LED Marine Light Fixtures for Onshore and Offshore Operations
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LED Marine Lights Buyers Guide
The marine environment, where ships and boats operate, is very tough not only on lighting fixtures but on most man-made objects. There are harsh weather conditions to contend with and also salty water that causes corrosion of metallic items. There are also waves and tides, elements that slowly affect the structure of artificial objects.
Lighting fixtures used in the marine environment have to withstand the wetness and humidity of the area and corrosion from saltwater as well. To efficiently light up marine vessels, docks, platforms, or offshore drilling rigs, you require very tough light fixtures.
In many instances, these lights require a triple powder coating and stainless steel fixtures for mounting to resist corrosion. They also need very high tech optics to ensure enough illumination in often times humid and turbulent weather seasons. These light fixtures also have to withstand submersion in water without experiencing damage. Marine lighting is usually used in:
Shipping vessels above or below decks, exteriors, and interiors
Water Treatment Plants
Coastal Gas and Oil Production Centers
Container yards in shipping ports
Convey, walkways, or on cranes
High mast lights on shipping containers
Crude Oil Refineries
Special Features of LED Marine Lighting Products
- Resistance to corrosion caused by salty water
- Vibration resistance to waves and tide movements
- Resistance to mechanical impact and extreme weather conditions
- Thermal management for long life
- American Shipping Bureau approved
- Approval for hazardous applications
- High Ingress Protection ratings
- Triple powder coating for corrosion resistance in salty water
- Stainless steel light fixtures
- Vented enclosures for reliability
- Have a 0-10v dimming range
- Wide color temperature range
- High-quality illumination
- Energy efficiency
Common Terms Used To Identify Marine Grade Light Fixtures
A lighting fixture that is weatherproof is resilient and can withstand varied environmental conditions. These lights can be used in overly windy, rainy, hot and snowy applications and their lighting efficiency or mechanism won’t be adversely affected. Weatherproof lighting fixtures should withstand falling dirt, water ingress, and icy conditions and usually are NEMA rated.
LED marine lights use weatherproof materials which make them suitable for outdoor use. They may also have a finish or coating that works to deter salty water damage. They have sealed designs and are corrosion-free.
These lights can withstand saltwater corrosion and are not only weatherproof but are also rated safe for marine use. Weatherproof light fixtures are usually designated by their manufacturers.
A waterproofed light fixture is resistant to the ingress of moisture or water. Such lighting fixtures keep the internal electric components dry and fully functional in circumstances where they are exposed to rain or water splashes. Their enclosures are also IP rated. Waterproof light fixtures can be defined using their IP rating, unlike weatherproof fixtures.
Marine rated light fixtures can withstand strong winds, saltwater corrosion, rough contact, and water – elements commonly found in oceans and seas. These light fixtures can withstand saltwater corrosion which causes premature fixture failure on shore-based areas and sea docks.
To deter saltwater corrosion, the lights’ manufacturers basically use superior manufacturing materials. Some manufacturers use marine grade stainless steel incorporated with molybdenum, like 316 stainless steels. Light fixtures may also contain other marine grade materials such as carbon steel, silicon bronze, or aluminum.
Marine light fixtures are usually layered with coatings that make them more durable against saltwater corrosion. Using processes like galvanization, the parts of the light fixtures exposed to saltwater are dipped in hot zinc to galvanize them. They can also be anodized in an electrolytic acid solution that strengthens them against rust. Anodizing is usually done to aluminum products.
If a light source is rated for wet locations, it is suitable for use in watery environments that have rain, excessive humidity, moisture, or snow. This may include places such as restrooms, cleaning stations, pipelines, marine environments, or storage centers.
The UL ratings assigned to these fixtures are usually assigned after rigorous testing. The light fixtures are reinforced with components and protective designs regulated by safety bodies such us UL or NEC.
Wet rated light fixtures are exposed to direct water contact which may include snow, rain, or moisture. They are usually UL tested and rated, and the units that allow water typically have a drain hole.
Wet location light fixtures are usually used in food prep areas, car washes, sewers, or underground basements. Damp location light fixtures, on the other hand, are used indoors or outdoors and may be used in areas exposed to light moisture or condensation.
The major difference between wet location and damp location light fixtures is the intensity and duration each fixture can tolerate water exposure. Damp rated light fixtures are not watertight, so water ingress will adversely affect their mechanism.
Damp location light fixtures are perfect for protected and covered areas such as decks or porches with overhangs or roofs. These lights are commonly used in freezers, walkways, or public restrooms.
Features to Look For When Buying LED Marine Lights
Marine environments with salty water are very hostile to most light fixtures. The lights have to contend with not only corrosion from salinity in water but also with heavy snow, torrential rain and winds, and extreme high and low-temperature variations.
The lights are also exposed to airborne salt that’s whipped up by the waves and carried by the strong gusts of wind. These conditions affect most light fixtures, severely rusting the steel tubing and melting the bollard's plastic enclosure of the lamp.
If the right corrosion-resistant light fixtures are not installed the first time around, you will need to replace them in a short period of time, due to their wear and tear, which will cost a lot of money.
Salt is very corrosive to most metals used in a standard light fixture. When saline water comes into contact with steel, for example, both materials create a chemical reaction which wears down the steel. This basically means that any item made of steel and used in a marine environment has a very short lifespan.
While fresh water also affects the materials that are used to make light fixtures, it does so at a much slower rate than ocean water. Fresh water causes oxidation, but salinity accelerates it since salt is an excellent conductor because of its dissociated ions. Lighting fixtures made of porous metals will rust the fastest. Marine rated light fixtures are therefore made of non-porous materials.
Regular lighting equipment will not only rust but will also allow moisture and stains to penetrate their outer layer. Others will disintegrate due to the prevalent freeze-thaw cycle. Because they have water trapped in them that expands when frozen and contracts when thawing, they will crack and get damaged.
The bases of the light fixtures and their poles will also corrode if they are made of aluminum or common metals. The solution to these problems is the utilization of non-porous materials when making marine grade lighting equipment.
The lampposts, for example, can have a galvanized steel inner core wrapped up with a chunky layer of polyurethane material. The foam-like material will lock out corrosion from salt and moisture. An additional exterior polyethylene resin layer will make the equipment indeed seaworthy.
(Impact Protection) for Marine LED Floods
The IK rating system defines the ability of an electrical fixture's enclosure to protect its internal components against force or mechanical impact. This impact is measured in joules. Joules are minute amounts of energy and one joule is all the energy required to lift one small apple off the ground or against gravity to a 1-meter height.
To determine an object's IK rating, it has to be hit with a pendulum kind of device that has various weights of hammers. These hammers are dropped from increasingly higher distances, and the tests are called the Charpy impact tests.
|IK01||Protection against an impact of 0.14 joules||Force of a 0.25kg weight dropped from a 56mm height|
|IK02||Protection against an impact of 0.2 joules||Force of a 0.25kg weight dropped from a 80mm height|
|IK03||Protection against an impact of 0.35 joules||Force of a 0.25kg weight dropped from a 140mm height|
|IK04||Protection against an impact of 0.5 joules||Force of a 0.25kg weight dropped from a 200mm height|
|IK05||Protection against an impact of 0.7 joules||Force of a 0.25kg weight dropped from a 280mm height|
|IK06||Protection against an impact of 1 joule||Force of a 0.25kg weight dropped from a 400mm height|
|IK07||Protection against an impact of 2 joules||Force of a 0.5kg weight dropped from a 400mm height|
|IK08||Protection against an impact of 5 joules||Force of a 1.7kg weight dropped from a 300mm height|
|IK09||Protection against an impact of 10 joules||Force of a 5kg weight dropped from a 200mm height|
|IK10||Protection against an impact of 20 joules||Force of a 5kg weight dropped from a 400mm height|
Impact resistant bulbs, also known as shock resistant, vibration service, or rough service light bulbs, are manufactured with sturdier materials that can withstand environmental stress like vibration or mechanical shock. They are used not only in marine settings but in oil rigs, engineering workshops, milling machines, automotive workshops, and in inspection lamps.
A shock-resistant conventional bulb may have filament support in the form of a wire that makes its filament sturdy. This gives the fragile filament a longer life. Some bulbs have an exterior coating of silicone which makes their outer glass casings shatterproof.
Shock-resistant LED marine lights are heavy-duty light fixtures with vibration-resistant mounts made of rubber and double axis adjustments for the sides. The use of vibration-resistant LED light bulbs can cut down downtime and injury risk in marine settings. These lights have their diodes mounted on boards that are soldered for connection.
Some lights have triple mounting bolts to ensure that their light is focused where it is required the most. These LED lights are extremely energy-efficient and some consume 30 to 80 watts of electricity. They make perfect replacements for older HID bulbs. They also outlive these conventional bulbs by thousands of hours.
LED vibration-resistant lights have a shatterproof lens made of polycarbonate. They also have an aluminum casing that is shock-resistant. The aluminum housing is usually treated for rust resistance through processes like anodizing and powder coating. Built-in heat sinks help with cooling.
These bulbs, therefore, do not burn out or break when the water or the environment is turbulent - circumstances that can break conventional bulbs. You won’t have to deal with extended down-times, frequent maintenance, or expensive bulb replacements when dealing with vibration-resistant LED bulbs.
LED marine lights are solid-state lights, and unlike older types of bulbs, have no quartz or glass casings because these casings are easily broken by everyday processes such as transportation, storage, installation, and day-to-day handling.
This not only makes them a potential hazard, it also makes them expensive to handle. Their high maintenance costs are further escalated by their high temperatures, fragile filaments, extremely short useful life, and high replacement costs.
The American Bureau of Shipping Classification, also known as ABS, promotes security in marine and offshore settings. The classification organization develops and verifies standards that govern the construction, design, and maintenance of equipment in the marine environment. ABS offers global certifications to the gas, marine, and oil industries.
Marine light fixtures that conform to ABS rules have aluminum bronze machined exterior casings and borosilicate lenses. These marine LED lights also produce higher lumens per watt, delivering 5,000-230,000 lumens. ABS approved light fixtures often undergo rigorous testing and their designs have to be approved by the regulatory body.
Approval for Hazardous Applications
Lighting is very critical for the safety and efficiency of operations in the offshore and marine industry. These areas, which are often enclosed and dark around the clock, require high-quality light for adequate illumination.
Offshore applications such as petrochemical processing plants rely on artificial lights like spotlights even during the day. The light fixtures placed in these environments often encounter very harsh working conditions.
Hazardous area marine lights are typically installed in:
- Oil drilling rigs
- Docks for marine loading
- Water treatment plants
- Oil refineries
- Quarters for the crew of a ship
- Gas processing plants
Lights designed exclusively for hazardous applications can adequately handle the corrosion, combustion, and highly flammable vapors that are prevalent in these environments. There are global codes assigned to various hazardous environments that dictate which fixtures can be suitably placed in specific locations.
The three classes of hazardous environments as classified by the National Electrical Code are:
Locations with flammable vapor and gas commonly found in industries including chemical vapors, gas, and petroleum.
Locations with combustible dust that is lifted up during burning processes or is compacted during storage. This combustible dust is common found in coal, flour, pharmaceutical, and plastic industries.
These locations have flyings and fibers that ignite readily and are usually produced by cotton, textiles, and wood industries. However, the fibers are not classified as explosive as in the first two classes. They are also incapable of settling in the air long enough to burn. Instead, they cluster around a light fixture and could ignite from the heat a light bulb produces.
Class I light fixtures for hazardous environments have to be sealed to block gases from getting into their interiors. Gasketed and enclosed light fixtures are therefore very well suited for these environments.
Class II light fixtures are required to adequately function while blanketed by explosive dust. These are normally used in grain storage facilities, mineral processing plants, and other agricultural environments.
The light fixtures installed in these environments must inhibit the ingress of dust and maintain low operating temperatures as well. They should produce very little heat internally and their exteriors must have contoured designs that discourage dust accumulation and blanketing.
Offshore marine applications that have hazardous and combustible vapors and gases must be designed to prevent ignition of these agents. Explosion proof light fixtures have pre-engineered flame paths that vent out an explosion's pressure.
These flame paths allow for the escape of gases to the exterior atmosphere with a condition. The condition forces these hot gases to move through the light fixture's flame path then releases the gases once they are cool enough to not cause ignition to the surroundings.
Most of these light fixtures have their flame paths integrated into them through labyrinth paths, threaded and ground joints, acme and conical threads, and concentric interlocking rings. LED marine lights for hazardous applications drastically minimize the high maintenance costs brought on by bulbs that quickly fail in harsh environments.
They also prevent loss of life and property that could be brought on by the accidental ignition of gases and vapors found in these production facilities. Explosion proof light fixtures have thermal, mechanical, and electrical engineering that reduces the heat they produce.
Through electrical engineering, an inner control gear reduces the build-up of heat produced when the light is generated. Mechanical engineering, on the other hand, utilizes reflectors that disperse heat and encourage high photometric efficiency at the same time. Thermal engineering ensures that the metals and brackets placement used efficiently drains the heat produced away from the light fixture’s internal components to its casing.
LED marine lights are developed using the latest LED lighting technology to ensure high-quality lighting efficiency for all hazardous marine applications. These lights can decrease a marine application’s energy costs by up to 75%.
Ingress Protection Ratings
IP ratings are used to describe a light fixture's level of sealing protection against the intrusion of foreign matters and moisture. The initials “IP” stand for Ingress Protection and are usually followed by numbers that have special meanings.
The first number indicates a light fixture's sealing efficiency against the intrusion of solid objects such as dust and dirt. The higher that digit is, the higher the level of protection the light fixture provides against solid objects.
The second number is used to define a light fixture’s sealing efficacy against the intrusion of water and moisture. The lowest number, 0, implies that the light fixture has no protection at all while a higher number suggests that it can be safely submerged in water without experiencing any damage.
|Digit||Object size||Type of Protection|
|0||-||No protection at all from intrusion by objects|
|1||Objects greater than 50mm||Protected against a large object’s surface area such as a palm of the hand. This level of protection does not keep it safe from force or deliberate tampering|
|2||Objects greater than 12.5mm||This includes protection from objects such as fingers and other equal sized tools and objects|
|3||Objects greater than 2.5mm||This encompasses protection from tools, thick-sized wires, and other similarly sized solid objects|
|4||Objects greater than 1mm||This size of items includes screws, fine tools, and most wire sizes|
|5||Protects against the entrance of dust that may adversely affect the light fixture||This level of protection not only protects against dust in large quantities and its adverse effects on lighting fixtures but against contact as well|
|6||Completely dust tight||This IP protection level ensures that no dust or any other foreign body will access the light fixture's internal components|
|x||Unrated light fixtures||Since the IP rating is not defined, such light fixtures could be hazardous in high abuse environments|
|Digit||Capacity||Type of Protection|
|0||-||No protection at all from ingress of water or humidity|
|1||Dripping water and condensation||No adverse effects on light fixture when it is exposed to water drops vertically falling at an equivalent of 1mm per minute|
|2||Water droplets when tilted at an angle of 15°||Water droplets landing on the light fixture when it’s inclined at an angle of 15° will not damage it.|
|3||Sprayed water at a 60° angle||Water sprayed and falling at an angle of up to 60° will not damage the light fixture|
|4||Water splashes and sprays from any direction||Water that is splashed or sprayed on the light fixture from any direction will not harm it|
|5||Protection from water jets that utilize low pressure to spray water||Low-pressure water jets projected by nozzles (that are at least 6.3mm) from any direction will not damage the light fixture|
|6||Protection against ocean waves and powerful water jets||12.5mm water jets and waves hitting the light fixture from all directions will not destroy it|
|7||Protection against temporary immersion up to 1mm||The light fixture is effectively sealed against water infiltration at depths of 1mm|
|8||Protection against effects of immersion in pressurized applications||The light fixture is effectively sealed against water intrusion when immersed for a prolonged period in conditions specified by its manufacturer. It may be hermetically sealed or able to let in water, but the water does not adversely affect its functions.|
For businesses in marine-related sectors, saltwater can be devastating. According to a study carried out by the United States Federal Highway Administration, companies and organizations based in the U.S. spend as much as $276 billion every year on corrosion-related problems. If your light fixtures don't have the proper protection, saltwater will corrode them for sure. They must have resilient coatings and reinforced designs that use stainless steel or non-metallic casings.
Lighting fixtures that have undergone saltwater testing have an improved lifespan, are low-maintenance, comply with marine rules and best practices, and increase safety due to their reliable operation. The lights undergo rigorous testing to ensure that they function excellently under all saltwater conditions. They can be used to support marine-related operations such as search and rescue, fishing, aviation, oil and gas, and commercial shipping and docking.
Light Control Options
Most boat owners love to control their lights and have varied types of mood lighting on demand. Mood lighting can be created by manipulating the colors and the intensity of the light sources. Most luxury yachts are equipped with light control options that change the light output and intensity on demand.
Dimming capacity is growing in demand because not only does it help conserve energy, it also creates flexibility in lighting. For a long time, most marine light fixtures utilized HID lamps that depend on electronic ballasts for dimming.
Reports show that HID lamps utilize over 12% of the lighting electricity used in the commercial sector, 31% of the lighting power used in the industrial sector, and a whopping 87% of all the lighting loads consumed in outdoor applications.
Dimming controls are therefore required to help cut back on their high energy consumption, which is way more than for other marine lights. HID bulbs have always relied on step level dimming. For more flexibility, continuous dimming is practiced, providing a minimum amount of light when there is no occupancy in spaces.
NEMA recommends that high-pressure sodium lamps only be dimmed to 50% of their rated power. If HPS lamps are dimmed below this range, their useful life will be significantly affected. This will nullify your lamps’ warranties and affect their efficacy at the same time. Their light color will deteriorate, forcing you to replace them.
HPS lamps should also be operated for at least 15 minutes before any dimming is conducted on them. If the power goes off, the dimming timer should be reset once the lamp has restarted. Dimming adversely affects the color rendering, color temperature, and lighting efficiency of HID lamps. NEMA states that HPS lamps will most likely experience a drop out (sudden light extinguished) if dimmed rapidly after they have operated for a short 15,000 work hours.
While this may not be the end of life for the lamps, it forces the vessel user to monitor the control's dimming rate carefully to ensure that 15 minutes pass from the moment the full light output is realized to when dimming is maximized.
Quartz, ceramic, pulse-start, and probe-start metal halide lamps are dimmable. HID lamps with starting aids and internal igniters are dimmable, too. NEMA discourages dimming of self-extinguishing MH lamps because it could damage their ballasts.
Metal halide lamps should only be dimmed up to 50% of their rated power. Dimming them beyond this level could degrade their light color, lumen efficiency, efficacy, and lamp life. Just like high pressure sodium lamps, they should also operate for fifteen minutes at their maximum light output before they are dimmed.
If voltage disruption extinguishes a MH lamp, the dimmer's timer should be reset after the MH lamp has restruck. Metal halide lamps experience a level of color shift when frequently dimmed. For instance, they may increase their color temperature, shifting from their typical 3000K-4000K color temperature to highs of 5000K-6000K.
Challenges of Dimming HID Lights
Dimming HID lamps below their dimmable levels will cause the light fixtures to degrade quickly. It will adversely affect their efficacy, service life, lumen output, color temperature and force them to extinguish. Dimming them 50% below their rated output will decrease their useful life by 90%, which means their warranties will be null and void.
HPS lamps and metal halides suffer from color shifting when dimmed. The light HPS lamps produce will appear more yellow, further reducing their color rendering ability.
Some electronic ballasts used in HID lamps are not compatible with dimming technology. Pairing them with these controls will lead to degraded lamp lives.
HID lamps may flicker more when dimmed.
LED marine lights, on the contrary, work flawlessly with light control systems. They not only have long rated lives, they are also very energy-efficient. These solid-state lights can replace HID lamps and deliver over 50,000 hours of operation.
They also have excellent color rendering capabilities, scoring over 80 on the CRI scale. LEDs emit very little heat and do not produce any infrared light. They also have no mercury, unlike HID bulbs that require this toxic substance (and others) to operate.
LED marine lights are inherently energy-efficient, so using them in your marine applications – without lighting controls – will considerably lower your energy usage.
Yes, when it comes to saving energy, every little thing counts. Remember, any energy consumed has an impact on the operational costs. Dimming your LED marine lights will also extend their life, give you lighting flexibility, enhance safety, and increase your productivity. It will help create the perfect ambiance for your marine vessel’s occupants.
LED light controls range from dimmers and single switches to massive central lighting controls – complete with reporting tools for energy savings and maintenance analysis. There are also wireless light controls that are very easy to install when retrofitting your older light fixtures with marine LED lights.
Advantages of LED Marine Lights
- They are impact resistant with a high IK rating. LED lights are built rugged and can withstand hard use
- They are vapor tight with IP67, IP68, or IP69 ratings, depending on the installation area
- They are explosion proof and suitable for use in gas-prone and dust-prone offshore applications
- They are corrosion-resistant and last long even when installed in corrosive saline water environments
- They use up to 80% less energy than older HID light fixtures, which translates to less money spent on operational costs
- They last 50,000 to 100,000 hours, which is extremely long compared to 6,000-24,000 useful hours of HID lamps. They drastically reduce lamp replacement costs as well as other maintenance costs
- Color temperatures have become a critical feature in lighting design. LED marine lights have a wide range of color temperatures, in fact, wider than that of conventional bulbs. They are highly tune-able and can create the perfect environment for varied tasks
- LED marine lighting is eco-friendly since it does not have toxic substances like mercury which is found in HID lamps. These solid-state lights also last longer, meaning fewer units will end up in dump sites
- LED lights do not emit UV radiation, so they can be used in a wide range of applications
- LED marine lights are not made of fragile or breakable materials, so they offer a lot of flexibility in lighting design
- They also work well with light control features and can be dimmed not only to enhance the ambiance of a space but to save energy, too
- LEDs operate most efficiently in cold environments, unlike HID lamps whose ballasts are negatively affected by extreme temperatures. They can be installed in a wide range of settings, including cold rooms, outdoor spaces with freezing weather, or under submerged parts of ships
- LED lights are unidirectional lights, meaning that they are designed to focus their light. HID lamps are multi-directional lights and almost half of the light they produce is usually wasted and dispersed into the environment. These light wasters create light pollution that has undesirable effects not only on human health but on sea creatures, land animals, and plants
- Unlike HID lamps, LEDs have no re-strike and warm up periods and can be switched on and off on demand. This is part of the reason they work perfectly with light control mechanisms that help save energy and create comfortable living and working environments
- LED marine lights score highly on the color rendering index. This means that they render colors better than other artificial lights. Their color rendering ability is often compared to that of the sun at midday on a clear day. They are perfectly suited for scientific, surveillance, and security systems in marine applications