Spotlight on LED Lighting for Yachts
“When Thomas Edison worked late into the night on the electric light, he had to do it by gas lamp or candle. I’m sure it made the work seem that much more urgent.” Comedian George Carlin had a good point when he said that, but once the light bulb was invented, very little changed and that sense of urgency for something better seemed to disappear for a very long time. That is until the value of the LED, or the Light Emitting Diode, came to fruition as an alternative lighting source. Now, the light we see at night and the way we see it is changing at a fever pitch thanks to this little technological marvel.
The light from an LED is produced when an electric current passes through a specially treated silicon junction of semiconductor layers. As the voltage is applied, electrons in the semiconductor layers are attracted to each other at the junction and produce photons. In the early days of LEDs, the form was in the shape of a small dome that the LED was mounted in, with the clear dome acting as a lens. These LEDs were limited in their capability, but a new, brighter and more efficient version is currently being used. It looks more like a small wafer mounted to a circuit board. The upgrade in the materials manufacturing process and the resulting increased light output has allowed for much brighter and more controllable lighting while increasing efficiency. In the early days, the only lights that were possible were small, low-output lights such as chart lights. Newer LED lights now have the capability of creating much more varieties of light and lighting.
To help understand what this little light source is capable of, and to find out why it is becoming so popular, I spoke with a couple of experts in the field: Fabio Zaniboni, president of Cantalupi USA, one of the world’s premier marine lighting manufacturers; and Brian Rogers, co-founder and president of Shadowcaster, a popular manufacturer of innovative underwater lighting.
Rogers explained that the brightness of an LED is rated in lumens, which is the amount of light that is being output per watt of power used. Early LED lights had output in the tens of lumens per watt, but newer designs manufactured with special silicon carbide are capable of an impressive 139 lumens per watt. This number keeps increasing, and at an ever-faster rate, as does the adoption of LED lighting. It’s because of this high output that he is able to manufacture high-quality underwater lights that are incredibly bright yet reside in a very thin stainless-steel housing that can be flush-mounted to any surface.
So, why would you want to consider LED lighting instead of traditional incandescent lighting? The reasons are many and varied. Zaniboni listed advantages such as a 50,000-hour lifespan as opposed to just 1,000 for the average incandescent bulb. This translates to about eight years of 24-hour operation. He explained that vibrations and humidity do not affect LEDs, unlike their incandescent competitors. They can be placed anywhere because of their size. Another advantage he pointed out is that of efficiency. LEDs by nature produce much more light, both lumens and lux (the intensity as perceived by the human eye as it hits or passes through a surface) per watt of power. That, combined with the advantage of much lower heat produced by the lights translates to a huge power savings.
He explained that a 167-foot yacht would use just 6-kW per hour with LED lighting, as opposed to 15 to 18-kW per hour for incandescent lighting. Factoring all savings, including power for air conditioning that would be required to cool heat produced by the incandescent, there would be a savings of 2.4 gallons of diesel per hour. That translates to 15 pounds less of CO2 per hour. Truly a greener alternative. Because it is greener, it is an acceptable form of lighting that would satisfy requirements of energy saving legislation in Europe, the US and even California’s Title 24 building standards legislation.
In the near future, incandescent lights (especially those at higher wattages) will no longer be available under this legislation. LED lighting is also a greener alternative because, unlike some of its incandescent competition, it has no environmentally toxic or harmful materials in its components.
LEDs are not only safe by not risking the threat of toxic materials entering the environment, but they also can avoid the possibility of a dangerous onboard fire. Think about a reading light in crews quarters and a pillow or bed cover gets accidentally thrown or pushed up against it. In just a matter of minutes, you can have an onboard fire. This cannot happen with an LED light, as the temperature will never reach a level capable of combustion.
Also, LED lighting does not emit any infrared or ultraviolet rays. Because of this, it will not fade or discolor artwork, furniture or fabrics. This, of course, can be a huge benefit if you are lighting expensive or important artwork, or any item of value. The light LEDs produce is very clean, meaning they produce a constant and unflickering light that is consistent all the way through the light; they do not cause any point effect or light gaps. They can be configured to create a nice, even light or a more directional light to bring out the beauty in textures of fabric and veneer.
Dimming of LED lights is possible, and Zaniboni explained that Cantalupi’s lights have the capability of being dimmed but can also maintain the same color cast throughout the range of the dimmed light. This is something that was impossible to do with incandescent light. Not only can the lighting now be dimmed, but the same light fixture can now also be configured to change color if desired. You can have it light a cool white that can make a table cloth be truly white (incandescent light would render the cloth as yellow or orange in most situations) and then change the color cast to create a warm or romantic mood simply by controlling the lights from remote panel. LEDs can now also be turned on and powered up to match the speed of the pupil, so the bright light does not create discomfort to the user. Cantalupi offers this new technology on its lights, which can be especially useful for use with reading lights in smaller spaces.
Not all LEDs are created equally, however. There are different qualities of LEDs, and the market is becoming saturated with substandard and poorly engineered, low-cost lights. This was part of the reason that Rogers started Shadowcaster. The lower price-point lights were poorly manufactured and proved to be unreliable. The designs of the higher-end lights required making large holes in the hull to mount them. He has managed to overcome these issues with his current products and has exciting visions for future products.
Cantalupi’s products have evolved over the past decades and have light that would surpass any requirements or regulations. The company is particularly proud of the fact that unlike many of its competitor’s lights, their fixtures do not cause any radio or electrical noise interference, a problem common with other LED fixtures in the market. The frequencies emitted by other LED lights can cause all kinds of issues aboard and can be magnified by the number of fixtures.
Better quality lights also have improved heat dissipations systems. LED lights do not get as hot as most incandescent lights, but if the heat they do produce internally is not dissipated well, the lifespan of the LED can be dramatically shortened. Both Shadowcaster’s and Cantalupi’s lights have been designed to shed heat efficiently to allow for a full lifecycle of their products. A lot of LEDs on the market don’t have any heat dissipaters, and some retrofit LEDs end up using the original fixture as a heat-sync with problematic results.
Switching to LED lights is not only a logical transition but one that will be a necessity, as incandescent lights will go the way of the dinosaurs before too long. However, jumping in blindly could be a mistake, and short-term savings could prove costly in the long run. Not all LED lighting is created equally, and both Rogers and Zaniboni suggest research and care should be taken before making the investment. There are products that have had careful engineering with no cut corners that can produce exactly the lighting you require while saving money and the environment in the long run.
The future for LED lighting is a bright one, and getting brighter. The urgency of developing this advanced lighting is apparent as technology progresses at a blistering rate. There has never been a better time to make the switch to this innovative technology.
Marine Lighting Solutions is now ONLINE!
Marine Lighting Solutions had a successful grand opening of their retail store location in San Diego. Our store doors are open and we are now a fully functioning online retail store as well. MLS specializing in the most up to date LED lighting technology. We have Imtra, Maximum Weather Instruments, Lumishore, Savage, Cantalupi, Aqua Signal and Deep Sea Lighting as well as Vimar switching and many more. Many products are in stock at our location and we can drop ship almost anywhere. The showroom has over 60 light products on display and fully functioning for you to view. Stop by our website or store to find out more about LED and see the latest cutting edge lighting technology.
Marine Lighting Solutions 2923 Canon St, Point Loma, CA 92106 619/987-2384
Little, Bright, Hella
Hella marine is a worldwide marine lighting specialist and supplier to yacht and powerboat manufacturers, marine re-sellers and commercial fleets around the world. Over a decade of LED expertise is now being channeled into sophisticated navigation and lighting systems, as well as smaller, practical applications.
For example, the new DuraLed Engine Room & Utility Light brightens work areas with ease. Versatile, efficient and economical, power consumption is only 2.5 watts. For convenience, an optional on/off switch on the lamp face is controlled by pressing the center Hella logo.
The new EuroLED 115 is bright and pleasant, and draws little power and is dimmable. With energy consumption of less than 4.5 watts, the 4.5” marine down lights offer considerable savings over incandescents.
Both lights can be connected directly to 12 or 24V systems, are completely sealed against the elements, and feature UV- and impact-resistant acrylic lenses.
Glenn Hayes is a freelance photographer and writer living in West Central Florida. A second-generation professional photographer and journalist, he specializes in marine photography and writing. He can be reached at www.hayesstudios.com.