Upping the Wow Factor of Your Boat with LEDs|
If there is one thing that has an instant and dramatic impact on the appearance of your boat, particularly at night, it’s lighting. Although there’s a lot of regulation and real world reasons why marine lighting is generally considered mostly utilitarian in nature, this does nothing to detract from the simple cool factor of creative boat lighting. Sure it’s important to ensure that navigation lighting and spotlights are properly installed and operated. Likewise, it’s also important that any additional lighting not interfere with them. But, done wisely, installing aftermarket and specialty lighting onboard has the ability to transform your boat from an everyday run of the mill cruiser, to something that stands out from the crowd.
One of the most popular ways to enhance and customize onboard lighting is through the addition of colored lamps. Ten years ago this was not so commonplace, as in order to achieve a colored lighting effect, it was often necessary to switch out to colored bulbs that simply didn’t last very long, or take the more expensive route and switch to colored lenses and fixtures. Making the matter worse, once switched to colored configurations, there was no other color option available. If you wanted to have your entire deck area illuminated in subdued hues of blue, but still be able to illuminate decks with bright white light when needed, you had to run additional fixtures.
With the emergence of LED lighting, all of these problems have quickly been tossed to the wayside and boaters are now making lighting effects a hugely popular and common customization. With LEDs it is possible to produce multiple colors with a single fixture. LEDs have extremely long life-spans, and since they can be designed to produce colored light at the source, require no special lenses or cheap colored bulbs. Since LEDs are up to 80% more efficient than regular incandescent lamps, boaters can also enjoy improved power management and reduced fuel costs as well as an improved aesthetic appearance simply by upgrading to LEDs.
As long as the colors chosen and their use and placement does not interfere with the operation or appearance of lighting required by law, LEDs offer a huge potential for interesting lighting effects that just about anyone who can wire up a light fixture can install.
At the forefront of colored boat lighting are the hugely popular underwater or “hull lights”. Designed to illuminate the water underneath and around the boat, these lights produce some of the most surreal and beautiful effects to be had in custom boat lighting. Up until five years ago, hull lights were usually halogen in nature and installation typically required drilling large holes in the hull and extensive attention to sealing and structural safety. They were somewhat tricky to maintain since if they were operated without being fully submerged, serious damage to the fixtures could result from runaway heat levels. With the advent of LED hull lights, the size of the fixtures has been greatly reduced without a loss of light output. This has allowed boat owners to greatly reduce the size of the holes required for mounting, and with some hull light models no holes are required at all. Additionally, LEDs produce very little heat, so damage from overheating if the lights are operated while dry has been greatly reduced as well.
Available in green, red, blue and other colors, underwater hull lights like the LEDUL8-2C Underwater LED Light from Larson Electronics.com outperform the old halogens they are replacing and produce an incredible color display when switched on while at anchor.
Cockpit lighting is another area where colored LEDs have found a great deal of popularity among boaters. Although there is some disagreement, the general consensus is that red lighting interferes with your vision less than white light once your eyes have become acclimated to dark conditions. Because of this, many boaters like to install subdued red lighting inside of cabins, cockpits and work areas where they need to manage navigation and charts. Again, the old way of doing this was to install additional fixtures dedicated to producing weak red light. With LEDs it is now possible, however, to simply replace the incandescent fixtures already present with LED units that can produce both red and white light as needed from one control switch.
Some of the more dramatic lighting effects are realized with switching general area lighting fixtures to multi-color capable LEDs. Decks, walkways, stairs, railings, under canopy and many other areas are prime candidates for an upgrade to LEDs. When a systematic approach is taken and every topside general lighting fixture replaced with color capable LEDs, some truly interesting lighting effects are created. Imagine being able to bathe your entire boat in a ghostly bluish light simply with the flick of a switch, and then toggle to a utilitarian white color when needed. If you want to impress passengers and guests while out for a late night cruise, then this is probably the single best way to get the conversation going bar none!
Another form of lighting that is quickly growing in popularity with boaters is not really “colored” lighting per se, but offers some very unique advantages nonetheless. IR or, Infrared lighting, is fast gaining something of a cult following as many boaters have begun taking advantage of night vision technology to improve their nighttime navigation abilities. Here again if you’ll pardon the pun, LEDs really shine. Able to produce light entirely in the infrared spectrum, LED light bars and spotlights offer the ability to greatly increase the range of a boaters’ night vision equipment. Even better, a boater with night vision equipment can operate an infrared spotlight as effectively as a normal spotlight, but since IR light is invisible, he will not risk blinding any other boaters who may be in close proximity.
Particularly attractive to commercial boaters and those in the emergency services fields, IR lighting basically allows boaters to illuminate their surroundings without interfering with navigation lighting, violating lighting regulations, or incurring the wrath of other boaters or worse, the authorities.
No matter if your boat is a 16 footer or a full on 40 foot cruiser, creative lighting through the use of colored LEDs can have a dramatic impact on your crafts appearance. Even better, LEDs can reduce your power consumption as well, reducing fuel costs and extending cruising, fishing and relaxation time. If you also consider the very real benefits of improved safety and reliability that LEDs offer, it is no wonder why upgrading to LEDs has become the most popular way to improve a boats wow factor.