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nav lights - replace old incandescent bulbs with cheap LED?


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Our nearly 50 year old sailboat has Perko Horizontal Mount Side Lights (mod. 0963). One of these has a burned out bulb. I can order a single replacement 10W Perko incandescent bulb from amazon for $13, or I can get four super bright 1.5W LED bulbs (same dimensions) for $10. Seems like a no brainer. Is it?

Perko customer service suggests that using any other bulb than theirs may not meet coast guard standards? Isn't coast guard standard just that the light be the correct colour and visible angle? Would there be any drawbacks or complications from just sticking a cheap LED bulb in the housing? 

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Do you use them much and would the reduced power be useful to you?

If they were mine and adequate to task I'd just put new incandescent bulbs in them. Easy peasy, no worries.

If there would be a meaningful benefit to having LED's I'd put in new fixtures.

The legality issues are complicated and above my pay grade. I have put LED "bulbs" into existing fittings but they were good lights and there weren't any other great options. The Perko fittings are not great and sticking LED bulbs in them doesn't make much sense to me now that there are lots of LED lights available.

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Apparently LED's swapped in to an incandescent fixture can look white from a distance - they lose their colour at a distance.

I have done it and didn't experience that so I don't know if it's true or just Internet advice.

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18 minutes ago, SloopJonB said:

Apparently LED's swapped in to an incandescent fixture can look white from a distance - they lose their colour at a distance.

I have done it and didn't experience that so I don't know if it's true or just Internet advice.

weren't most of the older lights just white bulbs with colored lenses?   then it wouldn't make a difference ..    

someone refresh my mind the last time the CG boarded a boat and opened the navigation lights for inspection?

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I went through this exercise last year when replacing a running light bulb. 
 

What I read is that most LED’s don’t show up over distance as well as incandescent bulbs. I figured that since the purpose of running lights is to be seen, I stuck with the incandescent. 
 

Doctor LED sells bulbs that are purportedly USCG approved. 
 

 

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Don't buy cheap LED's. You'll just be replacing them every year. Buy decent ones and you'll be happy.

If you're doing a lot of night time sailing, I can see why you'd want to. If you're motoring at night it probably doesn't make sense. I replaced my anchor light with LED and I'm glad I did. The incandescent was drawing 1.5 amps. LED is drawing .2 or something.

Marine Beam has some good solutions.

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2 hours ago, Grande Mastere Dreade said:

weren't most of the older lights just white bulbs with colored lenses?   then it wouldn't make a difference ..   

Exactly but I got the impression when I heard about it that it was more the LED's were overpowering the colour the lens provided or something like that.

Like I said, it was Internet advice and I didn't experience it myself so it may not be factual.

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The reason that MOST led bulbs don't work in older fixtures is as follows.

Incandescent lights put out a very broad range of frequencies (i.e. colors).  The colored lenses only allow that color to escape and be seen at a distance.

Leds put out a very narrow range of colors, combined in a way to "appear" white but not near the range of incandescents.  If you put an led into a colored fixture, the colored lens filters out MOST of the light and the light is not visible at a distance.

Some led manufacturers design led replacement bulbs for older fixtures, and it is CRITICAL that you use one specifically rated for your particular fixture.  Those so rated are usually pretty pricey, thus the usual recommendation to just replace the entire unit.

That said, common leds are fine in clear fixtures.

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PS:

The above is true even if you put (say) a red led into a red fixture.  The color of the led is likely not quite the same as the color of the lens, so again not much light actually gets out.

That said, one might (and I only mean "might") get away with using red or green leds in CLEAR fixtures, but then you have the likely issue of proper orientation and angular coverage, let alone no CG approval.    

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6 hours ago, jamhass said:

The reason that MOST led bulbs don't work in older fixtures is as follows.

Incandescent lights put out a very broad range of frequencies (i.e. colors).  The colored lenses only allow that color to escape and be seen at a distance.

Leds put out a very narrow range of colors, combined in a way to "appear" white but not near the range of incandescents.  If you put an led into a colored fixture, the colored lens filters out MOST of the light and the light is not visible at a distance.

Some led manufacturers design led replacement bulbs for older fixtures, and it is CRITICAL that you use one specifically rated for your particular fixture.  Those so rated are usually pretty pricey, thus the usual recommendation to just replace the entire unit.

That said, common leds are fine in clear fixtures.

What I’ve read is that with LEDs you need to put in a bulb the same color as the lens. Green bulb for starboard, red bulb for port. That way none of the light produced by the bulb is filtered by the lens. If you use a white LED it will wash out as you describe, so the green light will be kind of turquoise and the red light will be pink.

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Thank you everyone for your help and advice.

I had thought that replacing with LED would produce a brighter light with less draw. I didn’t know that LED through a coloured lens may be less visible, or that the older Perko lights had a reputation for leaking.

For now I’ll replace burnt bulbs with incandescent bulbs. May consider replacing the fixture in future. 

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In addition to the issues mentioned above, cheap LED bulbs can emit radio frequency noise that can interfere with your VHF radio. The CG issued a bulletin on this.  Also, cheap LEDs don't have constant current circuitry and can dim as battery voltage drops. Finally, there are stories (and they may just be stories) around about insurance companies deciding that fixtures with non-approved bulbs were contributors to an accident.

If you do a lot of sailing at night and want LED bulbs to save power, then get an entire LED fixture. As someone mentioned, Marine Beam has some excellent choices that will even run under water. Not cheap, but hey, it's a boat. 

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11 hours ago, George Dewey said:

When you change the bulbs, take a few minutes to clean the contacts in the fixture. 

And put a dab of dielectric grease in there.

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On 11/25/2021 at 10:18 AM, SloopJonB said:

And put a dab of dielectric grease in there.

I'm not a huge fan of dialetric grease as a later solution.   Personal preference of course.  I think it's a fine idea when it's new to prevent corrosion but if it's old and a bit corroded it can make things worse.   Add to that the fact that most people use globs of the stuff, when what you want is a very thin coating at most.  

Instead a spray with a bit of contact oxidation removing contact cleaner that also provides a little protection and give a quick scrub with a cotton swab.

LED lights aren't so much of a pull you over and give you a ticket issue, it's a you were in a collision and the other guy's insurance is looking for ways to point fingers.  Add to that that the fixtures generally are pretty old and crappy by now.  For the same effort, and a bit more money you get all new gaskets and everything is USCG certified so you know you're in compliance.    

https://store.marinebeam.com/led-navigation-side-lights-pair-12v-24v-horizontal-mount/

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