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Reducing navigation light power consumption and enhancing reliability

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What is the issue?
COLREGS (International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972) requirements dictate that all boats of up to 20 metres must display coloured lights that are visible up to 2 miles.

Running a suite of navigation lights through the night whilst under sail can consume a large amount of a vessel's battery capacity. So much so that in remote waters, power conservative sailors have a tendency to turn off navigation lights to avoid the power drain.

Why address this?
Reducing any major power draw on a vessels battery is a considerable benefit, especially so if it also reduces the temptation to resort to unsafe practices.

How to address this?
Replace all the navigation lights with energy efficient Light Emitting Diode based (LED) bulbs. LEDs are between five to ten times more power efficient than conventional lamps dramatically reducing the power draw. This can be highly significant when it comes to running an anchor light through the night.

Replacement LED Navigation Light
Photo: Courtesy of Aqua Signal
LEDs are also more reliable having a longer service life, typically between 10,000 to over 50,000 hours. Made up of multiple individual LEDs it is statistically highly unlikely that they will simultaneously fail as is the case of a filament bulb. Thereby they offer a higher level of guaranteed service availability to a vessel.

COLREGS require a visibility at up to 2 miles but there is an option for boat owners who wish to be seen over even greater distances to opt for high output (VHO) LED replacement lamps. These significantly outperform the standard 25W incandescent lamps and are visible well in excess of three nautical miles.

It is worth checking the condition of the light fixtures during replacement. A leaky fixture will ultimately lead to lamp failure. Navigation lights located at the bow, both the bi-colour when fitted and the individual port and starboard lights, are more prone to degradation. These are subject to regular immersion and the added water pressure takes its toll on the fixture sealing arrangement, especially if the seals are of some age and have hardened. If the seal is degraded they may be effectively resealed with silicon after the bulb replacement. Stern lights, steaming lights, mast top, anchor, and tri-colour, are fixtures that are not so adversely affected by leakage.
Please note

Try to mount sensitive antenna such as AIS, GPS as far as possible from LED lamps. Some sensitive receivers can be affected by the low level of EMI emitted from LED lamps.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession, with thanks to Lee Gunter of www.medlectric.com

Navigation lights on a boat

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