Why Use Factory Designed LED Navigation Lights?

Because of their high efficiency and longevity it is no surprise boaters are falling in love with LED lights.

When you add in their high brightness, extreme durability and versatility, it’s no wonder boaters are replacing their worn out incandescent lighting with LEDs in huge numbers. Just about any online boating community will be filled with discussions about LEDs, and mainstream boating media including magazines and news outlets are literally filled with information geared towards promoting the benefits of LEDs for boaters. All of this is great and means boaters are reaping the rewards of cost cutting and savings LEDs provide, but there are a few issues that remain where boaters are commonly running into trouble. Chief among these problems is the need for some types of lighting to meet COLREG and USCG requirements and the trouble boaters can get into when switching to LEDs.

The worst mistake you can make when trying to upgrade navigation lighting is to try cutting corners by saving old housings and retrofitting them with LEDs. Sure LEDs are powerful and versatile, and it is oftentimes very easy to fit LEDs within an existing housing, but just because the LEDs fit and the light works, does not mean the fixture is doing its job correctly. LEDs and incandescent bulbs produce light differently and have very different characteristics, and because of this the housing they are fitted to must be designed specifically for each type of bulb. An incandescent bulb is omnidirectional, which means it radiates light over 360 degrees. As a result, standard incandescent navigation light housings are designed to properly focus and direct this output to produce the proper angle of light arc and brightness when light exits the housing.

LEDs on the other hand are highly directional, usually emitting light over 120-150 degrees, and are typically installed in a housing designed to take advantage of this concentrated directional output. If installed in a housing designed to work with an incandescent bulb, the angle of arc and intensity of the light output from the housing can be adversely affected, resulting in a fixture that is too dim, and not properly visible from other vessels. For instance, a combination red/green sidelight for instance must radiate in an arc of 112.5 degrees from straight ahead to a point 22.5 degrees abaft the beam. Additionally, it must be visible from 1 mile on vessels less than 39 feet in length. A standard incandescent sidelight will produce this correct output because the reflector assembly and lens design is specifically built to focus and direct light from a 360 degree light source. When you install a light source with a different radiating pattern however, the reflector cannot properly focus the output, resulting in an altered arc of visibility and dimmer output that cannot meet the 1 mile requirement.


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