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Old 14-05-2024, 09:52   #1
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Check the life left on your navigation lights

I recently noticed our Aqua Signal 34 anchor light was not working. When turning it on, it gave 4 flashes then nothing. I suspected a loose electrical connection, but consulting the manual showed that 4 flashes indicates the end of its service life.

To deliberately stop the light working seems a strange feature to incorporate into a navigation light, especially as the four flashes were quite bright indicating the led was still capable of working. However, there is a warning system that I was unaware of, so it is really user error:

Ė 1 x flashing = 75% remaining service life
Ė 2 x flashing = 50% remaining service life
Ė 3 x flashing = 25% remaining service life; recommendation: provide replacement!
Ė 4 x flashing = End of the life expectancy; the light switches off immediately.

I suspect this warning is a requirement for certification so may apply to other brands of navigation lights. It is worth checking. You could be left without a working navigation light at an inconvenient time when replacement is difficult. We managed to reach the "end of life expectancy" in only just over six years. Granted we anchor a great deal, but the anchor light is only turned on at night (given the low power draw some cruising boats leave the anchor light on 24hrs a day) so others may be close to the stage of losing a navigation light from this inbuilt "feature".
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Old 14-05-2024, 10:02   #2
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Re: Check the life left on your navigation lights

I've never heard of a specified service life for an anchor or nav light. Typically they just work until they don't. This seems like some artificial limitation from Aqua Signal instead of just letting the LEDs and driver work as long as it can. Plus the flash when turning it on is an unacceptable feature in my mind and potentially confusing to other boats. None of my lights (Hella NaviLED Pro and one from Signal Mate) give any kind of flash like this.

If this feature is unique to Aqua Signal and common to all of their LED lights, that would lead me to recommend that they're not fit for purpose and I'd recommend against purchasing them.
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Old 14-05-2024, 12:06   #3
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Re: Check the life left on your navigation lights

Fascinating.

As OP posted, the Aqua Signal manual says:

Quote:
Product life according to EN 14744
The service life of the navigation light depends on the ambient temperature. If the navigation light oper- ates at +25 įC, for example, a service life of max. 30,000 hours is to be expected. Operating times at higher ambient temperatures reduce the expected service life correspondingly.
The remaining service life is indicated by flashing signals after a corresponding time.
The following applies after switching on the light:
- 1 x flashing = 75% remaining service life
- 2 x flashing = 50% remaining service life
- 3 x flashing = 25% remaining service life; recommendation: provide replacement! - 4 x flashing = End of the life expectancy; the light switches off immediately.
EN 14744:2005 (no idea if that is the latest) says:

Quote:
4.10 Other light sources, e.g. light emitting diodes (LED) and their particularities
4.10.1 Deviations caused by service life conditions
If a light source other than an incandescent lamp is used, the navigation light shall clearly indicate (e.g. by failure, similar to the burn out of an incandescent lamp) if the required range can no longer be attained (e.g. as a result of degradation - ageing - or failure of parts of the light source).
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Old 14-05-2024, 17:28   #4
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Re: Check the life left on your navigation lights

I have been looking up how other manufacturers deal with this system. It seems most (every?) manufacturer has a system to warn users that the "end of life" is approaching.

For example, this is Lopolight’s system:

• All OK: 5 seconds after turning on the light it will go dark for 0,1 second and turn
on again. This is just a check for you to assure that the microprocessor is working.
• Less than 2000 working hours left: The dark period is extended to 2 seconds:
you should change the light at your next service within the next 12 months.
• Light Expired: The dark period is extended to 5 seconds: You should change
the light immediately. (The light will still be working, even in the expired state)


Note in this case (and every other manufacturer that I found) the light continues to work despite reaching its "end of life". I think this far preferable to Aqua Signal’s solution where the electronics deliberately turn off the light.
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Old 15-05-2024, 00:45   #5
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Re: Check the life left on your navigation lights

You canít see your own anchor light when turning it on. So this is really dumbÖ.
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Old 15-05-2024, 02:36   #6
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Re: Check the life left on your navigation lights

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Originally Posted by smac999 View Post
You canít see your own anchor light when turning it on. So this is really dumbÖ.
You canít see any of your running while turning them on.

Thatís where you have another person turn on the light while you take a look while outside.
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Old 15-05-2024, 05:54   #7
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Re: Check the life left on your navigation lights

I just checked the documentation for my Hella and Signal Mate nav / anchor lights. Neither mentions anything about an end of life warning or anything along those lines. And I've never had any of them blink when turned on in the slip or other situation where there's something nearby to reflect light back (so I can see that they turned on).
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Old 15-05-2024, 06:09   #8
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Re: Check the life left on your navigation lights

Quote:
Originally Posted by rslifkin View Post
I just checked the documentation for my Hella and Signal Mate nav / anchor lights. Neither mentions anything about an end of life warning or anything along those lines. And I've never had any of them blink when turned on in the slip or other situation where there's something nearby to reflect light back (so I can see that they turned on).
I also have the Hella NaviLED Pro running lights and there is no mention of “end of life”. The more “extras” they cram into these devices the less they can be trusted to perform their primary function. There are just more points of potential failure.
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Old 15-05-2024, 08:49   #9
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Re: Check the life left on your navigation lights

Hella have an "end of life" indicator on at least some of their navigation lights. Below is an excerpt from the Hella NaviLED PRO manual for their Bi-colour lamp. I suspect this system is installed (or will be installed) on all their modern lights, but you will have to look up the manual for your individual model to be sure. Fortunately the light does not turn permanently off when the "end of life" is reached unlike the silly system incorporated into the Aqua Signal lights.

"To ensure long term safety, each NaviLED PRO Bi-colour lamp is equipped with a timing circuit.
Once the lamp has operated for a total time of 10,000 hours, the lamp activates 'Service Mode'.
Service Mode is indicated by the lamp flashing at a rate of 60 flashes per minute for 15 seconds as
soon as the lamp is switched on. This will occur for 15 seconds every time the lamp is switched on
until the unit has operated for another 2000 hours.
After 2000 hours the Service Mode flash rate doubles to 120 flashes per minute for 15 seconds as
soon as the lamp is switched on.
To ensure the lamp meets the light output criteria of its certification, Hella marine recommends the
light module be replaced as soon as it enters this 2000 hours Service Mode stage. By regular
recreational boating standards, even with regular night sailing, 'Service Mode' will hardly ever be reached."
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Old 15-05-2024, 09:13   #10
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Re: Check the life left on your navigation lights

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Originally Posted by noelex 77 View Post
We managed to reach the "end of life expectancy" in only just over six years. Granted we anchor a great deal, but the anchor light is only turned on at night (given the low power draw some cruising boats leave the anchor light on 24hrs a day) so others may be close to the stage of losing a navigation light from this inbuilt "feature".
Just re-reading your post and doing the math, the manual's maximum estimated life of 30,000 hours at 25C works out to around 7 years if used 12 hours a day.

To me your six years is close enough to that ballpark to suggest it has performed within the vague design spec and isn't a one off bad unit and isn't due to any user damage.

So thanks for the post, I learned something new.

I am curious about the observable external physical condition after six years, does it still look to be in good shape with a clear lens and such?
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Old 15-05-2024, 09:18   #11
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Re: Check the life left on your navigation lights

Thinking about it, it seems odd to me that light manufacturers are so worried about the LEDs degrading to less than their specified output, yet so many nav lights (particularly older incandescent ones) have lenses that degrade significantly and are often ignored even when that's likely a far larger impediment to proper output than a slight degradation in LED brightness. On the lens degradation thing, I'm starting to get the very slightest yellowing of the lens on my Signal Mate masthead / anchor light unit. The Hella NaviLED Pro side and stern lights are still crystal clear and look as good as the day they were installed (4 years ago for all of the lights).

In particular the 10,000 hour limit for the Hellas seems awfully short. Particularly if they're used on a small commercial or government/police where I often see boats operated with nav lights on all the time, even in broad daylight. I can see some of those applications using up a set of these lights withinin a few years.

I'm still of the opinion that having a nav light flash as a status indication is somewhere between stupid and dangerous regardless of the intended purpose.
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Old 15-05-2024, 09:34   #12
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Re: Check the life left on your navigation lights

Quote:
Originally Posted by rslifkin View Post
Thinking about it, it seems odd to me that light manufacturers are so worried about the LEDs degrading to less than their specified output, yet so many nav lights (particularly older incandescent ones) have lenses that degrade significantly and are often ignored even when that's likely a far larger impediment to proper output than a slight degradation in LED brightness.
It looks like a case of "new things get more rules, for better and worse" to me.

Aqua Signal's reference to EN 14744, a European standard, suggests it may be more that manufacturers are forced to do "something" if they want to meet that standard.

A bit of background from the standard on applicability:

Quote:
According to the CEN/CENELEC Internal Regulations, the national standards organizations of the following countries are bound to implement this European Standard: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Quote:
This European Standard applies to requirements for navigation lights and their testing:
a) for inland navigation and sea-going vessels;
b) for recreational craft of 20 m and over;
c) For recreational craft of less than 20 m that shall also meet the CEVNI rules.
This European Standard is not applicable to navigation lights on recreational craft less than 20 m in length that come within the scope just of COLREGs.
It would be interesting to know the background behind inclusion of the relevant section in the standard. For better and worse, lights that don't meet this standard may not have such features.
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Old 15-05-2024, 09:43   #13
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Re: Check the life left on your navigation lights

None of my Aqua Signal lamps had that, but I never had LED's
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Old 16-05-2024, 09:33   #14
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Re: Check the life left on your navigation lights

I just recently purchased an aquasignal 33 bicolour, for boats <20m ... it certificate of conformity does not claim to conform to that particular standard, and the included documentation has no mention of "end of life" indicators ... so this is probably not so much an issue for lights on smaller boats.
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Old 16-05-2024, 12:42   #15
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Re: Check the life left on your navigation lights

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Originally Posted by Kelkara View Post
I just recently purchased an aquasignal 33 bicolour, for boats <20m ... it certificate of conformity does not claim to conform to that particular standard, and the included documentation has no mention of "end of life" indicators ... so this is probably not so much an issue for lights on smaller boats.
I think you are correct. I could not find anything for the 33 series but the 32 series does not seem to have any electronics to show the "end of life", or any mechanism to shut down the light. The lack of this latter "feature" is a real bonus compared to other more expensive Aqua Signal lights. On the other hand Aqua Signal specify the light must be discarded after 10 years from manufacture. This seems an equally silly system. These lights can sit on retailers shelves for some years and lights such as lower navigation lights often see very little use, especially for yachts with tricolour lights. I suspect most owners will ignore the 10 year rule, but in the event of a collision this could be an issue.

Below is an extract from the Aqua Signal 32 manual:


"The operaing time of the LED navigation light. series 32 is max. 20,000 hours. After approximately 10 years (in use on Recreational Boats) the requi-red minimum visibility wil not be reached anymore.
The LED navigation light has to be replaced by a new light after 10 years.
A sticker with the production date is fixed on the back of the light. Please make a note of the production date before mounting of the light."
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