It’s probably by now safe to say that LED lighting is here to stay. Although as little as five years ago LEDs were still considered a fairly unproven marine lighting technology, we are now seeing major boat manufacturers incorporate LEDs as standard equipment in a wide variety of lighting applications ranging from navigational lighting systems to cabin lighting. LEDs have come a long way in the last decade, and with more and more boaters realizing the benefits to be had from their durability, efficiency, and long operational life, it was only a matter of time before major boat builders began embracing them as well. For quite some time, a boaters only real option was to attempt a do it yourself installation, which results in a lot of hit or miss results. LED quality was spotty at best, and effective installation in existing fixtures required a bit more work than simply replacing a bulb. Regardless, boaters were ahead of the manufacturers and proved beyond any doubt that LEDs were an attractive addition to the marine industry. With such a strong demand obvious and present, it’s no wonder that manufacturers finally caught on and began offering LEDs in their new models.
For the boater looking to purchase a new watercraft, the option of including LEDs onboard is fairly simple since most manufacturers offer either the option to have them added or include them as standard equipment. How in-depth their inclusion depends upon the manufacturer, but for the most part, most important lighting can be ordered in LED configuration and the boater need do nothing. While the cost of including LEDs does indeed increase the overall purchase price of a boat, the savings in fuel and maintenance costs help to quickly offset their added expense and provide net savings in the long term. Replacing bulbs is quickly becoming a thing of the past as well, and maintenance of LED-equipped lighting systems consist mainly of ensuring connections and housings remain in good condition.
While it’s a positive development, equipping newer boats with LEDs from the factory does nothing for boaters with older models that still utilize traditional incandescent and halogen lighting systems. Fortunately, the heavy interest among boaters in LEDs and their efforts to include them has resulted in the growth of a huge aftermarket that caters quite well to their needs. Every year new offerings arise that make switching older boats to LED lighting ever easier and simpler. It is possible now to upgrade an entire lighting system to LEDs with little more than screw in and bolt on replacement fixtures, which simplifies things for those with the limited mechanical ability and electrical know how. Aftermarket marine LEDs also allow boaters to implement LEDs at a slow pace, making it a more affordable project as well. Rather than go all out and replace every fixture in one huge overhaul, boaters can simply replace fixtures with LEDs as they eventually fail and burn out, allowing them to reap the benefits of LEDs while spreading the costs over a longer period of time.
For boaters seeking to switch to LEDs, the aftermarket can at times seem a bewildering mishmash of unknown brands and confusing options. With the huge popularity of marine LEDs has also come a large number of new distributors and suppliers, each seeking to gather his share of the market, and a portion of the boaters funds. Unfortunately, this has also led to a lot of unhappy boaters as they seek to purchase the cheapest LED fixtures possible without understanding some of the problems associated with bargain brand LEDs. While generally speaking LEDs outperform incandescent lights by a wide margin in almost every measure of performance, they still require some extra attention to detail that is often lacking in bargain brand versions. To avoid some of the problems, boaters need to understand a few salient points before embarking on their venture into LED lighting.