LED Light Upgrade

When I did a power survey on Kestrel last year I was surprised at how much of a draw the cabin lighting turned out to be. I expected the refrigerator to be a hog as well as the various pumps, but I hadn’t thought about the sheer number of lights that would be used at night with a boat load of people onboard. This was a problem with a simple solution, replace the incandescent light with LED lights. The trick though is to find just the right bulb and that’s where the work came in.

I started my search blindly without real direction by jumping on Amazon and searching for the bulb type. My first try didn’t really work that well. While the bulbs worked fine, they weren’t really the best size for the application. That’s when I took a step back and actually gave a little thought to what I was trying to do. I then defined the goal, match the existing bulb as closely as possible in shape, color, and luminosity with the lowest power rating possible. That sent me hunting for the specifications for the original bulbs.

I had three particular bulbs I was hunting for (see below). I started with the part numbers right off the bulbs and searched for those part numbers to find the bulb type. Then I searched for the specification for each bulb type. The specification provided the physical dimensions and the number of lumens based on bulb wattage.

My next step was to get on good old Amazon and search for the bulb type including LED in the search. That, of course, gave me a huge number of choices. The selection process was rather tedious because search filters don’t work very well for the things I was looking for. I spent quite a bit of time slicing and dicing the options. I had four criteria:

  1. Fit – the physical dimensions had to be a match to fit the lamp base and lens/shade
  2. Light temperature – my wife hates cool light, so these had to be warm
  3. Lumen output – this had to be reasonably close. Many of the LED bulbs are brighter than the corresponding incandescent version. I wanted to keep to the original lighting plan so looked for bulbs with lumen output close to what was being replaced.
  4. Power usage – the whole reason to go through this drill was to reduce power consumption. I looked at the power ratings for each of the bulbs and went with the lowest for those that matched all of the other criteria.
  5. 5) Price – not expensive, I’m a sailor and I am cheap. Not actually true if you tally up how much I spend on Kestrel. Let’s face it, all of the bulbs are being made in China, probably in the same place. The higher priced ones are likely just someone taking a higher profit. If the bulbs are inexpensive enough, I figure I can just find others if I don’t like them. The good news is that all of my choices have worked out well, o complaints at all.

41 mm Festoon Bulb – I found a pretty cool replacement that has a filament-like led strip enclosed in a glass bulb. It gives a really nice light, very similar to the original and draws only 1 watt.

BA15D S8 Miniature Lamp – is was this bulb I tried to replace first and got something too long and way too bright. I was able to return them, so no loss there other that time. This mistake was what launched me on my quest for the perfect bulbs. The replacement I found is a good match for size and lumen output, but is just a little cooler than I like. Also, I don’t particularly like the look of the bulb as it can be seen in some of the fixtures. That said, it does, the job well enough and draws only 1.6 watts.

MR16 GU 5.3 Spot – these little spots are in my gallery and saloon and provide nice, focused light down on the counters and table. I did a side by side comparison of the light from this one and the original and they were pretty close in temperature and lumens. The ones I selected draw 3 watts.

I went back and looked at the bulbs on Amazon and found that the first two are still available, but the last is not. If I have to replace those again, I’ll have to do another search. I’ve included the links to the bulbs below in case anyone wants to have a look for them selves. I am not an Amazon affiliate and make no money off of orders for these bulbs.

41 mm Festoon Bulb

BA15D S8 Miniature Lamp

MR16 GU 5.3 Spot

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2 Responses

  1. Gordon says:

    Regarding the quality of LED lights (and thus the cost), some have found that cheaper LEDs not only fail more often, but, they may fail by burning up. The color temperature may not be as accurate. They also may not have the RF noise suppression that the more expensive ones have. This could be a safety issue if you turn on a light, and can’t use the VHF.

    • Terry says:

      All good points. I must have gotten lucky with the lights I selected. I’ve used them for going on two years with no problems and no failures. I did test them all for VHF interference using my hand held VHF radio. With the squelch all the way off, there was detectible signal above the normal background static.

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