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Old 12-15-2018, 09:07 AM   #1
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Cheap LED's a fire hazard?

So most of the lights on our boat have been replaced with LED bulbs and we've also added several complete LED fixtures. The anchor light bayonet bulb and running lights festoon bulbs were replaced with higher-end Lunasea LED's. I added a couple of Innovative light bars over the seating in the salon for reading & the overhead light in the head was replaced with a Lunasea touch-dimming fixture. They've all been flawless and cool to the touch like I assumed LED's are supposed to be. Here's where my decision to replace the other non-critical lights with cheap Chinese Ebay lights has me wondering if I didn't just throw the money overboard or worse yet, put us in jeopardy. I bought a bundle of bar lights for the engine room & area under the cockpit & haven't noticed that they get super hot & am very happy with the output, So far. The additional reading lights in the salon use the MR11 LED bulbs and do get kind of warm but not hot enough to concern me. The bad ones are the 1156 bulb replacement LED's. I had them on in the stateroom the other day & noticed smoke coming from both of them. I thought something might've splashed on them but when I removed the bulbs, several of the individual LES's had gotten so hot that they self destructed. There's no telling what would've happened had I left the lights on & I wasn't there.
Anyway, my point is I think it wise to spend the extra $$ on quality lights and leave the cheap stuff alone.
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Old 12-15-2018, 09:32 AM   #2
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Right on Shawn. Besides, the total cost of ownership almost always tilts in favor of quality LEDs that have constant current technology and built for boats or boat-like environments.
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Old 12-15-2018, 05:20 PM   #3
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First off, doubt you will buy any LEDs for your boat that aren't made in China. I have had a problem before with an electronic device (automatic bilge pump) starting a fire from the electronic circuitry. That was partly my fault (the fire) as I had to large a fuse in the circuit. The correct fuse would have likely blown before the circuit was hot enough long enough to start the fire.

Lesson learned!

When converting 55 fixtures to LEDs on my trawler, I made sure to adjust the fuse size or breaker appropriately (not always easy!). As an example, the engine room lights were incandescent screw in 12 VDC bulbs. The breaker for the engine room lights was 40 amps. After doubling the amount of fixtures and converting them to LED, I measured the amp draw with a VOM. The new draw was 4 amps, so I changed the breaker to 5 amps. Some areas of the boat have a breaker in the panel that feeds a sub panel which uses automotive blade style fuses. I checked each circuit with the VOM and adjusted the fuse to a safer value. Some circuits have only a small fraction of an amp draw. Was able to find an online source for 1 amp blade fuses (as common as hen's teeth). In a few places I had to add blade fuse holders as the panel breakers only go down to 5 amps.

If you have any questions or need to source 1 amp blade fuses, just ask.

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Old 12-15-2018, 05:51 PM   #4
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When I installed the radar mast on our Camano I put a stern light on the base of the mast. It used the 1156 style bulb. A year later I replaced the bulb with an LED from a name brand company. A few days later I noticed it wasn't working and I found the LED had gotten real hot and melted part of it. I took it back and was given a new one. After installing this one I watched the light and had my wife turn it on. It immediately caught fire. I checked the voltage at the light and it was fine. I went back to a regular bulb after that and didn't have any more problems. Most of the lights on our Mainship have been replaced with LEDs, but they are all voltage regulated and can handle anything from 8 to 30 volts. No problems so far.
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Old 12-15-2018, 06:52 PM   #5
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I recently had a newly installed LED go up in smoke after about 3 minutes.
The package said 12 - 17 volts.
The bulb base was marked 7 volts.
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Old 12-15-2018, 06:55 PM   #6
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All very helpful info. Thanks guys.
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Old 12-15-2018, 07:35 PM   #7
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Quote:
First off, doubt you will buy any LEDs for your boat that aren't made in China.
Where it is made is secondary or less to how it is designed and engineered. Apple products are made in China, for example, to name one.
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Old 12-16-2018, 06:31 AM   #8
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An ongoing question is the legality of using an LED in an approve navigation light.
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Old 12-16-2018, 06:35 AM   #9
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An ongoing question is the legality of using an LED in an approve navigation light.
Not really.For example...

https://store.marinebeam.com/uscg-ce...ed-nav-lights/
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Old 12-16-2018, 07:13 AM   #10
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Greetings,
Mr. OC. Very good point about re-fusing. I have been in the process of replacing our flush mounted florescent tubes with LED strips (remove original "guts" and stick in 2 pieces of LED) and your post got me thinking...


I haven't looked into it but the breakers in my panel are 1970's vintage and potentially unavailable. I really don't want to start replacing some of them with lower rated units IF, in fact, they can even be sourced at all. What I may do is install a smaller in-line fuse immediately adjacent to the fixture. I can readily stuff it up behind the headliner quite easily. Comment Please?
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Old 12-16-2018, 08:49 AM   #11
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Greetings,
Mr. OC. Very good point about re-fusing. I have been in the process of replacing our flush mounted florescent tubes with LED strips (remove original "guts" and stick in 2 pieces of LED) and your post got me thinking...


I haven't looked into it but the breakers in my panel are 1970's vintage and potentially unavailable. I really don't want to start replacing some of them with lower rated units IF, in fact, they can even be sourced at all. What I may do is install a smaller in-line fuse immediately adjacent to the fixture. I can readily stuff it up behind the headliner quite easily. Comment Please?
I like this philosophy. Putting a large ER lighting on a single overcurrent protection device is not what I would do. It might be safe, but it also means one fixture can take out the entire system. Individual fusing is not expensive, and will instantly reveal the problem child, if one develops. I would not do this technique for nav lights, and circuits that have just one load (except for electronics).
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Old 12-16-2018, 09:03 AM   #12
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I like LEDs in the ER and for reading lights. But after that a complete properly done conversion from perfectly good non LEDs seems like busywork to me. I've got enough necessary boat chores to do otherwise. Plus no fire danger!
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Old 12-16-2018, 09:44 AM   #13
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I have had some cheapo LEDs burn out and "brown" the backing....but none have caught fire or blown circuits.


with multiple LED fixtures...you usually see a few gone long before any browning let alone fire.


As TED pointed out with a bilge pump fire...sure.... ANY even high ticket item that has a component burn out on the circuit board that can carry amps can start a fire...not just low amp cheap stuff.
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Old 12-16-2018, 09:50 AM   #14
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Greetings,
Mr. s. I understand perfectly but what generated MY conversion was the death of one ballast on one fixture. Upon disassembly, the "innards" showed evidence of overheating, big time. There WAS a low current fuse on the circuit board but also a LOT of heat discoloration. I didn't even bother to attempt to source replacement parts given the age and the antiquity of the system.


The biggest part of the LED replacement was the removal of the old guts and re-painting. The strip I purchased was cut, push on terminal end, peel and stick and connect. I did a hard crimp to the existing wiring but what I may do is replace that hard crimp with covered spade connectors and "spade" the fuse into the +'ve feed.


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Old 12-16-2018, 10:04 AM   #15
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All my life I have removed failed parts that have discolored...cars, aircraft and boats....


Many things are designed to not catch fire when overheated...yet they still brown and even smoke.


Placing low amp fuses in line with every fixture is certainly the safest thing to do.....do it if it makes you happy...but don't get too excited about it.


I am done with "the safest thing to do" in my life...I investigate, review, research best practicrs and realize for every safety precaution mentioned on TF...often it isn't adhered to internally on many systems I purchase straight from the manufacture.


Like tinned wire....you know how many boat parts you buy are tinned to your brand new super duper expensive connection with high dollar terminal fittings and super duper crimping device only to have plain copper internally and screw fittings with no pressure plates internally?


The big picture is often vastly different than what a bunch of wannabes here on TF know.... it is a less than perfect in a world of maritime operations.


Sure perfection is great...but go back and read all the NASA manuals when we sent men to the moon with slide rules.....or any military operational risk management oporder.... being prepared is better than an airtight plan.
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Old 12-16-2018, 12:42 PM   #16
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All my life I have removed failed parts that have discolored...cars, aircraft and boats....


Many things are designed to not catch fire when overheated...yet they still brown and even smoke.
Exactly right. I've done safety assessments on a variety of electronic and electric devices at work. Rough numbers, 30 in the last 18 months or so. Individual components are V rated for fire resistance. If components don't make the cut, then you have to put the entire device in a fire rated enclosure. Single fault analysis is done too.
My specs are targeting power plants and substations; so not all is the same for boats. We can't even use PVC wire in nuke control rooms, for instance. I've had workmates injured due to large transformer explosions. Like the one in Miami in '15. Much of my job is to prevent those.
In the marine and even household world; let's just say there is a lot of opportunity for real, noticeable improvement. I was one of the unlucky thousands that had a spontaneous dishwasher fire. I live in a stick house, but it had a happy ending. Most liveaboards are in FRP boats. I'm sure you know how these boats burn.
I'm not all gloom and doom, quite the opposite. But, if you trust your made in Hurry LED vendor to do the diligence to protect you from fire risk, you may want to rethink that. I would NOT rely on a 35 year old breaker, that has not ever been tested to protect me from a short in the ER, inside a plastic light fixture. But, that is just me. I don't make that decision for others; but, I do think it is important to explain the risk for your own evaluation.

re: NASA; those engineers were amazing. As far as risk analysis, that one is complicated by so much newness. But mistakes were clearly made, many of which we got away with. A few we didn't. The hundreds page long official Challenger report is 8' away from me as I type this. It's a great training read. Apollo I is another significant story. As somewhat of a derivative of tactical aircraft, the capsule design was based on 100% O2. Simple, light weight, reliable. Well, the complexity of spacecraft made that a bad decision. And so it goes; we learn. If I die, I can only hope the reason is a good one; not from something we learned not to do decades before.
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Old 12-16-2018, 12:59 PM   #17
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Like many of these discussions...unless you remove every weak point in your boat from fire, sinking, collision, etc.....


The small stuff is either easy to fix or is not so easy. The easy stuff gets done, the harder stuff goes to the how "likely" test to how soon if ever it gets done.


I could go through hundreds of threads or better yet, hundreds of boats that have bigger issues for safety than some cheap LEDs.


Sure, add fuses if you like...or better yet...buy only expensive or over engineered stuff....but for those that are contemplating it....think long and hard if every dang possible thing in the world will go wrong on you boat and whether its worth your time and effort.


Go back 10 years worth of TF posts and I would bet most new boaters would be too scared to try.....
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Old 12-16-2018, 01:31 PM   #18
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This is not as uncommon as one would think. I have found a number of "dead LED's" with the emitters actually fallen right out (un-soldered themselves) sitting in the globe of overhead lights or on settees etc..



With the cheap cost of LED's today, and a very competitive market, on top of a mostly unaware consumer, it is easy for a manufacturer to scam you today. They simply bypass any and all levels of current control in the bulb and sell you something that will not only fail in short order but that can also be dangerous. Looks-like is not the same as performs-like..



This is a simple tip: If a 12V LED does not say it can handle 10V - 30V, look elsewhere...
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Old 12-16-2018, 02:06 PM   #19
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I suspect even high end fixtures have cheep LED bulbs in them.
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Old 12-16-2018, 02:09 PM   #20
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So most of the lights on our boat have been replaced with LED bulbs and we've also added several complete LED fixtures. The anchor light bayonet bulb and running lights festoon bulbs were replaced with higher-end Lunasea LED's. I added a couple of Innovative light bars over the seating in the salon for reading & the overhead light in the head was replaced with a Lunasea touch-dimming fixture. They've all been flawless and cool to the touch like I assumed LED's are supposed to be. Here's where my decision to replace the other non-critical lights with cheap Chinese Ebay lights has me wondering if I didn't just throw the money overboard or worse yet, put us in jeopardy. I bought a bundle of bar lights for the engine room & area under the cockpit & haven't noticed that they get super hot & am very happy with the output, So far. The additional reading lights in the salon use the MR11 LED bulbs and do get kind of warm but not hot enough to concern me. The bad ones are the 1156 bulb replacement LED's. I had them on in the stateroom the other day & noticed smoke coming from both of them. I thought something might've splashed on them but when I removed the bulbs, several of the individual LES's had gotten so hot that they self destructed. There's no telling what would've happened had I left the lights on & I wasn't there.
Anyway, my point is I think it wise to spend the extra $$ on quality lights and leave the cheap stuff alone.
Chinese stuff is inexpensive for a reason.
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