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Author Topic:   LED Navigation Lamps
Speedo66 posted 01-29-2005 03:06 PM ET (US)   Profile for Speedo66   Send Email to Speedo66  
Just wondering if anybody here has replaced their incandescent navigation lamp light bulbs with LEDs? I know LEDs tend to be very directional. On an LED site,, they have quite a few bulbs that seem to have additional LEDs pointed in all directions to overcome this. Even with additional LEDs they would still seem to draw very little current compared to a filament bulb.

Anybody tried them? Any draw backs aside from cost? Thanks

Moe posted 01-29-2005 04:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
For anchoring overnight, I will most certainly use an LED anchor light. You're looking at about 2 AH/night vs 8AH/night. However, at this age and with the associated eyesight, I will probably not sail at night, and thus want LED nav-lights. If I do operate at night, it will be under power, so the 2.5A draw of the incandescent bow, stern, and masthead navigation lights will be coming from the alternator, not the batteries. A powerboat with all-around light instead of separate stern and masthead lights would have a max draw of about 1.6A (10W bulbs) to as low as 0.8A (5W bulbs).

There really aren't any "plug-in" LED replacement lamps suitable for navigation lights.

One of the LED nav light manufacturers used to make a replacement for the festoon (cartridge style) bulb in Aqua Signal 25 navigation lights. It was a post with a round circuit board in the middle, with the LEDs pointing out.

The one for the bow consisted of fourteen 15-degree (the brightest) LEDs. The bow light must span 225 degrees (10 compass points either side of dead ahead), so you would think they'd have used fifteen 15-degree LEDs to get 225. However, that 15 degree specification is the LED's half-brightness point, so in reality, it would've been beaming red or green beyond 112.5 degrees to either side of dead ahead.

The one for the stern consisted of ten 15-degree LEDs to cover the required 135 degrees (12 compass points) of the stern light. One would think that would've been nine at 15-degrees. Oh well. These aren't manufactured any more.

An anchor light would consist of 360 degrees/15 degrees = 24 15-degree LEDs. However, at least one manufacturer is using a Luxeon very high power LED that points up to a reflective cone that distributes the light in a circle.

The amount of power consumed by LED lights varies greatly on how they are hooked up. I don't have time to get into all the details, but will just say the cheaper ones use groups of two or three LEDs in series with a dropping resistor. The resistor has to be sufficiently sized to limit current when the alternator is feeding 14.5V to up to 15V into the system. What this means is that when the motor isn't running, the LEDs are much dimmer at the roughly 12.5V of a charged battery, much less at the 10.5V of a discharged one and anything in between, where the resistor is too large. Better LED lights use an integrated circuit current conroller that maintains the current and thus brightness regardless of charging/battery voltage.

To sum it up, LED nav lights might be worth it on a sailboat, but probably aren't needed with a powerboat, unless anchoring for a few nights or more without operating the motor during the day, and then only an LED anchor light would make much difference.


banff22 posted 01-29-2005 06:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for banff22  Send Email to banff22     
I've been doing a fair bit of research on LED's/ solar and this is one of the best anchor lights I've come across so far.

Link to manufacturer of Navigation Lights for buoys (not boats).


Moe posted 01-29-2005 06:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
That's interesting. Here are the ones I've been looking at:


banff22 posted 01-29-2005 07:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for banff22  Send Email to banff22     
I'd found the OGM website, the other is new to me.
Thanks. More research :-)

Although we seem to have digressed from Speedo66's original post. Apologies. The website he mentions is quite good but unfortunately I've no experience with LEDs on trailers or as replacement Nav bulbs...YET! My purpose has been for onboard lighting when anchoring overnight.

I would certainly like to hear more input re: trailer lights and Nav light replacements.


Moe posted 01-29-2005 09:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
I replaced the POS Wesbar incandescent lights on my 2003 150 Sport EZ Loader trailer with a kit from Sea Sense.

I went with the kit to replace all the wiring since it may have been shorting out somewhere. The kit came with a tow vehicle pigtail which I didn't use, but the matching connector on the trailer harness didn't match the Ford connector on my F250, so I had to trim it fairly significantly with a razor. If you just need the left and right lights, and not the harness, they're here:

[Dead link]

[Dead link]

I've dunked them several times, including in salt water, and have had no problems.


banff22 posted 01-30-2005 12:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for banff22  Send Email to banff22     
I've been weighing the pros & cons of trading my current trailer for a new one and this morning I plugged 'load equalizers' into google.

It brought up many pages of results regarding vehicle LED lighting and replacement bulbs. Obviously I used an incorrect term and this was not what I was looking for with the search but very helpful for when I get back my lighting queries.

Try it.
Now I just have to find the correct term. Maybe load levelers?


Moe posted 01-30-2005 12:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
When replacing incandescent turn signals on a vehicle, such as a motorcycle, with LEDs, there often isn't sufficient current draw to make the flasher work. Load equalizers are usually just high wattage resistors that are used in parallel with the lights to draw enough current to make the flasher work.

This isn't a problem with switching to LEDs on a boat trailer. The two incandescent bulbs in the tow vehicle perform the same function as the load equalizer. In fact, the lower current draw of LEDs on a boat trailer eliminate the need for a heavy-duty flasher to keep the turn signals from flashing too fast because of extra current draw. This is something often required with incandescent trailer lights.


Chuck Tribolet posted 01-30-2005 09:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Moe posted the same URL three times. The wonders of frames. Try
[Dead link]


Moe posted 01-30-2005 09:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
Thanks for catching and correcting that, Chuck!


anthonylisske posted 04-04-2010 08:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for anthonylisske  Send Email to anthonylisske     
[This five year old discussion is now closed. Many of the hyperlinks originally given are now dead links--jimh]

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