Home > Learn > How To: Easy Ways to Add LED Lighting to Your Boat
In this article: We'll talk about 5 different, simple ways that you can add LED lighting to your boat. At the end of this article, you'll have everything you need to know to start adding RGB and LED lights to your boat.
- Benefits of Marine LED Lighting
- Disadvantages of Marine LED Lighting
- 5 Easy Ways to Add LED Lighting to Your Boat
- Do You Need LED Lighting Controllers for Your Vessel?
- How to Install LED Lighting to Your Boat
- What Wiring is Needed for Marine LED Lighting?
Boat owners are finding many benefits to adding LED lighting to their boats. It's becoming a popular option and it helps create a unique atmosphere. With a combination of LED lights and a controller, you can pick one color or cycle through many to create a festive party. The best thing is, it isn't really all that difficult to add LED lighting to your boat.
In this article, we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of marine LED lighting. We will also discuss some easy options for your next upgrade and touch on some installation tips to get you started.
Benefits of Marine LED Lighting
The pros of upgrading to LED lighting on your boat far outweigh any cons. Here are a few to consider.
- Energy Efficient: Most people choose to use LED boat lights because of efficiency reasons. Unlike other lighting options, the LED bulbs are going to consume far less power, helping you save money in the long run.
- No Heat: LED lights don't overheat like other bulbs. Because of this aspect, you can use the LED lights for long periods without worrying about your safety.
- Many Applications: LED boat lights are used in many areas on your vessel. You can use them for more lighting, to attract fish or create the perfect party scene. There's no limit to the atmospheres you can create.
- Many Colors: In addition to the various applications, you can also choose a variety of colors. Light up your boat with red, blue, green or white.
- Long Service Life: LED lights last up to 50,000 hours, so you won't be replacing these anytime soon.
- Dimmable: LEDs come in dimmable varieties to change the appearance. Just make sure you choose a product that offers this option.
Disadvantages of Marine LED Lighting
Even though there are a ton of benefits to using LED lights on your boat, there are a few cons we must discuss.
- High Upfront Cost: When compared with traditional light options, you will find that the LED bulbs are going to be more expensive upfront. However, the long life makes them more cost-effective over the long term.
- Sensitive to Voltage: LED lights require a regulated supply of voltage to operate correctly.
- Not for Use in Cold: There is no heat emitted from the LED bulbs, so moisture and snow are not going to melt away from the lights.
- Legality: Check your local and state waterway laws. In many cases, certain colors of LED lighting are prohibited at night time.
5 Easy Ways to Add LED Lighting to Your Boat
Once you've decided to put some LED lighting features on your boat, you want to know where to start. Here are a few simple ways to upgrade to LED today.
1. Speakers with Built-in LED Lighting
When the time comes to upgrade your marine speakers, consider adding some with multicolor LEDs. You can knock out two birds with one stone – achieve a better sound while adding accent lighting.
The great thing about this upgrade is you can create whatever effect you desire, from subtle and classy to entertaining and party-focused. Even if you opt for the minimal style, you can create a nice ambiance for your nighttime trips.
However, consider tying the system into your music for complete color-changing fun that moves to the beat. These setups are great for party barges or your family pontoon.
We recommend the Fusion Signature Series 3 speakers with CRGBW. These speakers go beyond the typical RGB color model that uses red, green and blue to create an array of hues.
While we are talking about the speakers, consider expanding with the wake tower. Adding built-in LEDs to your wake tower speakers can create even more amazing effects.
2. Wake Tower Light Bars
Of course, adding LED lighting to your boat doesn't just have to revolve around sound. You can put a light bar on the wake tower with multicolor displays for even more utility and fun. While using a white LED light bar helps you guide the boat in at night, there's more excitement by adding color, similar to what's found with the Rogue4 Sigma Series 10″ RGB Light Bar.
You can still switch these bars to white for better visibility, but they offer a variety of colors to ensure the perfect mood in any situation. Plus, if you connect to a light controller (which we will touch on soon), you compliment the effects you desire on your boat.
3. LED Strips
There's an easy way to add a splash of color anywhere on the boat. With a spool of waterproof LED strips, you can put the light under the console, behind panels, in the gunwales or anywhere you desire.
These flexible strips can be mounted and trimmed to your specifications. You can also use these with your speakers if you prefer.
4. LED Cup Holders
Want to see your drink while you are driving at night? With ringed LED cup holders, you can shine a light on that drink and provide a cool effect. They are available in a variety of colors and many include a rubber insert to provide a more secure hold on your beverage.
With a stainless steel LED cup holder, you gain even more style without breaking the bank.
5. Underwater LED Lights
There are plenty of reasons to add underwater LED lights to your vessel. First, underwater lights help you catch more fish. With the light shining under the water, insects, plankton and baitfish gravitate toward your boat, which brings bigger fish to feed on them.
Underwater boat lights also enhance the mood of your boat. Imagine the party you can throw with the right lighting combined with the best music and drink selection.
Plus, underwater LED lights improve safety. If you mount some under the swim step, you make it easier to step on and off the boat at night.
Underwater lights come in a variety of styles for any application. You can choose white, red, green or blue hues. If you can't make up your mind, consider adjustable multicolor lights that can be programmed as a light show.
Plus, these marine lights also come with a variety of bezel options, including plastic, aluminum, bronze and stainless steel. They aren't even difficult to install, so you will have no problem adding LED lighting to your boat.
Do You Need LED Lighting Controllers for Your Vessel?
When you add LED lighting to your boat, there are times when having a controller will be useful. If you plan to add RGB lighting, the controller will help you get the exact effect you are going for.
However, one-color LED lights won't require a lighting controller. With these LED lights, you can simply connect to a switch for operation.
When you purchase an LED light controller, make sure you choose a name-brand, such as Wet Sounds, Fusion or Kicker. Plus, you need to make sure that the controller works with the products you have picked. If they aren't compatible, your controller will be of no use.
The installation of these controllers is pretty simple.
How to Install LED Lighting to Your Boat
Even if you are a novice, you should be able to make some LED upgrades without much help. The main thing to remember is that all LED lights will require a 12-volt power supply.
Companies like Wet Sounds, Kicker and Fusion make a controller for your speakers and lighting that makes everything easier. Instead of soldering the connections, you can put all of the wiring into one convenient plug and move on.
To use a controller such as this, follow these steps:
- Attach male connector to the speaker's LED wires (or if you're just using RGB lights without speakers, just connect to the light wires).
- Attach female connector to wiring running the power source.
- Connect the box to a 12-volt power source, usually where the stereo is wired for power.
- Use the handy remote to choose a single color or setup a multicolor response mode.
With a multicolor light system, the bar will use red, blue and green base LEDs to create the available colors. Each of these base colors requires its own power source. Thankfully, there are 4-wire bundle connects that take the three wires for each LED color and include a ground wire for a simple connection.
You just connect one to the light source and use the other for your controller box or power source.
What Wiring is Needed for Marine LED Lighting?
For a proper LED lighting setup, you want marine-grade RGB wire. Wet Sounds is a top manufacturer that makes some good RGB wiring, but there are tons of other brands making high-quality RGB wiring like this one.
Make sure you get enough wire based on how far the run is and the number of components you need to power up. Additionally, you will likely need a quality set of wire strippers and a crimping tool on hand to perform the installation.
When you are only setting up one LED light source, you might choose to wire it independently. However, you can use one RGB wire run and connect multiple LED lights to it. If you are using one bundle, start with the rear of the boat and use a tap with each wire at the locations. With this setup, you will have fewer wires running through the vessel.
Whatever your budget and skill set, there are ways to add LED lighting to your boat. You can start with one option or do them all for a real party vessel. Either way, make sure you express your individual style for a space that's enjoyable during any excursion.
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