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June 26, 2009

Adding Underwater Lights to Your Boat

Underwater lights attract anglers and probably fish

The brightness of the light source is also a bit difficult to measure. Manufacturers use ratings like lux and lumens to measure brightness, but it also depends on the cone angle of the light. So make sure you compare the lux and lumens for lights that have similar cone angles.

Only a few years ago, LED lights were limited to an output of about 30 lumens per watt, a number that describes the "efficiency" of the light, says Kevin Hardy, vice president of technology assessment and marketing for DeepSea Power & Light (858-576-1261; www.deepsee.com), a California company with 25 years of underwater-lighting experience. But today's LEDs emit as much as 120 lumens per watt.

LEDs now favorably compare with what was long considered the most efficient and brightest underwater-light source - HID, High-Intensity Discharge, technology - which employs metal-halide lamps. LEDs rely on solid-state semiconductors to produce light via electric current managed by a driver (voltage regulator).

LED Update
LEDs may cost more upfront than HID, halogen or xenon lights, but the long-term costs for LEDs drop significantly. An LED light can potentially burn for eight to 16 years continuously, Hardy says, with little to no maintenance and no "bulbs" to burn out, change or break. Of course, no one uses underwater lights continuously, but suffice it to say: Your boat's LEDs could last your lifetime.

In addition, LEDs draw tiny amounts of electricity - 300 milliamps compared with the smallest halogen at 1 1/2 amps on a 12-volt system, says Lee Savage, CEO of OceanLED in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Another consideration when buying lights involves cutting holes in the hull or transom - a prospect boat owners dread. However, a number of new LED lights such as DeepSea's On-Hull SeaLite and OceanLED's polymer Amphibian lights mount to the hull surface and require only a 3/8- to 1/2-inch hole for the cable.

LEDs, like all lights, generate heat. But what little heat emanates from LEDs exits the back of the light instead of the front - as is the case for HIDs, halogens and xenons. Consequently, traditional lights must be submerged in water to avoid overheating, but LED heat can be managed from the backside; some transom LEDs may even be left on while running.

Offshore and Inshore
While underwater lights have developed an offshore following from Florida to the Northeast Canyons to the California islands, little discussion seems to emanate from inshore enthusiasts. However, underwater-light manufacturers make lights small enough for skiffs; some make lights that mount on trim tabs, and others make products that substitute for your boat's drain plug.

If you're ready to experiment with underwater lights for fishing inshore or offshore, do some shopping. As with any product, cheap knockoffs exist. LEDs that may appear similar often differ greatly with respect to construction and safeguards.

If you can, observe underwater lights at boat shows and walk your marina. Check standards, certifications and warranties on all products. When you're ready, flip the switch.

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Underwater-Light Manufacturers

Abyss Technology
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
954-772-2022
www.abysslite.com

Aqualuma Underwater Lighting
Jacksonville, Florida (U.S. distributor)
904-384-9659
www.aqualuma.com

Briter Innovations
Shirley, New York
877-274-8370
www.briterinnovations.com

DeepSea Power & Light
San Diego, California
858-576-1261
www.deepsee.com

E-TEC Marine
Riviera Beach, Florida
561-848-8351
www.etecmarine.com

Hurley Marine
Escanaba, Michigan
906-553-6249
www.hurleymarine.com

IMTRA Marine Products
New Bedford, Massachusetts
508-995-7000
www.imtra.com

OceanLED
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
954-523-2250
www.oceanled.com

Sea Recovery
Carson, California
310-637-3400
www.seawaterlight.com

Underwater Lights Limited
Dania, Florida
954-524 2844
www.underwaterlights.com

Underwater Lights USA (Sea Vision)
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
866-772-0130
www.underwaterlightsusa.com