LED lights on boat

Discussion in 'Boat Repair Help' started by Kutter, May 7, 2006.

  1. Kutter

    Kutter New Member

    Messages:
    5,379
    State:
    Arnold, MO
    My idea sounded like a good one. Replace the navigation lights, red, green and clear, with LED bulbs. My thought was that it would save a LOT of drain on the battery. Well, I did some research and found out it's a bad idea. There are already some companies that make these. Prices ranged from rediculous to outragious. We are talking $65 to $600 for the red/green combination. At first, I couldn't understand why. I realized that they were being made overseas and were made mainly for yaghts and big sailboats, but that wasn't enough to justify those prices. Then I found out what is going on. While the LED's work great in flashlights, the weak link in them are the way they cannot handle any variance in amps or voltages. I had noticed that flashlight LED's were not found normally in a rechargable model. It is the recharging that kills their lifetime. Voltage spikes and the surges that happen when a charger is hooked up, will reduce their life to fractions of what they are designed for. This happens a lot in boat usage and has minimal effect to incandesent bulbs. The high dollar LED lights for boats is because a built in modulator is installed with them. They must be able to calm down even a variance of .125 volts. That's not cheap.
    Oh, well, there goes my idea down the drain, of making a fortune selling boat LED's.
     
  2. joesf

    joesf New Member

    Messages:
    283
    State:
    Bloomington IL
    I have been working on coming up with a more energy efficiet way to hit the water at night with less bugs and I found this you may want to check it out. I never thought of making it into a busissness but wanted to come up with some lighting for my personal use.

    superbriteleds.com
     

  3. Doyle

    Doyle New Member

    Messages:
    582
    State:
    Illinois
    Last year I seen the LED trailer lights at WalMart. This year I was considering getting a set. They were not at my WalMart any more. I wondered if they are not working as well as they advertise or they just forgot to order.
     
  4. flaboy

    flaboy New Member

    Messages:
    616
    State:
    Wedgefield, SC
    all the new semi trailers are going to led lights, mostly for longivity reasons. how do they handle the voltage surges?
     
  5. ShilohRed

    ShilohRed New Member

    Messages:
    4,339
    State:
    West Tn
    Kutter if that is the reason, Why will the LED's last so long on boat trailers and big truck's?
    Also on motor cycles? I had them on my motor cycle and they held up.
    Just wondering, As I will be adding the running lights on mine and find out.
    Pete
     
  6. Kutter

    Kutter New Member

    Messages:
    5,379
    State:
    Arnold, MO
    The location I got most of my info, regarded sail boats. My guess it would have something to do with deep cycle batteries. I can only guess that if you installed the lights on the regular start up battery, it would work, but I don't know enough to say that for sure. Still looking into it.
    Does anyone know about deep cycle batteries and how their voltage changes between a run down battery and a freshly charged one. If the voltage change is enough, that could be the culprit. I was under the impression that as the deep cycle charge gets lower, the amps drop but the voltage remains the same. Perhaps it is not the voltage, but the change in amperage that causes the problem.
     
  7. Pogo

    Pogo New Member

    Messages:
    96
    State:
    North Carolina
    Haven't been around for a while, so I missed this post and am getting into it late ... but ... I made LED lights for my boat (and now for three others) from accessory lights available at Advanced Auto and Circuit City.

    The Auto variety came as a three light group in your choice of colors. All I did was take a small "hobby box" (about 3" X 4"), drill three 7/32" holes in each side and mounted the lights. The press fit was alright, but I sealed them in with a small smear of 5200 sealant that wil hold them in place securely. The resultant package is small enough to mount in a variety of ways on the bow.

    After tying the positive and negative leads from each side together, I ran a tap into my main line to the battery though a switch and ... good to go.

    They're brighter than they need be, but they don't draw enough amperage to even sneeze about.

    The Circuit city variety is a slightly bigger single bulb ($3.99) and works about the same way. The Advanced Auto 3 light group was $7.95 ... not a whole bunch for never having to worry about a bulb burning out.
     
  8. Mr.T

    Mr.T New Member

    Messages:
    2,553
    State:
    MO
  9. Pogo

    Pogo New Member

    Messages:
    96
    State:
    North Carolina
    Yes, they surely do.

    In fact, they are brighter than required (having three bulbs) and being mounted on oppostie sides of a rectangular box, each color is visible through 180 degrees, but the other is not .. ie ... when you see green, you can't see red & vice versa.

    I'm in the process of finding something suitable for a mount to hold a white LED for the aft light. Needing to be raised above all boat structure, I've limited my adaptable materials search to something that will fit into an existing detachable aft light. Shouldn't be too much of a problem, but I haven't had a lot of time recently to put much into it.

    BTW ... any GP Radio Shack 21 Lumen LED ($1.89) and a 470 ohm resistor will work just fine in a 12 Volt rig. They can be run in parrallel (voltage is constant in a parallel circuit) for more bulbs and more light.
     
  10. catsmith1

    catsmith1 New Member

    Messages:
    1,073
    State:
    Haughton, Louisiana
    Larry,
    Do you have to have a resistor for each light and does the resistor wire in parallel or in series with the light?
     
  11. Pogo

    Pogo New Member

    Messages:
    96
    State:
    North Carolina
    The "ballast" resistor is in series with the LED bulb and serves to drop the supply voltage to the 3.6v normally needed by LEDs.

    Since I wire my LEDs in parallel, I'm dropping 3.6 volts with the LED and need to drop an additional 8.4 Volts from my battery, so each bulb gets it's own resistor. Most LEDs draw about .025 amp (25 miliamps), so 8.4 divided by .025 gives a ballast value of 336 ohms. 336 ohm resistors are not availble, but 330 ohm ones are and that's plenty close enough given that even the best resistors have a 5% tolerance.

    If you run, say, three LED bulbs in series, then each drops 3.6V which leaves you with 1.2 V to account ( 3.6 X 3 = 10.8) for with a 12V battery. 1.2 divided by .025 gives a required resistance of 48 Ohms and you buy a 50 ohm one. :smile2:

    For two bulbs in series, a 200 ohm resistor (192 actually, but they don't make those either).

    Hope I haven't muddied up this description too much :)
     
  12. Pogo

    Pogo New Member

    Messages:
    96
    State:
    North Carolina
    By the way ...
    The previous response was based on an LED operating current of .025 Amp (25 ma). They can be run at a higher current and some varieties do give out more light at higher current draws. To explain ...

    LED are rated by current, not voltage. For the longest life, that's usually 20-25 milliamps (the package will tell you the current rating). However in many applications, such as LED flashlights and some commercial rigs, the LEDs are run at 50-60ma, twice the rated current.

    Under test (just to see) An LED ran at 98ma for over 200 hours without damage or appreciable light loss. So experiment with running them at over rated current if you are willing to accept a shorter life. In my opinion, a flashlight bulb that lasts 200 hours is preferable to the incandescent alternative which may only give 20-30 hours before it dies.

    Again ..same hope as last time. :smile2:
     
  13. Pogo

    Pogo New Member

    Messages:
    96
    State:
    North Carolina
    Gosh, guys, but I didn't mean to open a can of worms nor a school on LEDs, but .. I need to mention that all I wrote previously was based on a 12 Volt supply ... close enough for all hand crank start systems.

    If, however, you have an electric start engine, then your system is seeing alternator output since the alternator is also charging the battery .. that's typically around 13.4 to 13.8 Volts.

    Now you can still run everything the way I described and with 13.8 volts, you'll just get a brighter light that won't last as long ... maybe only three years instaed of ten.

    At 13.8 Volts, you'll be running the typical 25 ma LED at somethng near 60ma. If you try to run an LED off a low battery .. say around 10 Volts ... your LED may only pull 10 to 12 ma which will make them very dim.


    A simple (and not very expensive) "always works in any situation" fix is to run a voltage regulator chip between your battery (alternator) and the LEDs. That way, you always get exactly 12 volts even when the input varies from 12 to 37 Volts.

    A commonly available one is the 7812 from Radio Shack for about $5.00.

    If you run your LEDs in series, just calculate the resistor needed and wire it between pins 3 (center, common or minus) and 2 and your LEDS from that tie point.

    In a parallel lash up, run your LEDS off pin 2 (12V out) and then to your parallel circuit (each LED having it's own resistor).

    I'm still afraid I've muddled this description all up and not helped you guys much. If so ... sorry ...

    Now .... lemme off this soap box :smile2:
     
  14. Catfish_Commando

    Catfish_Commando TF Staff Member

    Messages:
    7,005
    State:
    Georgia
    Larry,

    If you can, post some pictures of your lights, how they are rigged, and the way you have them wired in your boat?

    Thanks,
    Paul
     
  15. Little Mac

    Little Mac Active Member

    Messages:
    1,828
    State:
    NW Arkansa
    I would be interested in this too, It sure would be nice to not worry about a ton of battery drain by running lights. Simple schematic and parts numbers, and you have already gave those. I have been thinking of running LED's in the square rails that run the lenght of my boat, epoxy the LED in the underside of the rail, run the wire in the rail. I see LED's on ebay in different colors. But havent had time to study it much. Very good information Thank you. Sounds like a tech piece for the library. question though, Does the white LED attrack bugs like incadecent?? or do I have to get yellow or Red or Blue? Thanks Mac
     
  16. Little Mac

    Little Mac Active Member

    Messages:
    1,828
    State:
    NW Arkansa
    I ment regular 12v bulbs. LOL its late Im brain dead. LMAO...
     
  17. catsmith1

    catsmith1 New Member

    Messages:
    1,073
    State:
    Haughton, Louisiana
    Larry I really appreciate the info posted. I sat down with a electronics guru yesterday and ran this by him to make sure I was understanding and he liked the idea.

    I will be making a trip to radio shack this week to get stuff to play with for sure!
     
  18. Pogo

    Pogo New Member

    Messages:
    96
    State:
    North Carolina
    I'm relieved, gang, that I didn't muddy this stuff up for you and glad you find the info useful.

    I'll draw up a couple schematics and (now that I know how to attach pictures) post them for you ... basic stuff.

    The lights I'm currently using came from Advanced Auto Parts. A string of three in green or red cost $7.98 and they are already wired with leads, resistors and instructions. You could have lights up in 2 minutes :smile2: They are even mounted in a pack with a test battery and button so you can see how bright they are right in the store.

    One other item I should point out is that LED light viewing radius (in degrees) is built into the bulb. Most are fairly narrow, like 18 to 30 degrees. That doesn't mean you can't see them from the side ... you can, but they're just not as intense as head on in the design field of view. You can, however, buy bulbs for about a dollar each that have field of view of 120 degrees and a few do go to 180.

    If you mount your bulb base in a clear plastic washer, it will also increase the field of view a great deal. "Washer" in't the corrct techy term, but .. that's what it is and you can make your own or buy them at one of the suppliers online.

    I've never found it a problem, actually. Mounted on a flat surface pointed dead starboard a three light rig can still be seen for well over a mile from dead ahead and astern and 4 miles from 060 to 120.

    To get around some of that, I experimented with mounting the LEDs on 3" diameter PVC sections. If you look in Lowe's, Home Depot or your local hardware, you'll find PVC fittings, caps and unions that can go together to make a 4 or 5 inch tall cylinder. If you mount the three lights in a spiral you can overlap the design field of view and increase the visible range tremendously.

    Plus, the thing doesn't look clunky setting on your bow ... at least I don't think so ... just a small white cylinder.

    Another small item ... most LEDs are not waterproof. This has never caused me a problem, but for someone else's, I coat the bottom edge with Sally Hansen's Nylon clear nail polish .. a very thin coat is all you need.

    Don't use anything that reacts with styrene plastic .. it'll melt the bulb enclosure. Enough nail polish will too - there's a little acetone ( or other aromatic) in nail polish to make it spread, but a thin coat dries too fast to hurt and melting the edge just slightly helps the sealing.

    Yes, a string of LEDs along a hand rail would be a nice touch .. just stay inside the CG guidelines .. and your idea is a good one. Sorry, but bugs like the color white .. even the blue-white of high color temperature LEDs.

    For more sources and lots more info just put "LED bulbs" into Google and read away. There is a company called Super Bright that sells bulbs of every size, shape and description .... even direct replacement auto bulbs - http://www.superbrightleds.com/

    A good collection of info articles and web sites is at DOn's LED page - http://members.misty.com/don//ledx.html

    o.k. ... I guess that about covers it all .. a lot more than I intended and I certainly didn't mean to take over this thread.

    Hope it helps ... try some of these things .. they're fun.
     
  19. Pogo

    Pogo New Member

    Messages:
    96
    State:
    North Carolina
    O.K., gang ... here is a usable schematic for one LED and the associated values at typical parameters.

    At 20 ma the LED will be of average brightness but will last somewhere around 100,000 hours. Decreasing the resistor size will increase the LED operating current and shorten the life, but make it much brighter.

    25 ma (.025 Amp) is noticable, 30 ma good and 40 starts getting very bright. I use 25 or 30 ma and haven't ever had an LED burn out.

    Use the formula in the schematic (or on one of the previous posts) to calculate the resistor size, then buy the closest they make.

    As you can see, there is a noticable difference in resistor size between manual start and electric start engines. Increasing the battery voltage has the same effect as reducing the resistor size.

    Led3c.jpg
     
  20. Umba

    Umba New Member

    Messages:
    46
    State:
    WI
    Nice work Pogo,