Tuesday, April 23, 2013

LEDs for Earth Day

An original dome light and an old German-made reading lamp are updated withe new LED lights.
Earth Day found my son-in-law and I rewiring old brass lighting fixtures and replacing the incandescent bulbs with LEDs. The original dome lights were little more than lumps of corrosion in one of the many boxes of gear that came with Oceanus. My wife and I spent several evenings polishing them down to the shine. We tried every commercially available potion to little effect. As a last resort we used a dollop of distilled vinegar on a fist-full of salt and were finally able - with a lot of elbow grease - to cut through the verdigris.

The beautiful diamond-patterned glass lenses came sparkling clean in the dishwasher. We were able to save most of the sockets, but all the switches were toast. By the time we replaced switches and added LED lights we were at or above the price of new dome lights. These, however, were part of the original boat and we felt it was important to save them. Besides, they are good-looking and classics.

In addition to the five original dome lights, we added two German-made reading lamps from about the same era we found at a yacht equipment resale store. They received LEDs as well. New strip LEDs will go under the cabinets in the galley and in the head. We will more than double the light sources in Oceanus from her original five dome lights. And the LEDs promise to be brighter too.

The LEDs are expensive to purchase, but with their long life-span (about 20,000 hours) they should eventually pay for themselves. Their real benefit on a sailboat, however, is how energy-efficient they are. They draw less than 5 percent of the energy of the incandescent bulbs they replace and do it without adding heat, which should be a boon in the tropics.

One of the attractions for me of cruising in a sailboat is being somewhat energy independent. Living off the grid and lowering my carbon footprint is a goal I've had for some time. I hope the LEDs will help me get there. Happy Earth Day.