Lumitec & AlpenGlow, LED overhead fixtures perfected?
While I once again found IBEX rich with interesting people and products, it was a mere light fixture that may have sparked the moment of maximum excitement! Please check out my April entry about perfect LED interior lighting before we take a gander at the new Lumitec Touch Dome seen above, plus a report on the LED’s already in use on Gizmo…
So my contention is that LED technology offers much more than low-power replacement bulbs for existing interior lighting. What’s possible is much brighter and better quality light from LED fixtures with better controls, and they don’t have to cost a fortune. In fact — except for the cost — this postulate is quite evident on new high-end yachts with gangs of smooth dimming overhead and task lighting (like the wonderful Imtra collections). Smart builders and consumers are learning about subtleties like Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) and the Color Rendering Index (CRI), and the boats are a lot nicer to be aboard as a result.
But finding affordable LED fixtures that really maximize the technology and easily replace the two-wire switched fixtures many of us already have is not easy. Which is why I was delighted when Panbo readers pointed me to the AlpenGlow LED 9-Watt Dual Power with Night Vision seen installed in Gizmo’s galley below. I tested it; I bought it; I use it all night every night I’m aboard; and I love it. The high power white — which tested to the claimed 0.7 amp draw — is definitely brighter than the incandescent bulb and fixture replaced, and that curved lens spreads the light beautifully. It’s great for serious cooking or cleaning, though the 0.4 amp low white will usually do. Meanwhile, the low red makes a fine night light and the high red is good enough for making a snack without ruining your night vision…
I like the galley light so much that I also bought AlpenGlow’s dimmable LED reading light. Concept proved again! It’s not only brighter than the filament bulb that was once there but also every LED replacement bulb I tried in the old fixture, and it dims to any lower setting. It makes my old eyes happy! And I tilted it up for the picture to show that you don’t see any odd and/or vulnerable circuitry as with some replacements. AlpenGlow builds a quality product. Still though, the “corrosion proof” titanium nitrite plated brass finish is already tarnishing — that’s a tough spot, abaft an opening side window — and I fear that the mechanical toggle and dimmer switches may fail well before the LED’s themselves do. There is a tremendous amount of engineering to a high performance marine LED fixture, and that’s why I’m excited that Lumitec has focused some attention on the retrofit market…
Lumitec is an engineer founded and driven company specialized in marine LED lighting, as proudly explained in the “virtual factory tour video” you’ll find on their home page. That’s why they show off the tool list below, and no doubt that’s also why the glimpse of Lumitec IBEX exhibit seen in the top photo includes a screenshot of optical design software. In fact, it was an engineer who showed me the new products for 2013, and he said he’s only one of eleven working for this relatively small (but fast growing) company. I started testing a Lumitec Caprera flood light back in 2009, and I’m still impressed with how well it works today (It’s still mounted in the same spot and is great for tying up or tender tending at night, or as a “hey, there’s a boat over here” alarm light while underway). But I lost track of what Lumitec was up to…
For instance, they’ve had a nice looking 4-inch replacement dome light out for at least a year. The Aurora gets two color switching and dimming into a two-wire fixture without mechanical contacts by using a magnet in the turnable ring to do the switching. And while I’m not sure just how bright it is, it’s quality built and can be had for only $57 on Amazon. Lumitec doesn’t publish “lumen” ratings for its lights — and probably has a good technical argument why not — but note how the TouchDome display pictured at top claims “more than twice the output of the boring, ubiquitous 10 Watt incandescent dome”! Note too that the full on TouchDome draws .41 or .58 amps (depending which spec sheet you read) as opposed to the Aurora’s .22, and good engineering just keeps getting more and more effective light from LED amps…
So, yes, Lumitec’s online TouchDome specs seem a little confused right now, but I was told at IBEX that it will definitely cover the footprint of traditional 6.75-inch domes like the ones on Gizmo and that it will retail for about $109, which means under $100 on the street. I’m hoping to test one so I can compare the light quantity and quality to my others and also to see if the touch controls really work in wet and underway conditions. My sense, though, is that the Lumitec TouchDome will completely blow away the Dr. LED Mars Chrome (plastic) model installed over my head right now, while being just as easy to buy and install.
I’ll close with a shot of my do-it-yourself dimmable OceanLED LIET3 install. LIET has since been spun off with non-marine aims, but this is another light that I use every night, either for fully lighting a nice dinner or table project, or for casting a very soft light around the main cabin. Extra bright LED’s with dimmers or multiple power levels are the way to go, I think.
I’ve been using an alternative to LEDs and incandescent bulbs…this amazing alternative creates zero battery drain…it utilizes a newly discovered energy product appropriately called “lamp oil”…and the filament/cathode is replaced by something called a “wick”…
The quality of the light probably has less than a 100% CRI index, but, then again, these are not intended to be full-spectrum cures for seasonal affective disorder, either.
great idea. Do you also use lamp oil for running lights? There’s a guy down here (FL panhandle) who uses oil for interior, running lights, anchor lights, heat, and probably cooks with it as well. It’s all good, but the fixtures are not cheap, nor is it labor free. Do you run an engine and does it generate electricity? Why not invest in some LED lighting? It does save immense time filling lamps and purchasing oil. Plus, with a bit of solar, you could be independent of outside sources of energy.
Sometime it’s so nice to sit in front of a woodstove, without a WiFi-connected iPad on your lap, but rather with a sleeping contented kitty instead.
My life has been immersed in cutting-edge technology for many decades, and sometimes just doing something the very old way is so satisfying, and even “kooky”, perhaps.
I vote for sitting in front of the fireplace, with a laptop in front of me, looking thru boating mags and catalogs, with a large Maine Coon cat keeping my lap warm and complaining whenever I stop giving HER attention…
Thanks for your mention of OceanLED interior LIET products in your feature on interior LED lighting 🙂 glad to hear you’re still enjoying.
Just a quick note/correction for your audience. OceanLED did not spin off the LIET product range, we do still carry the line, but we did spin off a sister company, based at our headquarters in England named LIET Corp, which offers a commerical LIET range of its own providing LED lighting solutions to restaurants and pubs throughout the UK and beyond, hotels, offices, retail and industrial lighting, spas, and public facilities are all benefiting from their huge energy cost savings and reduced carbon footprint (which in the UK also offers some tax benefits).
The marine version of the LIET product range is alive and well, namely for the Superyacht industry for which hundreds of thousands of LED LIET engines are replacing hot, power-consuming halogen lighting. Huge reductions in heat, and therefore A/C and therefore the size of onboard generators, and in the staff required to change all those lightbulbs (and so on) are not only saving money, but are providing a long list of environmental benefits.
For your average boat owner, our marine version of LIET products can be purchased directly from OceanLED USA. Admittedly a bit pricey for most compared to some of our competitors, but they are built with 100% marine-grade components meant for the corrosive marine environment, have a life span of over 125,000 hours, are fully-dimmable, feature a built-in temperature monitoring and driver system eliminating the need for any periphery part costs, offer a variety of color temperatures, and a fixture lumen range of 200-400 (or the equivalent of a 35-50 watt halogen), and feature reverse polarity protection.
Hope I’ve shed some light, or is that LIET 😉
We have a number of Alpenglow lights. We converted the Alpenglow reading lights to LED about 3-4 years ago using Alpenglow LED’s. They are terrific. We are still using the floresent Alpenglow lights similar to what you show in your picture. After 10 years they are still going strong!
My main comment is why go to new fixtures that have to be rewired, new holes in overheads etc. when you can retrofit them pretty easy. We have used Bebi lights for years and they are fantatsic. By the bulbs from Bebi and have a nice meal with the money you save. http://www.bebi-electronics.com
Keep up the great work!!
La Paz, Baja, Mx
FYI, this from Lumitec on their Touch Dome model:
“The product is currently only available through West Marine – we manufacture and package the part for them under their “Platinum Series” brand of products. You will use their part number W01098, rather than 101098. We will not be selling the light under the Lumitec brand for at least another 30 days. If your local WM doesn’t have it on the shelf, it can be special ordered and is stocked in their warehouse locations. The product you will find a West Marine is identical to the product from the Panbo article.
Thanks for the interest in our products – we appreciate it very much!”
Thanks for the report, Brian, but I think Lumitec and I both got confused. The Platinum Series Bi-Color Touch Dome (Model #12998217, Manuf. #101098) that West is selling for $70 is 4-inch diameter and I’m pretty sure that it isn’t as bright as the 6.75-inch Touch Dome Lumitec is introducing for 2013.
Meanwhile I think I accidentally linked ( http://goo.gl/tyikc ) to the specs for the 4-inch Touch Dome in the entry. I didn’t know that model existed and the specs don’t actually state the diameter!
I’ll get this straightened out with Lumitec, but do not buy the 4-inch dome thinking you’ll get the “more than twice the output of the boring, ubiquitous 10 Watt incandescent dome” seen in the top photo.
At any rate, it’s good to know that the West “Platinum Series” is Lumitec quality:
Thanks for the clarification, Ben. The lack of product dimensions on the website was the only reason I delayed purchasing. Been stung too many times to just buy first and figure it out later. On this subject, the (older) design you linked to uses perimeter flange mounting screws. This puts holes where they will be hard to hide if the product needs to be replaced. My current dome lights attach further inboard, but they make use of a separate bezel that gives access to the whole mess. A minor point and well worth coping with for a watertight design. I just may opt to use 3M Dual Lock tape instead of screws. Thanks again for your consistently excellent reviews.
There are many good reasons why Barbara has a 24-volt system, but that does put bsarriers in the way of using LED light fixtures. I wish more mzanufacturers followed IMTRA’s lead in making products that operate on 9-32 volts. Your great galley light, for example, is only vailable in a 12-volt version.
Brian (et al), I finally got clarification about the Touch Dome confusion and while it’s not what I expected, it may be good news. The West Marine Platinum Series you linked to — http://goo.gl/2qfek — is the same fixture I saw at IBEX except that West listed the wrong diameter, used a photo of some other fixture, and you probably won’t see that $70 price in a West store!
Also confirmed is that my link to the TouchDome at Lumitec — http://goo.gl/tyikc — is the same fixture pictured at top and it is 6.75-inch in diamter. And, hey Michael, note that is 12 and 24 volt. (And I’m sure that means 12-32v to take charging voltages though not all LED manufacturers got that at first!)
Ordered one last night. Thanks again.
I have been using the Alpenglow fluorescent overhead fixtures for 20-25 years, with great satisfaction. From what they say on their web site (and what I know from my own research) the warm white LEDs are no more efficient than the warm white compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL), and with a somewhat inferior color. LEDs have the advantage that they don’t need replacing regularly. CFLs do have a long life, however: last week I replaced the last of the original 20 year old bulbs in the saloon, and I lived aboard the entire time.
Alpenglow continues to improve their products, and makes upgrades available at reasonable prices. I upgraded all of the fixtures from red-coated CFLs to highly efficient red LEDs with upgrade kits from Alpenglow, at reasonable cost. When white LEDs offer a clear advantage over CFLs then I will order the upgrades from Alpenglow.
Heh, the Lumitec TouchDome webpage still does not list diameters (which is odd) but thanks to the comments above I figure they do not produce a 5.5″ TouchDome, which is the size I need because the moulding in the cockpit has an expanse for that specific size.
Will move on to the next solution, then.
Unfortunately Lumitec seems better at engineering lights than writing about them! I installed a sample 6.75-inch Touch Dome on Gizmo and it’s absolutely terrific. But the literature that came with it is the same vague and/or wrong stuff that’s on their web site. It talks about how the touch switches can run other lights, which they can’t, but doesn’t mention how they actually work with the fixtures own “bulbs”. However, the switches are quite intuitive as illustrated in this the YachtLights.com video:
I can confirm that the $90 West Marine Platinum Series Bi-Color Touch Dome Light is the same excellent 6.75-inch diameter Lumitec Touch Dome discussed here and recently tested on Gizmo. I have no idea why the photo and the diameter on the West site are wrong. I just bought and received two in red/white and one blue/white. Good deal!
After many months of cruising with the Lumitec TouchDome interior LED light fixtures, I still adore them. They replaced four of Gizmo’s inefficient 6.5-inch dome lights with much better and brighter illumination dimmable to zero, red option too. And West Marine is still selling them for $90 with the wrong picture and diameter. Strange!
I know I am very late to the game here, but the reason the specs of the light you saw do not match the specs on the Lumitec website is because they are 2 different lights.
Lumitec offers the TouchDome and another product called the Aurora (also a dome light). The TouchDome is larger in size and turns on and off by touching the light. The Aurora dome light is a bit smaller and turns on and off by turning the bezel on the light to the left or right.
Thanks, Ben, but that really is history. The TouchDome link above (now broken) comes right after the Aurora but went to a somewhat vague TouchDome spec page. And as you can see in the comments, West was selling the TouchDome under its own label with a definitely wrong diameter listed. All is well now, though, and they are great LED boat fixtures (I’ve have four on my boat) and still a good value. Up to date links: