Best underwater yacht lights: Don’t be kept in the dark
Written by Michael Henson
Last updated: 04/07/2016
When on the market for underwater lights for your yacht or boat a question that comes to mind is who sells the brightest lights? However it's not always about brightness. There are several other features that also need to be considered when looking for underwater lighting.
When buying, consider how much it costs to power the lights, as well as the upfront price. What is the beam power in angle degrees and lumens? Will it fit through your hull or not? What is the life span of the unit? Is the bulb generic or you will have to replace the whole unit once its dead?
There are many types of underwater yacht lighting on the market, each proclaiming that theirs is the best. This article will give objective advantages and disadvantages of different types of underwater lights.
Key features of underwater lighting
There are many components of underwater lighting, but there are three key features that need to be considered to make sure you select the right one for your yacht.
- Light source
- Mounting options
- Price/ beam width/angle etc…
Different types of yacht light sources
There are four main types of light sources that are used for underwater lighting; LED, Xenon, Metal-Halide and Halogen.
How bright the light will be depends on how much AMP power is available. All lights are rated by lumens per AMP; for example a leading LED underwater light manufacture claims their lights outputs hundreds of lumens per amp, however Metal-Halide are in the 1000s of lumens.
The last thing to check is the penetration angle, the higher the angle the more the price (generally speaking), LEDs start at 40 degrees (0 starting horizontally then going down), this will effect the spread of the light backwards and downwards, again, the more the spread is, the higher the price is.
LED (light emitting diode) are one the most popular forms of lighting.
- Typically 10,000 hours lifespan (however this is not always the case)
- Limited amount of power needed
- Low heat exposure
- Can withstand the rigours of spiking electronics, humidity, water ingress, and vibration on a boat
- No lag or time delay for LED lights to full brightness
- Low water penetration
- In many applications, LEDs are expensive compared with other light sources, when measured by metrics such as “cost-per-lumen”
- LEDs are low-voltage light sources, generally requiring a constant DC voltage or current to operate optimally
LEDs offer a huge variety of benefits but at the same time they cannot be viewed as the optimum solution for every lighting-related application.
One of the common systems employed by manufacturers these days are Xenon bulbs. Also referred to as high intensity discharge (HID), they offer a crisp whitish-blue light that illuminates deep into the water.
- Strong angle spread
- Strong light penetration
- Cheaper alternative to LED
- It can take a minute or so to get to full brightness
- HID bulbs when enclosed can get very hot. Heat management is a key issue in high power underwater lighting otherwise, premature failure will happen
- Colour and brightness will eventually decrease, from the moment it is first used
The most expensive (unit price and power requirement) lights are metal halide, which need to run on AC power.
- Suitable for large yachts and superyachts
- Very strong angle spread
- Very strong light penetrating
- Bulky system units needed
- Requires a lot of power to run
Halogen has only one advantage, Price. However it is the cheapest for a reason. It draws too much power, it is sensitive to its environment and it has low lumens per AMP and poor lifespan. These should be avoided, as there are much better alternatives on the market.
Boat light comparisons
A website was created to serve as a comparison between different marine underwater light products and manufacturers. You can view details such as lumens and price, and compare actual photos of the lights’ output to see how they really look. http://underwaterlightcomparison.com/
Top expert tip on yacht lighting
Wattage is the measure of power consumption. Luminance is a measure of light output. The higher your lumens and the lower your wattage, the more efficient your light, and thus the longer it will last, don’t let manufacturers confuse you here, high wattage without lumens to back it up is a waste.