TWICE, Boat Catches Fire - LED Lights

Discussion in 'General Conversation' started by crhodes, Sep 22, 2011.

  1. crhodes

    crhodes Well-Known Member

    Aug 26, 2003
    Southport, NC
    The purpose of this thread is to identify possible issue(s) with installation and operation of LED lights, especially when multiple lights are installed in a single circuit with a larger breaker. It was prompted by a friend’s recent experience with LED lights resulting in two fires on his boat.

    On two separate occasions the LED lights/circuit caused wires to burn (fire, not just smoke) on a Carolina Skiff Sea Chaser with lights from an unidentified manufacturer. The fires were extinguished prior to causing significant damage though for one fire five fire trucks, two EMS vehicles, plus sheriff and police cars showed up.

    Per the owner, the LED deck lights and wiring were original equipment. Multiple lights are wired in parallel on a 15 amp circuit. One LED light failure could have been caused by a gaff incident but the other appeared to only have salt water intrusion in an otherwise non-damaged fixture.

    Like many boats, the lights were installed in a circuit with a 15 amp breaker and with wiring presumably suited for 15 amps. However, the wire leads to the LED light were probably not suited for 15 amps since a typical LED deck light’s current draw is <0.25 amps. Note a 15 amp breaker is 60 times the current draw of one typical LED light. Even if 10 lights are used in a circuit, the current draw is less than 3 amps. If a circuit board were to degrade and draw say 10 amps through a smaller gauge wire lead, it could cause the wire lead and/or circuit board to greatly overheat causing the wire insulation to melt or flame up; all without tripping the breaker!

    Bottom line, for circuits, especially with multiple LED lights which might warrant a larger breaker, the breaker needs to be appropriately matched (probably 5 amps or less) and small enough to trip prior to overheating a single, smaller gauged wire lead. If we Shamrock owners with old style lights upgrade, we need to remember to drop the breaker rating accordingly.


    1) How are your LED's holding up?

    2) Have you heard of similar LED failures?
  2. Squid Row

    Squid Row Well-Known Member

    Jun 17, 2003
    Charlotte, NC
    I replaced my bow lights, all around mast head light and installed LED underwater lights under my swim platform.

    I did not change any wires or breakers and have not had a problem. When I installed the lights under my platform, I used automotive wiring because they were going to be in a temporary position but two years later they are still there working fine

    The bow lights were installed with another experiment actually. I used silicone filled wire nuts as wire connectors. I figured they would last six months max due to the excessive spray there, but they are going on a couple of years now and work flawlessly
  3. Islander

    Islander Well-Known Member

    Mar 7, 2003
    As you say every circuit must have a fuse rated per the smallest wire gauge in the circuit - but that won't work with multiple fixtures on a single circuit. If you wanted to have multiple fixtures on one circuit, the main cable feeding the fixtures has to be rated/fused per the amp draw of all fixtures, but then each fixture could be individually protected with an in-line fuse rated not to exceed the fixture's wire leads, if they are of a smaller gauge. Note this won't work with daisy-chaining the fixtures.
  4. Foxhole

    Foxhole 220 walk around FORD Stroker Staff Member Supporting Captain

    Jun 11, 2005
    Baton Rouge, Louisiana
    I have two red LED trailer side marker lights mounted under my gunnels as courtesy lights. The red make a nice glow on the deck and doesn't harm your night vision. They have worked fine for about a year.
  5. Kurt

    Kurt Hopelessly Addicted Staff Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Havertown, PA
    Just remember, there have been many instances where unwise practices have never caused a problem. That doesn't mean that the next guy to do it won't get bit in the a$$.

    If you have a circuit fused/breakered for 15 Amps but there is wiring that may only be rated for 5 Amps at the end of the line (as crhodes and Islander noted) there is always the potential for a problem - it just may never happen. #16 wire may have a marine Ampacity rating of 25 Amps (outside an engine space) but #22 or #24 certainly does not.
  6. inetmug

    inetmug Well-Known Member

    Jul 8, 2009
    Merritt Island, FL
    If you are talking about strips, input on one end, output on the other, you can daisy chain them up to like 10-15, like xmas lights.
  7. Esmeralda

    Esmeralda Well-Known Member

    Sep 11, 2006
    San Antonio Texas
    I replaced the 2 bulb court lights with hella's leds when the one receptacle broke, and added an led light to the bait well on the circuit going to the port one.

    For sure the breaker on the court switch is now larger than is needed. The nice thing on the leds is that they do not need nearly the same power to make the same light.

    I would say a 95% reduction in power draw.

    On the reliability, I do not know. For some reason, the leds on the stop lights, and on the buses and cars seem to stop working.
  8. ifish

    ifish Well-Known Member

    Jun 20, 2007
    Boca Grande, FL 33921
    Hey, fox hole, I used to think "red " lights were used for something else!!


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