Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Products: LED replacement bulbs

This product has matured; it is time to replace your bulbs.

I spent some time at the Seattle Boat Show looking for new and interesting products.  One in particular that I specifically wanted to learn more about was LED replacement bulbs, for existing light fixtures.

LED lighting offers a huge benefit.  It draws less power from your batteries.  A lot less power.  For similar light output it only consumes about 15% of the electricity.  This is like having an extra battery aboard!

What I wanted to learn more about was light output vs. incandescent  bulbs, color rendition and flicker, all issues that plagued early LED bulbs.  Are these new product ready for your American Tug?

Let's look at those issues:

Light Output & Power Consumption

All of the lighting in an American Tug uses a G4 base bulb, those are the ones with the two little wire prongs.  The overhead bulbs go in sideways, and the reading lights get pushed up vertically.  The old incandescent bulbs are either 10 or 15-watts.  They put out 100 or 150 Lumens but send that light in all directions, the fixtures have reflectors that bounce the stray light back in the direction desired.

The new G4 LED bulbs are between 90 and 120 Lumens, but they are directional and send all of that light in the desired path.  This will equate to similar light output.  This is a large advance in LED efficiency in the past couple of years.

The side mount G4 LED bulbs are used in all of the overhead light fixtures aboard.  These put out 120 Lumens, all in the down direction with a 120-degree flood.  Consumption is 2.2 watts.  That is similar output at only 14.6% of the draw.

 Reading lights use a back pin arrangement and are pushed up into the fixture.  These LED "back pin readers" are highly directional and designed for reading with a viewing angle of 35-degrees.  Output is 68 Lumens, but I would not dwell on this as they have set the output for proper illumination while reading.  Consumption is 1.8 watts or 12% of the draw of the old bulbs.  Please note that these lights may be used for extended periods of time if the book is really good!

Color and Flicker

This is the area where the product has really matured.  Quality LED replacement bulbs are available in warm white.  This is an advance compared to the cold white "refrigerator" color that was the norm just a few years ago.

Flicker is where a quality bulb really shines...   The human eye has light receptor cells, they are either rods or cones. The rods have a faster response and can detect flicker.  This flicker is more noticeable in your peripheral vision where the rods are more prevalent.  Older technology LED bulbs had flicker which will quickly give you a headache or eye strain.  Higher quality bulbs have better electronics and do not suffer this issue.

Where to get your bulbs

My education was courtesy of Jerry Truax of IMTRA.  IMTRA is a distributor of high quality marine parts.  Their bulbs are state of the art.  See:  http://www.imtra.com/lighting-bulbs-led.htm

The internet is full of LED bulbs.  Some are good, some are old technology.  You will want to buy quality bulbs.  The IMTRA brand run about $15-20 each.  It is more important to replace galley, salon and readers than those lights less frequently used. 

Available from Fisheries Supply in Seattle.