LED Light Bars: Commercial Fishermen are Quick to Make a Good Catch|
Providing enough illumination in a commercial fishing setting can be a daunting and sometimes frustrating task. While locating, capturing and hauling in a catch are the primary goals, many operators who run at night often find themselves dealing with balky generators, broken lamps, yards of extension cords that get tangled up with equipment and legs and lamps that simply don’t provide enough light to make their use truly effective or cost efficient. While small operators and part timers can oftentimes make do with 500 watt halogen lamps powered by portable generators, commercial operators simply don’t have the luxury of making many compromises. Time is money and safety always a serious concern, so lighting equipment in commercial fishing operations needs to be both powerful and efficient while creating as little additional equipment maintenance concerns as possible.
In many large scale fishing operations, lighting equipment is often of the HID variety. High powered, efficient and able to illuminate large areas, HID light fixtures like high pressure sodium lamps have been the most common type used. Although they do produce good amounts of light, these HID fixtures, however, have several serious drawbacks that tend to make their use a compromise rather than a true lighting solution. The popularity of high pressure sodium lamps stems primarily from their ability to produce large amounts of light with low energy consumption. The drawback though is that the light they produce is of poor color quality, so much so they are considered to have the worst light color qualities of all commonly used commercial lighting options aside from low pressure sodium lamps. Light from high pressure sodium lamps tends to be skewed heavily towards a arrow part of the light spectrum. As a result, the light appears reddish or light orange in color and tends to reproduce the color of objects poorly. Another issue with HID lighting is its poor directional qualities. Like most lamps, the light from an HID bulb is radiated outward from its entire surface. This brings about the need for reflective housings to direct light produced by an HID where it is needed. Although this is generally effective, a good deal of light is lost to scatter and diffusion rather than directed where it is needed most.
One of the biggest issues with using HID lighting in commercial fishing operations is the need to provide a suitable source of power for their operation. HID light fixtures, particularly those over 500 watts, use a ballast and starter system to function and require higher voltages and AC power to operate. This brings about the need for operators to run dedicated generators to provide this power. This in turn brings about additional expense and headache as operators must cope with increased fuel costs for powering these generators and the increased noise and maintenance issues they create. Added into the mix are the added cords and wiring necessary to properly mount and locate these lights in the areas they are needed most. In busy fishing operations, these can present an added annoyance at best and a serious safety issue at worst.
Because of these and other similar issues, fisherman are increasingly turning to alternative lighting solutions, with LEDs representing the best that new technology has to offer. Producing a very good lumen per watt output, LEDs are also extremely efficient. Although not as high as high pressure sodium, the lumen per watt ratio of LEDs surpasses that of traditional incandescent lamps and is enhanced by their directional nature. Instead of their light being radiated in all directions from the light source, the light produced by LEDs radiates only from a single linear surface area, in effect concentrating light output over a much more defined range. Whereas an HID bulb will radiate light in a 360 degree pattern, an LED may radiate only across a 150 degree range. The result is much less light lost due to diffusion and more light reaching the intended areas. LEDs used in commercial operations also make use of specialized optics that rather than reflect light, instead focus and guide it into specific beam patterns that further improves the directional nature of the light. In this manner, light from an LED can be made to focus tightly in order to create a spotlight beam or instead directed over a much broader area to create a floodlight effect. In either of these cases, however, all of the light is focused over a much more defined area, in essence producing more light in the workspace.
LEDs also hold an even greater advantage in their inherent use of direct current rather than AC. Lights like Larson Electronics’s LEDLB-200X2E LED light emitter are capable of being operated with a wide range of DC voltages ranging from 9 to 46 volts. By incorporating simple solid state electronics and not ballasts, LED light makers are able to create LED lights that automatically sense and adjust the input voltage levels, bringing them down to ranges ideal for powering the LEDs. This allows operators to run these lights off of their boat’s own electrical systems without the need for additional generators, cords or special wiring. LEDs also produce very low amperage draw, making them ideal for boats and fishing applications where conserving power onboard is critical.
Adding further improvement is the very good light quality of LEDs. While a typical high pressure sodium lamp will have a color rendering index of only 2000, an LED can easily achieve a CRI of 5000 or more. What this means is that the LED will allow the colors and contrasts of objects to be viewed much more accurately. With a high pressure sodium lamp, objects tend to have an orange tint and colors appear dull or even nonexistent. With an LED there is no discoloration and the color of objects appears much as it would in normal daylight. The end result is a major reduction in fuel costs, reduced maintenance issues and greatly improved light quality.
One last issue that LEDs are proving very effective in solving is the overall durability of marine lighting. Typical HID lamps may have a lifespan of around 15-20,000 hours. LEDs on the other hand easily achieve 50,000+ hours of useful life, basically doubling the time between lamp replacements and easily providing several years of reliable service. Since there is no glass in their construction, LEDs are much less susceptible to damage from impacts and vibrations as well, certainly an added benefit in the rugged conditions common in the fishing industry.
Taken as a whole, it is quite clear that LEDs are poised to become the dominant form of lighting in the commercial fishing industry. As more operators invest in upgrading their systems, word of mouth continues to spread at an increasing rate. And with good reason; anything that saves money, improves safety and increases the bottom line is welcome when it comes to getting the job done in the fishing industry.