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Let There Be Light

One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to add value to a boat is by changing the lighting. But there are many different refits, notes Kinder Woodcock, a lighting specialist at IMTRA, who has overseen hundreds of lighting projects for many types of yachts and sailboats. “Some are overhauls, while others are dress-ups,” he says. “Depending on the project, there are simple ways to transform an interior. Anyone with minimal experience can replace an older halogen fixture with a more modern LED.”

IMTRA’s own LED brands, as well as Frensch, Prebit, Macris and Lumishore brands, cover the entire lighting spectrum from interior to engine room. Woodcock notes that fixtures have evolved from utilitarian pieces to provide illumination to designer accents. “The fixtures have become so beautiful and modern that they’re now matched with the furniture and artwork,” he says. “Designers like Prebit make ‘families’ of fixtures so that reading, table, and chart lights can be grouped together.”

Replacing older, Led reading light with a new fixture can instantly change the interior feel. “Reading lights are the ones that people notice right away,” says Woodcock. “It’s usually just a matter of replacing the new fixtures into the older ones since they both use the same two wires.” Owners need to make sure newer fixtures cover the older light’s footprints.

Overhead or Led wall-mounted light could involve a higher level of difficulty. “That’s when you can get into a little more technical stuff, especially if there’s a dimmer,” says Woodcock. “Anyone doing it DIY needs to make sure dimmer systems are compatible.”

The hardest project would be adding a light to a brand-new location since it involves adding wiring to the boat’s existing wiring as well as possibly navigating the plumbing and other systems behind the bulkheads. “But even then, you could get a pro to prepare the wiring for you,” he says. “Then you could tackle the fixtures by yourself.”

Both the aesthetics and shapes for light fixtures have kept pace with the latest LED technologies. The Prebit brand, for instance, uses modern styling, good materials and beautiful finishes for its line of reading lights and wall-mounted lights. “Much of the Prebit line has contemporary designs that really update the boat,” says Woodcock. “Many models also have features like integrated dimmers.”

The Frensch brand has also used smart technology to make its chart lights more user friendly. Its F-4 LED chart light, for instance, works as a typical white light, but its red bulb works for nighttime cruising. Thanks to its photo-sensor, the red bulb also activates at night and turns off at daylight, becoming a nightlight. “The bulk of the Frensch line are surface-mounted linear and utility-room lights,” notes Woodcock. “They’re easy to use in a refit since they’re surface-mounted. You don’t need to cut holes into anything.”

The Macris brand also has a “super-flat” LED utility light that is popular in engine rooms, says Woodcock. “The last thing you want is a light hanging down where you’ll bang your head,” he says. “The company also launched a new cockpit system called the Alpha LED Lightbar that is ideal for refits of existing halogens. It really lights up the cockpit.”

Another fast-growing refit trend is underwater lights. Lumishore makes some of the most highly advanced systems, including surface-mounted systems. “Surface-mounted lights are perfect for refits since there is no through-hull installation,” says Woodcock. “There’s a small hole for a wire insert, but the rest of is in a molded housing attached to the hull exterior.”

Lumishore’s underwater LED systems have a thermal rollback feature that automatically reduces the amount of current if the lights are exposed to air for any length of time. Some Lumishore surface-mounted systems also let owners light up the hulls with a wide range of colors. “Some let you choose any color you want,” says Woodcock. “You can dim or do a strobe effect. They can even ‘dance’ with the music from your boat’s stereo.”

The good news for DIYers is that the refit revolution shows no signs of slowing down. “LED lights have turned everything around,” says Woodcock. “LEDs provide the same amount of light for 15% of the power draw, and they’re brighter than equivalent halogens.”