More light, less power

This article was written by Rusty Lewis of the Archimedes and originally appeared on his blog.

Archimedes came to us with flu­o­res­cent over­head light­ing. The fix­tures are about 12 inches long and built into recesses in the ceil­ing. Each fix­ture holds one ten watt tube. Sadly, they don’t pro­duce much light. In fact, a pre­vi­ous owner went so far as to line the insides of the recesses with alu­minum foil in the hope that would reflect a bit more light. I don’t think that was ter­ri­bly effec­tive. The tubes just don’t put out much light.

RKL_47921

We have seven of these fix­tures. Four in the main salon, one in the aft state­room, and one in each head.

RKL_4783

Com­ing from sail­boats and hav­ing no gen­er­a­tor (but plenty of bat­ter­ies) we are always look­ing for ways to decrease our power usage. And we really need more light.

I found the answer at a boat show a while ago – Lunasea LED light bars. They are the same length as the flu­o­res­cent strips and sim­ple to install. Take out the old fix­ture, screw in the new one and wire it up. The whole process can be com­pleted in under five min­utes. We had seven light fix­tures to change so the project went pretty fast.

The light bars come in sev­eral col­ors. We chose warm white. The LED’s are housed in a strong alu­minum hous­ing. The entire light bar con­sumes only 5 watts of power and puts out the light equiv­a­lent of a 40 watt bulb. Nice.

RKL_4794

Instal­la­tion requires screw­ing in two small brack­ets and snap­ping the light bar into the brack­ets. The screws are included. In our case, the wiring is ter­mi­nated in the recess with screw ter­mi­nals. Con­nect­ing the power was easy.

It is tempt­ing to shorten the wire and remove the switch. DON’T DO IT. The switch con­tains crit­i­cal cir­cuitry. The light bar will not work with­out it.

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We added a red bar along with the warm white bar in a few of the fix­tures for night use. I looked for a switch that would allow us to switch between white and red, but couldn’t find any­thing that would work. We opted to just use the on/off but­tons that came with the lights. It’s a bit less con­ve­nient to take the cover off, turn one bar off and the other on, but we won’t be using the red light all that often.

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The Lunasea light bars list for $39.99. We found them at a boat show in the Svendsen’s Boat Works booth. The boat show spe­cial price was around $25 each. The reg­u­lar “street” price seems to be in the $30–32 range. Fish­eries Sup­ply lists them now also. At the time of this post, The price at Fish­eries Sup­ply is $32.76. We used ten white and red light bars in the seven fix­tures. The total cost was around $250.

The improve­ment in light quan­tity and qual­ity is sig­nif­i­cant. It was an easy project and we are very happy with the result.

One more project off the list …

2 thoughts on “More light, less power

  1. Ken Bowles

    I wonder how these would hold up in the engine room. Seems like a great way to replace the original incandescent fixtures and get extra light in just the right spots with minimum bulk.

  2. Rusty Post author

    I think they would be fine. There are no moving parts. The frame is aluminum. I think you would need a few of them though. Four to six to give good coverage with proper light. Judicious placement would minimize that number. That option might be a bit expensive at $30 or so a light. On Archimedes, we have two four foot dual fluorescent light fixtures. They produce great light, but of course are AC and may not be the best choice currently available.

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