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sandycohen 28-12-2009 14:50

LED Replacement Running Lights

I have a 1965 cruiser. I just got the electrical system working again, and the running lights on the boat take a 31mm festoon bulb. This is a 10 Watt bulb.

I would like to replace the bulbs with LED bulbs to save battery use. All of the 31mm LED bulbs say they are not approved for navigation use. Many 42mm festoon LED bulbs say they are OK for navigation use. The 31mm not approved bulb says it has a candle-power of 8. The incandescent bulb being replaced also says it has a candlepower of 8. Does that mean the bulbs I have are also not suitable for navigation (the boat is 23' which I believe is the min class for coast guard light requirements)?

Should I just replace the bulbs with the equivalent candle power LED's, or replace the housings and fixtures?


FSMike 28-12-2009 19:09

Sandy -
I recently had a chat with a friend who had replaced his nav lights with leds, only to find that they were so dim as to be practically invisible in use. After some research he simplified things by saying "If they are very expensive they will work very well; if they're cheap they won't." Apparently there is more involved than just wattage ratings, you also have to worry about the type of light put out. Sorry I can't be of more help.
Anybody else?

BubbleHeadMd 28-12-2009 20:05

I think I can add a little to this.

First, LED's are very directional. They put out light in ONE direction. As you know, navigation lights have very specific arcs of visibility. In order to cover the arc of visibility in the required brightness, they have to be installed at angles, in clusters.

I imagine that there's also an issue with ensuring a minimum durability for marine use, but that's supposition on my part.

I replaced all of the incandescent bulbs on my electric vehicle with LED's. Yes, they were the same brightness but as soon as you stepped off to the side, they were very dim because the light radiated in a very narrow arc.

Only buy CG approved LED's. If they don't exist, don't substitute. Write the manufacturers, create demand and they'll build them. Heck, if you just replace non navigation lights with LED's you'll be ahead of the game in power consumption. (Cabin lights, spreader lights, etc.)

Jmolan 28-12-2009 21:44

I have replaced everything in my tri-color/Anchor/Strobe mast head with Dr. Led's and I am very happy. Brighter anchor light at 1/10th of an amp. Not cheap, but the savings in worry (I can leave the anchor light on day and night while unattended) and long life they promise is worth it to me.

Penelope 28-12-2009 21:55

I think ,Doctor LED has Nav lights There around $40 each for the larger bayonet bulbs. I would also like to replace mine. I buy my LED lights from Superbright However they do not seem to have the Navlight bulbs I want. They have everything else though. I recently replaced all my red lighting with Red LEDS .What a power savings . Plus they really put out a red glow.

mbu745 28-12-2009 21:59

Hi sailor, for LEDs, go to Bebi Electronics-Installing Marine LED Reading, Navigation and Running Lights! , now you gone pay the real price for what you need. Regards. mbu745

SoonerSailor 28-12-2009 22:31

I don't think you are going to find CG approved LED replacements for the incandescent bulbs in your Nav light housings. The above mentioned replacement modules may well meet CG specs, but they have not gone through the type acceptance procedure, or whatever they call it. This could result in a point of contention in a liability determination, or so more knowledgeable "sea lawyers" than myself have noted.

The little 5mm LEDs commonly used in these aftermarket replacements are very directional, so clusters of them are used to get a good directional spread. The high power LEDs, like the Luxeons, Crees, and others usually have a much wider beam and can effectively be used alone in my experience. Luxeon green and red high power LEDs driven at 1 watt produce a prodigious amount of green and red light, much more than a 10 watt incandescent with a green or red filter over it, as I found when I fabricated some modules with these LEDs for a Catalina 22.

A major problem with LED drop-in replacements for incandescent bulbs is waste heat. An incandescent bulb is much less efficient than an LED, but much of the energy not turned into visible light is radiated out of the bulb in the form of infrared light. Green, red, and white LEDs don't radiate appreciable infrared. Though they are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs, they still convert less than 20% of the energy they consume into visible light. The rest is heat that has to be conducted away from the LED to a sufficiently large heat sink. If this is not done well, LED output and life is significantly affected. Unfortunately, driving the LEDs at a high enough level to provide the quantity of light needed for navigation generates a significant amount of heat that may not be efficiently conducted away by an incandescent bulb type socket. This is why almost all (or all?) LED navigation light modules that are CG approved have been purpose designed for LEDs, and hopefully are doing a good job of removing heat from the LED dies.

mbu745 29-12-2009 04:32

Hello SoonerSailor, you are right of course, when you mention sea lawyers. Even if you use LED's for interior, this company is worth to have a look. Regards.

BubbleHeadMd 29-12-2009 08:15

I found this press release on Dr. LED's website. Their Polar Star LED's are indeed, CG certified.

I believe that I'll check into these for my own boat.

Lostmt 29-12-2009 09:13

If you are running tri color light, a top a 60' mast, it doesn't matter what they are aint no power boater going to see them anyway and a ship aint going to get out of your way.

I've got all my lights LED (NOT EXPENSIVE DR.LED) for nav lights. They are way brighter than my regular bulbs. There is no way you can beat the Bebi Owl light for an anchor light.

A friend was inspected by the CG in Fla a couple of weeks ago at night and the CG was very impressed with the Owl. Even took down the information about the light to pass on to his superiors. No ticket issued for not being CG approved.

Its only when the lawyers get involved that it matters. The one with the biggest line of BS will win.

SoonerSailor 29-12-2009 10:57


Originally Posted by BubbleHeadMd (Post 380411)
I found this press release on Dr. LED's website. Their Polar Star LED's are indeed, CG certified.

Yes, but that is only the LED replacement for the anchor light, over two years ago. I wonder if the port and starboard Polarstars ever got certified, or failed certification, and why?

I'm not one to get all picky about CG certification of these lights, but it is something one should be aware of before jumping in.

bstreep 29-12-2009 17:18

Pay attention, everyone:

If you buy a non CG approved nav light, and use it in the US, and get into an accident, YOU ARE LEGALLY TOAST.

I don't care how well they work, or don't work, or how much power they save, or don't save. The lawyers will own you. And they WILL find out.

DaveOnCudjoe 29-12-2009 19:12

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

Boracay 29-12-2009 19:33

Toast for breakfast...
Before I change my navigation lights would you please quote the legal precedents (actual cases where a boat owner has been found liable for an accident solely because the navigation lights were non approved).

Those cases that I am aware of where navigation lights were a factor in the accident the allegation has been that the navigation lights were not on at all. I can understand the owner/master being liable if that were the case.

However, without rereading the entire thread on An Appalling Example of California Justice . . . I cannot determine if the lights on the sailboat were Coast Guard approved.

barnakiel 29-12-2009 20:49

Agree with Boracay - at least here in the EU, you can use ANY bulb, as long as it puts out the light in synch with requirements.

Needles to say, manufacturers of boats will use only the CE approved stuff. But it does not mean we have to follow suit, as long as the lights (not the bulbs) we display are what is required in the COLREGS.


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