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