How to Choose Boat LED Lights for Your Vessel|
Article - March 8, 2016 By LarsonElectronics.com
How to Choose Boat LED Lights for Your Vessel
Buying boat LED lights is nothing like purchasing luminaries for your home. In addition to looking for something that looks great and performs well, marine-grade fixtures must be durable and highly resistant to corrosion and rough treatment. Furthermore, when it comes to compliance, luminaries for vessels are typically low voltage (10-30V DC). Due to limited space often associated with ships, the units should also be compact.
These are just some criteria that must be met for fully functioning, reliable boat lights. Read on to learn more about these factors and how they will affect your marine lighting system.
Marine Grade and Coast Guard Compliance
In the commercial marine industry, lights serve an important purpose on boats. They are primarily used to aid nighttime operations, allowing other vessels to observe and acknowledge their presence from a distance. For example, according to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (established in 1972), a boat that is 164 feet in length must have a masthead light that is visible for a distance of six nautical miles, sidelight, towing light and white/red/green or yellow all-around light (all three-mile visibility). This regulation varies, depending the size of the boat.
The type commercial operations may also dictate the type of lighting system to be deployed on the vessel. During trawling, fishing boats must display two all-around luminaries in a straight line (one green, one white). Furthermore, a masthead light should be in place above the all-around fixtures for vessels longer than 164 feet. For sailing or rowing boats, sidelights and a stern light are mandatory, unless the vessel is less than 66 feet in length. A towing ship must adhere to a long list of lighting requirements during operation. This includes two masthead lights (three for long tows), a singular, dominant light for a string of towed units and an all-around, white light near the forward end when towing damaged ships.
These strict lighting requirements indicate that industrial luminaries are salient to commercial marine operations. Without reliable fixtures, boating companies and owners of boats in regulated waters could be prone to fines and restrictions due to non-compliance. Because of this, when choosing boat LED lights for your vessel, heavy-duty builds and consistent performance must be prioritized.
Performance: Low Voltage and Marine Grade
What exactly are marine-grade lights? Marine grade refers to the type of protection the luminary is equipped with to ensure performance. These type of lights use materials that deter saltwater corrosion. Furthermore, they are typically waterproof, with Ingress Protection ratings as high as IP67 or IP9K. Compared to residential lighting, marine-grade luminaries come with closed, industrial builds. It might be tempting to install more aesthetically pleasing lights on your boat; but when it comes to performance in rough conditions, nothing can beat marine grade.
Most boat LED lights for marine operations operate on low voltages, i.e., 10-30V DC. For LEDs, consistent current circuitry is crucial for performance. When regulating voltages for lighting systems that run on a boat’s batteries, a DC-to-DC converter is an important component to have. To avoid electromagnetic interference (EMI), don’t forget to ensure that the voltage regulator is shielded adequately. If the wiring to the LED is weakly shielded, it will disrupt nearby electronic equipment, such as laptops, navigational tools and etc. Static, buzzing and skipping of onboard electronics are signs of EMI.
Lighting Angles and Colors
Boat LED lights emit different sizes of beams, depending on their configuration. A wide beam of at least 50 degrees is often used for spreader or courtesy fixtures on vessels. These units, which help reduce the formation of shadows, may be used to light up walkways, cockpits and general locations with ongoing activities. Narrow light beams, roughly 20 degrees or narrower, are used to focus light onto a specific object or location. This type of beam configuration is useful for chart lighting, detailed task lighting for maintenance or repair on vessels and spotlighting.
LEDs, due to their compact sizes and ability to display extremely bright light, can be used for visually spectacular lighting systems. However, one should consider that going overboard with lights, such as installing a wide array of colors and motions, could be unproductive; and in some cases, lead to problems.
In addition to consuming large amounts of power, the installation of decorative, dazzling lights is frowned upon by the Coast Guard. According to a November 2015 Coast Guard memo, blue underwater LED lights can deceivingly appear flashing when waves are present. Flashing blue lights are only authorized for marine-based law enforcement groups and displaying such lighting activities may lead to scrutiny, fines or searches. To avoid this, make sure you focus on improving safety and operational experience on boats, instead of trying to blow away other vessels in the area.