things is negated by the cheap current limiter you bought with it. This is drastically worse if, like us, you run 24 volts. In our system the volts may be as high as 28 and low - well, could be bad. In order to not exceed the maximum current capability of the LED the choke needs to be set for the highest voltage so with the charging sysem off, the Lumins goes down or the LED quits emmiting.

Also, surface mounts and the 'next generation' LEDs are brighter. The old tiny eye-ball types are replaced by surface mounts. I can't look directly at mine. Power LEDs are monsters nearly as big as a dime (see the single LED deck lights below!)

SO, as one might expect, you pay for quality. The better the current regulator, the greater the cost. One of the best regulators is Pulse Width Modulated (PWM). This system switches the LED on and off at very high frequency to control the averave current. The most efficient PWM bulbs for our use will operate from as low as 9 volts up to 50 or even 90 volts for some. The lumins and kevin rating do not vary but the percentage ON/OFF time will. These do not waste energy over resistors. Really good ones switch at 20,000 to over 30,000 Hz and have design accomodations so that your radios are not interfered with.

I have all PWM bulbs except for my BIBI lights. I run 60 IMTRA surface mount LEDs in the cabin and am very satisfied with them. They collectively pull 0.2 amps at 24 VDC according to my Xantrex battery monitor when all are on. I compared about 10 different replacements for these at the boat show befor selecting. Definitely picked the birightest 'soft' lights

There are two IMTRA surface mounts with 10 LEDs per light in each down fixture. The PWM circuitry is on the back of each 'bulb'. The AquSignal Tricolor has a Marine Beam PWM replacement. Note the reflective tape I used to enhance the fixture output. BIBI also has an excellent sysem for this fixture. I bought one of these as spare in case the radio was botherd by the PWM. BTW, the modified AQuaSignal has taken one direct lightnig hit that destroyed my Raymarine wind instrument.

Next, I show the 4-1/2 inch 50 watt 200 lumen spreader lights I replaced with a Marine beam LED Spreader Lights and LED Deck Lights Solo Deck light 10 watts; 800 lumins. THese use a single monster Power LEDs each. I love these things! With total 6 on the mizzen and main, you can read on deck like under mercury vapor lights. I built one into the base of the forward canted AquaSignal steaming light. The Steaming light IC bulb was also replaced by LED. They now offer a plug in replacement that fits the fixture.

The little LED cluster set in the yellow cup is a custom BIBI light they kindly made for us for the WINDEX. It has a central hole for mounting on the Windex stalk. I added the yellow shade to prevent the LEDs from appearing as an anchor light. It is powered from the nearest mast light fixture. One is on each mast. Talk to Michael at BIBI and ask to have one made for you. They have not added them to their standard listing yet.

We also added backup navigation lights at deck level from Signalmate. These are not replacement bulbs but whole PWM fixtures. They are quite pricey but we got a great deal at the Strictly Sail Chicago show. MISEA Group!, Marine Safety Energy Affiliates#

LED Fluorescent Tubes These guys offer replacement florescent bulbs. They are fantasticly brilliant. I installed them over my vanity mirrors. I hate shaving in the dark.

A word about household LEDs. I installed these in all of my 110 fixtures so to reduce power drain on the inverter. (Home Depot etc.) These ALL interfere with the VHF.

I really like my lights. I was cautioned to keep and store the IC bulbs in case a lightning strike wiped out the LEDs. Marine beam has some of the widest selection of really nice replecements. BIBI also has great stuff but may require a bit of ingenuity to apply.
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Old 15-01-2012, 15:45   #13
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Re: Affordable, BRIGHT Interior LED Fixtures

I'll stick with my uncomplicated $140 option. I'd they stop working in 4 years, I'll replace tem and still be under the cost of 2 Alpenglows. As for consumptuon, I feel that for the amount of light we now have available these LED strips are very reasonable. My fixtures seem to be about four or five times as bright as a standard halogen fixture and use .4-.5amps as opposed to 1-1.5amps.

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Old 15-01-2012, 17:18   #14
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Modern integrated power led drivers use PWM but in the form of a switched mode buck converter. This just produces a fixed voltage or fixed current regulation. It does not PWM the led. People continually read PWM regulation as PWM control of the load. It's not, it's a regulation technique. The exact same effect can be achieved by using linear regulators. It's just that they are more inefficient and generate more heat.

It's wrong to state this LEDs must have current control. A resistor sized conservatively will work . Yes it will be inefficient and overvoltage will shorten the life. Bu it will work to a degree. In modern led controllers you also get ageing algorithms to compensate for light output dropping as the LEDs age.

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Old 15-01-2012, 18:27   #15
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Re: Affordable, BRIGHT Interior LED Fixtures

Blahman,

The light look great. I think I will give the strips a try.

Geeze Nicholson58, the lights look good to me. He has more light with less power consumption, whats wrong with that?
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