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Old 11-04-2006, 07:03   #1
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LED Lighting Option

I originally posted the following on another board some time ago but as I've gotten some good assistance here, I though others might be interested:

When we acquired our new (to us) Beneteau First 42 a few years ago, we inherited a mixture of cabin lighting fixtures, some factory originals and some replacements that had been substituted for the original fixtures (fortunately, however, the “spare parts” box that came with our boat included most of the original fixtures that had been replaced). None of these were particularly satisfactory, especially so for night running when red light is required. As an interim fix for night running requirements, we carried several rolls of “Tail Light” Tape that we would use to cover the fixture lenses at dusk. While this worked, we lost the option of having normal (white) illumination when we wanted it, the amount of light from the tape covered fixtures was unsatisfactory; and, the adhesive residue on the lens covers was problemsome.

As a partial resolution, we purchased and installed two Alpen Glow Lights fixtures—with both variable intensity white and red (LED) night-lighting—over our Galley and Navigation station. While these are excellent fixtures, they are not inexpensive and I was determined to find a less costly solution as we had many fixtures to deal with. I was also interested in LED’s for improved energy efficiency as, although we have a 450 Amp Hour house bank, our energy use is substantial, requiring recharging every 48 hours or so.

While attending the Ft. Lauderdale boat show in 2002, we came upon an exhibit of replacement LED light-bulbs that seemed just the thing. They were quite costly, however, and none was available as a replacement for the Festoon bulbs in our factory original fixtures or as plug-in replacements for our MR-11 Halogen reading lamps. Not to be deterred, over the next several months I fabricated several versions of replacement “bulbs” using clusters of 75¢, 1.25 volt, LED’s obtained at Radio Shack. While they worked, they were labor intensive and only slightly better than earlier solutions.

Fortunately, LED product lines have much expanded in the last two years and there now many more types of LED “bulbs” and arrays available that allow one to modify older fixtures with only modest efforts and achieve excellent results. Moreover, if one avoids suppliers with “Marine” in their name, this can be done very inexpensively. In our case, I have relied on Super Bright LED's, Inc. for supplies. The example below pictures a factory original fixture in our Quarter Cabin.

As illustrated, this has been modified by the addition of a $9.95, 36 “bulb”, red LED array (Part No#1156-PCB-R36 Red)and a $2.50, Radio Shack micro-toggle switch. The array is held in place with several small pieces of adhesive backed foam.

One only need remember to "Toggle for Red"...

While it is difficult to illustrate the amount of light, the following are snaps taken at night with the same metering and time exposure:

Normal (white) light:

And, Red (night) light:

(The bright yellowish square that appears in the snap above does not actually appear to the naked eye, which sees only a bright uniformly illuminated lense).

Having had satisfactory results with the single RED arrays, we are now changing out all of the incandescent light-bulbs for LED arrays although, as we have an excess of the factory original fixtures due to substitutions in other locations, in the lavatories we will have two fixtures each, one with two Red arrays and one with two White, as shown below, which will provide more than adequate lighting.

As for the Halogen Replacments:

The MR11 Color LED Wide Angle bulb, Red or White at only $7.95 (significantly less than the offering price at the Miami Boat Show) is a direct plug-in replacement for a standard 10 Watt Halogen although the light from the white bulb is not as "user friendly" as the Halogen.

Hopefully this will be helpful to some.

s/v HyLyte
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Old 11-04-2006, 07:51   #2
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HyLyte - interesting name for a thread on LED lighting

I too have been perusing the SuperBriteLED website in search of a replacement for several 12v flourescent fixtures that have expired. Yesterday I ordered two of their LB1 light bar units - the right length to replace the standard 12inch 8watt tubes, and hopefully the right brightness / warmth of light.

However - and this is a big point - the LB1 and some other products are NOT for auto / RV / boat use because they do not have a current-limiting resistor to protect the units from the 13 - 14vdc output of alternators / chargers. To get the maximum life out of the light bar, for example, I will have to add a resistor to the circuit.

Once I receive these and do some testing I'll post the results here.
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Old 12-04-2006, 11:08   #3
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Did you notice that some of the MR16 LED lights are rated 10 - 14 volts, some are rated 12 - 16 volts. Be careful what you get. (different ratings for AC)

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Old 20-04-2006, 12:20   #4

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You may want to spend another dollar per fixture, and add a 15v rated zener diode or other spike protector (varistor, etc.) across the power leads to each LED array. According to the folks who supply LEDs to the automobile industry, a typical starter or alternator can throw a 200-volt spike into the power lines, and LEDs can and will either blow or die early because of these spikes.

The zener diode or varistor can be a 15-25c device, so putting one or two of them at each fixture is cheap insurance. This applies to all marine electronics, by the way, not just LEDs. The alternative is to make sure they are always switched OFF during engine starting/stopping.

Jameco, Mouser, Digikey, all the electronic houses sell these. Even Radio Shack--who'll charge you way more than they are worth.
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Old 20-04-2006, 16:25   #5
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Thanks for...

your suggestions.

Please note, however, that the voltage limiters are part and parcel of the arrays--at least according the the SuperBright LEDs Inc. literature--as they are designed as replacement fittings for various trucks etc.

Of course, you must remember that my knowledge is electrics is limited to: "plug it in and hope it works" tho' I've been getting a heck of an education from GordMay, Rick Young, Wheels and everyone else since I got here a few weeks ago!


s/v HyLyte
"It is not so much for its beauty that the Sea makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the waves, that so wonderfully renews a weary spirit."
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