Date: 12 July 2015. Change of Light
Bulbs (LED versus cheap)
times when it is best to opt for the more expensive product. Often
experts will tell you that switching out all your standard light
bulbs for LED is a great power saver. It is, however there are
options to spending all that money right away. Let me tell
you what I've done on Seaweed so you can judge if this method would
work aboard your boat.
Emitting Diode) bulbs are power savers.
12-volt light bulbs use approximately one amp per hour. LED's often
are 1/10th that amount. Specifically they use .1 amps meaning you
can have a LED on for ten hours and equal the power required for one
hour of the standard bulbs.
if your light is on only occasionally and for brief periods of time
I would not immediately spend big bucks on a LED replacement.
Especially if the light is seldom on, wait until it burns out or
you find a bargain on LED bulbs.
yachtsmen will want to have the LED bulbs. They use less power. It's
always a balance between power generation and usage. Still, it is
seldom necessary to replace every bulb in the boat your first week
of ownership. Of course if your budget can handle it...
swapping out bulbs in lights used the most often first.
Now reading lights are another matter entirely. By my pillow I
have a small LED that perfectly lights my book. That light is
on several hours per night so having a low power draw was
essential for my happiness quotient and my batteries.
In my head and bunk area I
have two overhead lights. They are turned on for such short time frames I opted to keep
the inexpensive bulbs in them. And too, they are far brighter than my little
40'er, I grew up reading by oil lantern. Thus I'm more used to
dimmer lights than many others might be. I prefer a soft glow versus
a brilliant glare.
This is one of our old lanterns:
There are a
variety of bulb bases, and knowing what you have is essential. But
first you need to remove the glass piece from the front of the light
housing. Mine are like those found on tons of boats.
easy to lose screws hold the glass in place. Remove two of the
screws. Then lift out the glass and you're all set. The glass will
slip out with ease.
Next, remove the bulb. There are several types of
light bulbs with various bases. Twist to remove. There are nubs on
the sides that prevent you from pulling straight out.
Mine happen to have two positives
at the base whereas the ones I had in my ship stores had one. Thus I
was off to the local marine hardware store for a new set of bulbs.
The bulbs come two in a package and the price was $3.
If you opt for LED bulbs, be aware that polarity matters. Therefore
if you've inserted the bulb 180 degrees off, it
won't work. Remove and twist the bulb one half turn to make it work.
Also verify your
power is correct. Positive and ground matter in LEDs.
way to see if the power is correct is to stick your pointy red
multi-meter lead gizmo in the center at the base where the bulb fits.
The black tester would go on the inside of the tube that holds the
bulb. Check your reading. If it's a positive number the power is
correctly fed to the light fixture.
If you opt to dismantle your light
fixture, the next box offers a synopsis of what you need to know.
on 12-volt light wiring:
Blue wire is often power (positive side) for 12-volt DC lights and the
white wire is ground. Often or customary means nothing if your
previous owner has tweaked things improperly. Verify all with your
digital multi-meter aka volt meter.
How to check
with your volt meter: Put
the positive (red) wire from your volt meter on the blue wire. Attach
the black volt meter wire to the white wire on the light. Your numbers
should be positive.
If the number is -12.xx then
you know your polarity is switched.
Nigel Calder has a whole book
on electrical fixes. It's not hard but it is complicated. Your best
bet is to have someone come aboard and give you a primer, helping you
check one line from panel to outlet. From there, practice and soon
you'll get it too.
More on wiring is in an upcoming article. In the
meantime and always you should
Calder's Mechanical and Electrical Manual. He's the expert. I'm just
an in-the-field make-it-work boater.
Definitely opt to follow Calder's
He understands the whys whereas I do not!
And if your vessel doesn't
have an up-to-date (Third Edition) of
Calder's then rectify that immediately. It's a necessity,
and worth retail prices.
After swapping out the bulbs I once again have light in my forward
cabin and the head. There are two other identical light fixtures in Seaweed.
All currently use
standard rather than LED bulbs. Someday I may change them all for LED
presuming I can find some at a great price. If not I'll continue to
opt for the $1.50 power-hungry bulbs for those lights used
infrequently or for short durations.
When you buy a used boat often there are things you want to fix or
change. For me, replacing perfectly good and rarely used light bulbs
with LEDs is not a high priority item.
Do you have LEDs in all your light fixtures or is it a mixture?
And, what is your favorite LED supplier and brand?
Chaos in the Galley ~
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