Saturday, August 9, 2014

Switching to LED lights

Most people know that LED lights are much more efficient than incandescents, but I don't think most realize just how significant a difference it makes.  One of my projects over the past week has been to switch out all the light bulbs on the boat for LED bulbs.  We considered having the boat equipped with LED lights at the factory, but it was going to cost an extra $10,000.  In contrast, swapping the bulbs has cost about $1800, and that's for well over 100 bulbs - probably closer to 120.  The time involved in making the change was about a day and a half.  Some bulbs were easy to change, and others required disassembling fixtures in hard to reach places.

Speaking of fixtures, there are 6 different types of fixtures on the boat.
  • Ceiling down lights - this is the majority with nearly 70 bulbs replaced
  • Ceiling spot lights - There are probably a dozen of these.
  • Wall sconces by the beds - a total of 4
  • Exterior ceiling lights - figure another dozen
  • Closet lights - probably 6 or 8
  • Utility space lights - another dozen
  • Engine room lights - 6 total
And this does not include various florscent lights in the engine room, lazarette, and bathrooms.  Those I am leaving along for now since they are already a lot more efficient that incandecents.

For those 7 different styles of fixture, 4 different types of bulbs were required.

All the bulbs being replaced were 20W each, and the replacement LEDs are all 2W each.  That's a whopping 10x reduction in power.  With a "bunch of lights" turned on the boat was initially drawing 25-30A at the panel.  Now it's around 3 with the house lit up like a Christmas tree.  This not only makes a huge dent in the battery drain while at anchor, and subsequent generator time to recharge, but it also greatly reduces the air conditioning heat load.  All those incandescent lights were kicking off about 2500 BTU/hr of extra heat.  When you consider that a small room air conditioner is about 5000 BTU/hr, you can get a feel for how much extra heat they created.

I highly recommend this enhancement on any boat, especially those that spend any appreciable time at anchor.  Making the change involves taking a careful inventory of all the light fixtures in the boat, and opening up one of each type to sort out exactly what type of bulb you will need.  I used warm white LEDs through out to better match the feel of the original lights.


  1. In addition to being more efficient, LEDs should last longer so you won't have to change them for years. Also, I wonder if they will tolerate being knocked around better than incandescent bulbs would with their fragile filaments.

    I hadn't thought of the AC savings. Good point.

  2. Like you the first thing I do with any of my RV's is get rid of all the incandescent and halogen lights. It is a huge first step to making sure my solar array can displace my generator.


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