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Old 07-01-2012, 07:33   #1
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Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting

I have been gradually replacing the halogen lighting in my boat with LEDs.

The boat came with 28 (!) 20 watt G4 down lights, 7 reading lights with 10 watt G4 bulbs, and four fixtures behind portlight curtains with 3 festoon bulbs each. There are also a number of 1 watt pea type bulbs illuminating steps and so forth. A lot of lighting and a lot of power consumption.

I have bought a variety of LED bulbs from different sources, trying to find the best results at the best price. I have paid from $5 to $36 each for them.

I have had good results from all in terms of reliability; the only problems I have had were two 1 watt units from Superbright LEDs which burned up (literally) upon first being switched on.

The Good:

Power consumption
Temperature
Life

The Bad:

Cost
Quality of light
Quantity of light


None of the LED units which I bought nearly equal the 350 lumens of output of the original 20 watt halogen bulbs. The boat has become gradually dimmer and dimmer as I kept putting in more LEDs. I have pretty much decided to leave on halogen bulb above my saloon table and another above the nav table -- where the light quality and brightness are most important.

The very expensive Sensibulbs don't fit in most of my fixtures. They have a bulky heat sink. The quality of light from them is somewhat more pleasant than the other LED units, but still nowhere near as pleasant as a regular halogen. And they are less than half as bright. They appear to be somewhat crudely made, and they will not work if the polarity is wrong (which you can check only by trial and error). But I have had no trouble with them so far.

I have been using el-cheapo Imtra LEDs for more than two years now without a single failure. The light output is similar to the Sensibulbs. But the light has a sickly greenish tinge which I find unpleasant, even worse than the pinkish tinge which the Sensibulbs have.

I have two kinds of LED units from Superbright LEDS. They appear to be very high quality units -- with a more polished, "German" look to them than the Sensibulbs. But two of them literally burned up on me, so I don't know whether the appearance of quality corresponds to any kind of reality.

One kind of Superbright LED has a single LED, and very pleasing quality of light, compared to other LEDs -- I would say equal to or possibly better than the Sensibulbs. They are extremely efficient, consuming only 1 watt, half of what the Sensibulbs use, but they are noticeably dimmer. They manufacturer claims 80 lumens. The Sensibulbs are probably 130 lumens - the only figure I could find (the manufacturer does not quote a lumen value).

The other kind of Superbright LED has multiple LEDs and is brighter -- claimed 98 lumens. It really does not appear to produce less light than the Sensibulbs -- possibly the manufacturer claim is conservative. It appears to be of very high quality and the light is not too hideous -- pinkish colored and not quite as nice as either the Sensibulb or the single LED unit from Superbright.

Superbright sells a lot of other LED units to replace G4 halogens, but these two are the only kind which can be used with a 24 volt electrical system such as mine.

Next I am going to try some LED units from Bedazzled in the UK. They offer some units which appear to be brighter than any others -- claimed 200 lumens from 3 watts of power consumption.

I have nearly finished replacing festoon bulbs with LED units from Superbright and from Imtra. Nothing much to report. These fixtures are supposed to produce some mood lighting by illuminating curtains on in-hull portlights. The original festoon bulbs were dim and very warm, producing a really pretty effect. The LEDs considerably spoil this effect, but they are brighter and I am glad for the extra light. When sailing at night this is the only cabin lighting I use.

I am skeptical about reading by LED light. There just seems to be something missing from the light LEDs produce. But I am experimenting with an LED tower bulb from Imtra in one of my bunk lights. We'll see.

So all in all, I think the huge beneficial effect on our power budgets makes LED lighting practically imperative on a cruising sailboat. But I am not very pleased by either the quality or the quantity of the light. There seems to be something missing from LED light -- like drinking instant coffee.

The only other thing I would say is that I can't see why the Sensibulbs should be worth $36 or $40 or whatever they cost nowadays. The cheapest LED units (Imtra and some no-names) have worked for years without a failure in my installation. The Superbrights at least appear to be superior workmanship (we shall see about the quality in the long run), and they are 1/3 the cost at $13 to $15.

I am interested to see what the Bedazzled LED units are like. They are even cheaper than Superbright and seem to be sophisticated (buck regulated) and high quality. I will update this thread after I have tried them.
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Old 07-01-2012, 07:54   #2
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pirate Re: Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting

Thanks for that Dockhead... was debating going down the LED route for Nav and other lights for the boat when I rewire/fit new fittings... but after reading this I'm gonna stick to conventional and use the savings towards a little Aerogen.. to back up my existing 60W solar....
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Old 07-01-2012, 07:55   #3
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Re: Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting

Excellent write-up. Thanks! You confirmed my worst fears. But I'm interested to hear what the Brits have come up with.

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Old 07-01-2012, 08:01   #4
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Re: Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting

I replaced 12 12 watt G4 halogen bulbs on my boat with $12 and $15 "warm white" units from Superbright LEDs. I've been generally satisfied with the light. Overalll the boat seems a little bit more dimly lit than before, and of course light quality isn't quite as pleasing. I have found that the brain adjusts to the different color quality of the LED lights as long as they are all about the same, and there isn't an incandescent or halogen light to compare to. Any incandescent light that was on would make the LEDs look a bit sickly by comparison, so I eliminated the last of them. The energy savings are just too compelling to not do this when you hate to run engines.

I agree with you about the Sensibulbs. Bulky and expensive, I have these in only two reading lamps.

BTW, the Superbright multiple LED wafers for G4 do have switching buck regulators. They can inject a little bit of noise into SSB reception but it isn't dramatic.

We should continue to see incremental improvements in LED efficiency and color quality over time.

Chip
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Old 07-01-2012, 08:06   #5
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Re: Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting

Have not gone as far in the process but your report exactly parallels mine to date.

The Sensi-bulbs are slightly brighter and have a slightly nicer color than others but at a cost double that of others.

Overall the LEDs are just not as bright. the boat is starting to look like a dimly lit cave.

I'm thinking about trying more fluorescents. The new ones have different color options than the old blue/green shade, power consumption is lower than incandescent and they run much cooler than halogens.
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Old 07-01-2012, 08:24   #6
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Re: Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting

P.S. -- on operating temperatures.

I measured the temperature of the fixtures lenses with Ryobi infrared thermometer:

20 watt halogen -- 158 degrees C (yikes!!)

Imtra LED -- 34 degrees

Sensibulb -- 44 degrees

Superbright multi -- 37 degrees

Superbright single -- 39 degrees


The Sensibulbs are significantly hotter than the other LEDs despite their bulky heat sinks.

The Superbrights have heavy solid heat sinks.

The Imtras don't have any heat sink at all and yet run the coolest.

The halogens are frighteningly hot.
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Old 07-01-2012, 08:31   #7
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Re: Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting

Thanks for the post, Dockhead. My boat came with 10W halogens, which probably explains why I didn't notice as much of a drop in lumens when I switched to LEDs. I'm assuming you have the more recent Sensibulbs? They're brighter than the models they replaced (maybe about 18 months ago). I'll check out the Superbrights. Thanks for the tip. Colin
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Old 07-01-2012, 08:38   #8
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Re: Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting

I stopped installing LED's when we'd replaced half the lights. Have a couple of sensis still in their packets without the heart to install them.

A 50-50 split works for me. Basically pulls 50% the power with everything switched on and still has some warmth to it. Enough lights are switched over to not use the halogens if trying to save power.
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Old 07-01-2012, 09:05   #9
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Re: Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting

Dockhead, et al,

Thanks for taking the time to write up your results. I'll be replacing my bulbs this coming season, including at least the anchor light. I'll be replacing regular 12 watt incandescents that are probably over 20 years old so it will be interesting to see if I experience any of the downsides others have noted.

Thanks again for the post!

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Old 07-01-2012, 09:09   #10
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Re: Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting

Dockhead,

We have been using lights from Bebi in Fiji on our boat and are very happy with them. Ours is a "new" build, sort of, so we are not replacing bulbs in fixtures but buying them ready made or making them ourselves. I spread a bunch of "doe" lights across the overhead in the saloon for ambient light. Bebi made a custom run for me out of "warm" white lights at no extra charge and the effect is very nice. Much like incandescents. Over the galley and nav station we are using bright white "fautasi's" which provide plenty of light without harsh shadows. Again the effect is very pleasant. I am making reading lights out of "doe" bright white lights mounted in fixtures made of bamboo. These provide plenty of light for reading and Bebi makes brighter lights if you need the extra boost. When I turn on all the lights my battery monitor barely registers the change.

The folks at Bebi are a pleasure to do business with and will ship worldwide for a flat rate of $6 usd, 12 working days. I was making my own lights for a while with parts from ledsupply.com but found that it was actually cheaper and easier to just get them from Bebi. May be worth a try before giving up.

Mike
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Old 07-01-2012, 09:14   #11
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Re: Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting

good thread,Dockhead.I was wondering if it was just me...or that I just haywire led's from the dollar store...the limited spectrum light from leds is not natural.Black is too black,white is not white .I guess books evolved in lamplight..
Fluorescents are not for me.Not good in cold weather;they whine on AM radio;unreliable ballasts and tubes.
Hard to beat the plain old car bayonet bulbs for comfort.
editne led iteration I do like are those little round led closet stickon lights with 3 aa batteries.(Sylvania)They last a long time,and without any wiring needed.
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Old 07-01-2012, 09:47   #12
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Re: Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting

Quote:
Originally Posted by theonecalledtom View Post
I stopped installing LED's when we'd replaced half the lights. Have a couple of sensis still in their packets without the heart to install them.

A 50-50 split works for me. Basically pulls 50% the power with everything switched on and still has some warmth to it. Enough lights are switched over to not use the halogens if trying to save power.
That's kind of what I have had the last couple of years.

I have three lighting circuits in my salon/galley -- main salon lights (8 downlights), the mood lights plus one downlight (6 festoons, three step lights, one downlight), the galley lights (4 downlights). It's a big space and as originally equipped took a lot of power to light -- probably 350 watts). I got rid of all of the halogens right away in the mood lights and galley lights circuits, and replaced every other halogen in the main saloon circuit (4 out of 8). So I could run the galley lights and the mood lights and not be burning any halogen, and the power consumption of the main saloon lights was reduced to half of previous.

That was a pretty good solution -- really couldn't complain. The saloon/galley is the only area which gets lit for hours at a time, so I already achieved maximum impact on my power budget back then. With 4 halogens left, the lights quality wasn't too bad. I'm not sure that what I'm doing now is not getting into diminishing returns.
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Old 07-01-2012, 09:55   #13
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Re: Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting

Slightly off topic, but I have to vent a little --

Replacing bulbs in my light fixtures is extremely time consuming on my boat -- what I've been doing all day. Why? Because of the utter cr*p Cantalupi downlights, 50% of which break every time they are removed. So far the only piece of really bad equipment installed at the original build on my boat.

These POS fixtures are so stupidly designed it takes your breath away. They are made of very thin brass sheet, and they have steel springs to hold them in place in the headliner. The steel springs are too strong for the job. And they are set in little cutouts in the thin brass body of the fixture. So the high force of the springs breaks the little tabs of thin brass, when the springs are compressed to take the fixtures out of the headliner.

A big rasberry to Cantalupi -- your light fixtures are utter cr*p! How I would like to throw them all in the trash! But I can't afford to replace the dozens of them I have on board.

I have been making new tabs out of brass picture hangers and pop riveting them in place. Very tedious. Tomorrow I will experiment with epoxy instead of pop rivets (the 3.2mm rivets are a little too big for the job, and I haven't been able to find any 2.5mm microrivets here in Cowes). Argghh! A pox on your house, Cantalupi!
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Old 07-01-2012, 10:05   #14
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Re: Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting

The research I did recently suggested that the LED G4 bulbs have typically about the same number of lumens as a 10W Halogen bulb. So if you are replacing a 20W bulb you'll get about half the light. There seems to be a huge variation in the colour temp of LED bulbs. Note that what thye call a "warm" LED can be 4000 or even 5000K which is very blue.

I did find these, 3150K and 186 lumens :

Amazon.com: Tower Type G4 Base 10 to 32 Volt AC DC 18 SMD Warm White LED 186 Lumen 360 degree Light Bulb, 1412WW: Automotive

I've heard great things about the lights from Alpenglow. They make most lamps in LED or CFL.

9-Watt Dual Power and LED Night Vision

I'm waiting for a birthday to get a couple of those
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Old 07-01-2012, 10:27   #15
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Re: Mixed Feelings about LED Cabin Lighting

We have replaced all of our lights with LED's and have been very happy with them. First, we tried the Sensibulbs and could not like them no matter how hard we tried to. Yes, I know they are supposed to be the best of the lot, but their big heat sink didn't fit many of our fixtures and their industrial looks when installed in fixtures just bothered us - they are butt ugly and there is no hiding that. Also, they give off a lot of heat.

So we ended up stumbling upon some $8 G4 halogen replacement LED's at Home Depot one day and bought a couple on a whim. They aren't much bigger than the G4 bulbs and fit our small fixtures well. We are very happy with these and have now switched over to them completely. The color is perfect - just a tiny amount whiter than halogen and the output is a bit less than a 10W halogen (call it an 8-9W equivalence). Of course, they put out zero heat and use almost no energy. These are the bulbs: Array Lighting - Premium LED lamp bulbs utilizing Selective Heat Sink Technology

We also replaced our spot light reading lamps with these LED's: 1 CREE LED MR16 LED Bulb - 12V DC - 3W These are also perfect for us. Again, they are the smallest amount whiter than the halogens, but these are just as bright as the halogens were. Best of all, they give out no heat, where the halogen spots were like reading under a sun lamp.

We got festoon LED's from Superbright LED to replace the incandescent bulbs in the engine rooms and other cabinet areas. Here, we went with cold bright white ones. This white color is an improvement over the yellow incandescent color for these areas and the LED's seem much brighter.

Lastly, we got some LED tape lights for mounting around coving to throw indirect reflected light against walls, cabintop etc. These are on a dimmer and adjustable. The "warm white" ones are much lighter at full power than halogen, but become the same color as halogen at 3/4 power, and "yellower" as you dim them. They would also be good under cabinets. Examples of these are here, but shop around and you can find 5 meter rolls of them for $30: LED Flex Strips, LED tape lights Light Strips

Mark
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