Our package from Defender.com arrived on the front porch this afternoon. Christmas in February!! We ordered 4 new dome lights and the new #14 marine grade wire to tie it all together (and a carbon monoxide detector, but that has nothing to do with this post). We wanted to add 2 additional lights in the salon to match the existing and replace 2 old ones that were beyond repair, and at $25/ea., the 12 volt, 15 watt incandescent fixtures made by Scandvik were a perfect fit (both looks, and budget-wise). Plus, they’re easily upgradable to LED with the bulbs we plan to order from Marinebeam.com.
I carefully sliced open the box and was immediately disappointed, yet somewhat perplexed. Defender had sent me the Scandvik LED dome lights instead of the incandescents I had ordered.
“Score!” I thought to myself. “LED fixtures are at least twice as expensive as regular bulbs.”
I popped open one of the packages and immediately hated it with its cheap plastic lens (polycarbonate sounds more sophisticated, but that’s just code for cheap plastic) and flimsy little black plastic rocker switch. The lights on our boat have a glass prism lens and a heavy duty stainless steel toggle switch (exactly as Defender had described the Scanvik lights in their catalog) and these look nothing like them. I unscrewed the lens to take a peek inside, and the LED cluster reminded me of one of those cheesy little science kits we soldered together in High School electronics class my Sophomore year (1987). Now I really hated it. I checked the tech spec sheet that came with the light and found that it had a rated light output of 50 lumens and a beam angle of 60 degrees. Hating it even more than ever now. The Marinebeam retrofit bulbs we plan to order are twice as wide and almost 3 times as bright.
Checking on the internet I found an article on swapping led bulbs into old incandescent fixtures with glass prism lenses exactly like ours (and thousands of other old sailboats like ours). The problem the author cited in doing so was that a point-source light like LED shining through a prismatic glass lens is something akin to a disco ball in the way the light is distributed. Being the kind of person not to believe everything I read on the internet I had to test this out for myself. I carefully opened up another package and installed one of my old glass lenses on the new LED fixture and did some side by side comparisons using a AC-DC 12 volt adapter. Light patterns were photographed on a beige bath towel at 3 feet above the floor surface.
The 50 lumen light output was pretty pathetic, and Scandvik’s website compares it to a 10 watt incandescent (I thought we we’re trying to upgrade, not downgrade). The beam angle with the stock plastic (polycarbonate) lens was very narrow and spot-like, and with the old glass prism lens it actually cast 5 narrow spots in the shape of an “X”. Knowing this wasn’t going to cut it, I put them all back together and into their original packaging. After calling Defender for a return authorization and an explanation, they indicated that they had no idea of the product change (same mfg. part # as the glass-lens incandescent) and that they would update their website accordingly and credit my card for the return.
Still searching for a suitable matching replacement overhead light fixture…..
…..and completely off topic but somewhat related, one of my buddies in that 1987 High School electronics class built a 12 volt strobe light from one of those cheesy kits. He added a rotary dimmer switch to adjust the flash rate, and powered off of an automotive cigarette lighter plug just like the police, fire trucks and ambulance use. Once he figured out that 7 pulses of light per second will cause a traffic signal to change…. well, lets just say it wasn’t very often that we sat at a red light.