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10 Common Questions About LED Lights for Boats

Before you choose an LED light that is right for you, however, you may have some questions. Let’s dive into 10 common question about LED boat lights to get you started.

June 1, 2021
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A boat galley lit up with LED bulbs.
LED boat lights provide a natural look to your vessel without any distracting glare. Courtesy of Hatteras Yachts

The editors at Marlin have teamed up with the experts at Imtra to bring you advice on how to keep your boat in Bristol condition and get the most from your hours spent out on the water. For more great tips, see Billfish Bits and Bites with Imtra »

LED boat lights provide a natural look to your vessel without any distracting glare. Before you choose an LED light that is right for you, however, you may have some questions. Let’s dive into 10 common question about LED boat lights to get you started.

1. Why Should I Use LED Lights on My Boat?

The simplest answer is reduced power-consumption. LEDs require very little power, especially when compared to traditional halogen lights. For example an LED fixture with the same light output as a 25 Watt halogen bulb requires only 4-5 watts of power.

Add that difference up over 20-30 lights in a boat and the power saving is significant, especially if you spend days at a time away from shore-power. On top of power savings, LED lights don’t heat up as much as halogen, and last significantly longer than halogen bulbs.

2. How Do I Change My Boat’s Lights From Halogen to LED

There’s two ways this can be done. The first is simply replacing all the halogen bulbs in your existing fixtures with LED replacement bulbs of a similar style. The other option would be to swap entire fixtures, which can be more costly, but will last longer.

3. Can I Dim My LED Lights with Existing Dimmers?

Unfortunately, if your boat is equipped with dimmers for halogen lights, they likely won’t function properly or may have very limited dimming range with LED bulbs or fixtures. This is because halogen and LED lights are dimmed differently. Halogen lights are dimmed simply by reducing the voltage supplied to the light, which runs less heat through the filament, resulting in dimmer light.

LEDs are usually dimmed through signal dimming often called Pulse Width Modulation, which is essentially turning the diodes on & off rapidly. This process is not perceivable to the human eye because it happens so fast, but controlling the frequency with which they are turned on & off is what causes the light to be dimmed and brightened.

4. How Long Do LED Lights Last?

The industry-standard for a quality LED fixture is a 50,000 hour lifespan. Of course outside factors like proper heat dissipation and power supply can affect that lifespan. When compared to Incandescent (750-2,000 hours) Fluorescent (24,000-36,000 hours) & halogen (2,000-4,000 hours), LEDs last the longest by a wide margin.

5. Will LED Lights Be Too Bright?

The short answer is no, as long as you’ve purchased the right light for the space. LED technology has come a long way in the last decade, and you can find LED lights with all different levels of light outputs and color temperatures.

A boat with underwater LED llights.
Many LED strip tape and rope light, as well as LED underwater lights, offer full spectrum color-changing lights. Imtra

6. Do LED Lights Come in Different Colors?

Yes, LED lights come in all different colors. Many interior fixtures are available in bi-color and even tri-color options. Many LED strip tape and rope light, as well as LED underwater lights, offer full spectrum color-changing lights.

7. What Wire Size Should I Use for Installing LED Lights in My Boat?

The wire size to be used for installing lights is entirely dependent on the power supply and the overall power consumption of the circuit being wired. Additionally the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) recommends not using any wire smaller than a 16-guage anywhere on a boat. To determine the wire size for any circuit, use this ABYC Wire Size Recommendation Chart.

8. Can I Use LED Replacement Bulbs in My Navigation Lights?

As long as the bulb has been approved by the U.S. Coast Guard for use in a navigation light that corresponds to your size of boat. Be sure to ask the manufacturer of the bulb, and consult the Coast Guard regulations regarding your specific size of boat, as many LED replacement bulbs are intended for interior & exterior light fixtures, but are not approved for navigational use.

9. Do LED Lights Make Noise?

Noise is a bit of a tricky subject, as each person’s perception varies. The short answer is that LED lights do not make any perceptible noise. Like any electronic, if you get your ear very close to it, there might be a faint humming sound, but nothing should be audible throughout the boat when installed properly.

10. Will LED Lights Interfere With Other Electronics on My Boat?

If the LED lights are manufactured and installed properly, they will not interfere with other electronics. If wires are not the right size or not properly insulated and run very close to signal cables or antennae, interference can occur.

For more information, visit imtra.com »