Lighting up a revolution?

There are many jokes to be had on how many people are needed to change a lightbulb. But for the ferries of the future, the answer may well be – none!

LED Lighting is a hot topic these days and the technology is gaining popularity – for good reason. The benefits of reduced energy consumption and longer lifetime of LED lights are generally understood – whether at home or in a commercial setting.

But there is more to the story, particularly for ferry owners.

A quick look at the trend in commercial marine LED sales versus conventional lighting has shown that LED demand has increased dramatically over the last few years. In fact, LED lighting accounted for only 5% of lighting sales just several years ago, but now represents over 70% of current lighting sales. (Glamox Canada - 2016)

A deeper analysis, within the ferry sector, indicates that a main reason many vessels in Canada have upgraded to an LED solution comes down to maintenance. Navigation lights are a great example of this – they are notoriously difficult to access (ask anyone who has had to maintain them), sometimes even needing shore-side assistance just to change a bulb, which commonly have a lifetime of only 1000 hours. In contrast, an LED option, such as the Series 65 navigation light, provides 110,000 main lifetime hours and 110,000 emergency lifetime hours.

This would equate to continuously running the main light for over 12 years, maintenance-free.

Similar benefits are seen when upgrading other outdoor lights such as floodlights, deck lighting and also fluorescent fittings, particularly on the car decks. As you might suspect there are significant costs and logistics that come with continuously maintaining the high number of fluorescents installed in these large and very occupied spaces – labour, access challenges (high ceilings), maintenance scheduling around sailings – along with the storage and disposal of fluorescent tubes and ballasts to name a few.

Suitably designed marine LED linear fixtures are now available and in service, that not only provide 100,000+ hours lifetime, but some can be tailored to suit existing mounting footprints and cable entries, thus greatly minimising the cost and time to retrofit.

We may enjoy four wonderful and distinct seasons in Canada, but the cold weather can play havoc on equipment and that includes fluorescent lighting. Many people aren’t aware that that an inherent characteristic of LEDs is that they have proven, excellent performance at extremely cold temperatures, unlike regular fluorescent fixtures.

Often though, the main interest in installing LED lighting as a technology for the future is derived from the associated energy reduction. Typically, the energy savings from fairly efficient T8 fluorescent systems to LED is in the 30-35% range. However, there are still many older style, less efficient T12 fluorescent fittings still in circulation, and changing from T12 to LED could realise energy savings up to 65%, which becomes significant when dealing with a large number of fixtures.

LED lighting for inside areas such as passenger lounges, restaurants, cabins, washrooms is available in many forms and styles, and can be configured to suit existing ceilings and openings, helping to keep down refurbishment costs.

Susan Schrempf, President and CEO, Owen Sound Transportation, says that the choice to upgrade to LED lighting on board the MV Chi-Cheemaun was a sound one, for a number of reasons.

“The inclusion of dimmable LED lighting in our lounge and dining room renovations provides a clean modern look, and we now have the ability to adjust the atmosphere in these areas, making for a more enjoyable customer experience. In addition, we are pleased with the significant reduction in use of onboard energy, and happy that bulb changing in these areas has been consigned to the past.”

Due to the wide range of LED lighting now available worldwide, options should be narrowed down to solutions that are fit for purpose. Therefore, it’s important that any lighting being considered should be designed specifically for commercial marine use and certified as such.

Ultimately, numerous factors need to be considered when deciding whether LED technology is the right investment to make. However, with improved efficiency and higher quality solutions now available and returns on investment appearing in under 24 months, LED lighting is fast becoming a new technology of choice amongst ferry owners and operators worldwide.

Next time you’re on board, look up and around – and think about the difference.