I kicked off “Electrical Month” by upgrading some cabin lighting…specifically, converting all of my 15-watt incandescent bulbs to new, fancy, and energy-saving light emitting diodes, or LEDs. And while I was at it, why not replace the actual dome lights as well?
My current lighting setup was three incandescent dome lights in the cabin, one fluorescent light over the galley, one incandescent dome light in the forward berth and one in the head.
These dome lights were brass and severely tarnished, and I suppose I could have spent some time trying to polish them, but I also wasn’t a fan of the fluorescent light over my galley and wanted to replace it with a dome light.
Sea-Dog Line, maker of some quality boat chandlery, just released a line of dome lights with teak trim. Perfect for Saoirse, whose interior is almost all teak!
To go with these new lights, I had to find some bayonet-style LEDs. But first, why LEDs?
LED Energy Savings
Yes, at $25 a piece, they’re a little (a lot!) more expensive than a typical 15-watt bulb. But they last significantly longer (some claim indefinite life) and hardly consume as much energy.
A 15-watt incandescent bulb consumes 1.25 amps on a twelve-volt system. An 18-LED “bulb” consumes 250 milliamps. Now doing some math…operating two lights for three hours a day consumes 7.5 amp-hours with incandescent lighting or 1.5 amp-hours with LED lighting (per day).
For an energy-conscious cruiser, one week of interior lighting now becomes 52.5 or 10.5 amp-hours, respectively. This is a difference of 42 amp-hours, or about 50% of a typical 200 amp-hour battery’s useful charge!
This, in turn, saves on battery life now that you won’t have as many charge cycles on it. You can get LEDs that aren’t as bright and consume even less energy.
One thing to be careful of when selecting LED lights is the color temperature. Older LEDs emitted a harsh, cool blue tone. There are LEDs now that emit warmer, yellowish tones, which is good for a cabin like mine with a lot of wood trim.
I went with the Imtra tower LEDs, which are slightly cooler than the old incandescent bulbs, but not cool to the point of emitting blue light, and they’re also slightly brighter than the old bulbs.
I suppose at some point I might replace my navigation lights. I’ll most likely replace them with LEDs, though I’ve had ideas of oil lamps in my head also. I’ll definitely get an oil lamp as an anchor light, instead of replacing the anchor light at the top of my mast (or I might just replace it with an LED anyways). I’ll hoist the oil lamp 6-7 feet up the backstay, where it will be visible to other boats near me and will also provide some light for the cockpit. (UPDATE: Nope. Went with LEDs for both the navigation lights and anchor lights.)
I still have some oil lamps inside the cabin, to provide a warm glow and emergency lighting if I need it. Once I replace my navigation lights, hopefully all of my lighting will be solved!