What’s in an LED Boat Light?

LEDs have made quite an impact on the boating industry. Their small size, cool operation, and low power requirements combined with their excellent durability makes them an ideal choice for boaters looking to improve the performance of their lighting systems

However, while many boaters are already quite familiar with just how effectively LEDs can lower energy consumption and reduce maintenance costs, far fewer really have any idea of just what an LED actually is or how it achieves such great performance. LEDs actually represent a radical departure from our traditional lighting technologies, and here we’ll go over just what these differences are and what makes up the design and construction of the humble LED.


LEDs operate in a manner completely different than that of incandescent light bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs create light by heating a filament within a sealed glass globe until it radiates energy in the visible band of the electromagnetic spectrum, otherwise known as light. This is a very inefficient process as a great deal of waste takes place in the form of energy being radiated as heat, up to 90%. LEDs produce light through a process called electroluminescence. In this process, materials radiate light energy as an electrical current is passed through them, usually a semi conducting material. As electrons pass through the material they go the a process of radiative recombination and pass through microscopic holes in the material, causing them to become excited and release some of their energy in the form of photons, or light. This process produces little heat and is very efficient as the energy released is along a very narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum, mostly in the visible wavelengths range.


A typical incandescent light bulb consists of a wire filament strung across two contacts which is sealed within a glass globe containing a near vacuum and small traces of special gases intended to improve performance and longevity of the filament. This design is simple, cheap, and easy to produce, which is in large part responsible for the great popularity the standard light bulb has enjoyed for over 100 years. However, this design is also extremely fragile and susceptible to damage from impacts and vibration, and has a relatively short operating life due to the fast degradation of the filament which occurs due to the extreme temperatures it is subjected to.

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