How to Run LED Bowfishing Lights on a Generator

Bowfishing Generator, Bowfishing Lights -

How to Run LED Bowfishing Lights on a Generator

There are few things more frustrating than having to head home early on a great bowfishing trip due to dead batteries. It's hard enough taking time off work to hit the water, so don't let dead batteries slow you down. Trolling motors and bowfishing lights draw the most power on bowfishing boats and are the two primary reasons batteries run dead throughout the night. 

We're diving deep into the weeds on how to run your bowfishing lights on a generator. Once you finish reading, you may find value in learning how to run your trolling motor on a generator as well. 

How To Run Bowfishing Lights on a Generator

Types of Bowfishing Lights
Step 1: Determine Total Wattage
Step 2: Size Power Converter
Step 3: Size Generator
Step 4: Connect Bowfishing Lights to Power Converter
Step 5: Plug Power Converter into Generator
Step 6: Get to Bowfishing

Types of Bowfishing Lights

There are two common types of bowfishing lights: AC lights; which include old street lights such as metal halide, high pressure sodium, and halogen lights, or DC lights; which include all LED bowfishing lights. To learn more about which style lights are best for bowfishing, we recommend reading our guide to buying the best bowfishing lights.

There is a common misconception that there are LEDs that run on AC power. The truth is, all LEDs are DC but they can run on AC power with the help of drivers or power converters. There is no such thing as an LED that can run on AC power without a device (converter or driver) to convert the voltage. 

AC Bowfishing Lights

AC Bowfishing lights typically run off AC voltage in the range of 110-240V AC. Common lights are metal halide, high pressure sodium, and halogen. These lights are typically high power, inefficient, bulky, and can weigh the boat down.

The reason people like them has nothing to do with these things though, they like them because they are ok with running a large generator and producing a ton of light. As long as you are ok with running one or multiple large generators, these lights are old fashion street lights and will put out a good amount of light. They do have their maintenance issues though, as highlighted in our review of bowfishing lights.

DC Bowfishing Lights

Within the DC bowfishing light category, there are several different styles of lights. Here are the most common styles:

  • Drivers mounted inside light housing, allowing light to run on AC voltage.
  • Driverless with DC battery terminals
  • Versatile with plug and play system for running AC or DC such as the Swamp Eye Light Bar

If you plan to run your DC lights on a generator, keep reading because that's what we are going to discuss. If you have bowfishing lights that have driver mounted inside the housings, which allows them to run on AC voltage (generator), then please be warned you may have problems ahead. 

The problem with having a driver mounted inside the light housing is that the driver generates heat and LED bowfishing light chips also generate heat. When you have two heat generating sources next to each other, one will eventually overheat, and the lifetime of the product will be limited. You will see LEDs flashing, or part of the chips going out when this happens. Eventually, the LED will quit working altogether.

After a bunch of testing, we have found that separating the converter from the light housing is the best option because the two heat generating sources are independent of each other. This is how the Swamp Eye Light Bar works, and it is highly recommended.

Now let's figure out how to run your bowfishing lights on a generator. 

Step 1: Determine Total Wattage

The first step in running your bowfishing lights on a generator is to determine the total wattage of your lights. If you aren't sure what the wattage is, contact the store you purchased them from. It's important to know this before continuing. 

Here's a quick wattage summary of our bowfishing lights:

  • Mini Swamp Eye Submersible: 36 Watts
  • Swamp Eye Submersible: 120 Watts
  • Swamp Eye Light Bar: 120 Watts

Add up the total wattage of the bowfishing lights.

Our most common setup is 6 Swamp Eye Light Bars on a bowfishing boat, so we will use this as an example:

6x Swamp Eye Light Bars = 6 * [120 Watts] = 720 Watts

Step 2: Size Power Converter

To size your power converter, first determine if your bowfishing lights are 12V DC or 24V DC. For the example we used above, the Swamp Eye Light Bars are both 12V DC and 24V DC compatible so we will use them for both cases.

Converter Sizing for 12V DC Bowfishing Lights

 Power (Watts) / Voltage = Amperage

720 Watts / 12 Volts = 60 Amps (for 6x Swamp Eye Light Bars)

Converter Sizing for 24V DC Bowfishing Lights

 Power (Watts) / Voltage = Amperage

720 Watts / 24 Volts = 30 Amps (for 6x Swamp Eye Light Bars)

Please note: Swamp Eye Light Bars come with a plug and play system to run on AC or DC. You do not need to purchase an additional converter unless you want all your lights to run on this one single large converter as opposed to their own individual small and compact converters. 

Step 3: Size Generator

Once you have sized your converter, you will size your generator based on the converter amperage and voltage... This is done a little differently than you might think though.

The generator sizing must account for a power factor on the converter. 

For a 12 volt converter, instead of multiplying amperage by 12, you must multiply it by 14. Then, divide the resulting wattage by 0.80 and that is the recommended wattage for your generator. 

For a 24 volt converter, instead of multiplying your 24 volt converter amperage by 24, you must multiply it by 26. Then, divide the resulting wattage by 0.80 and that is the recommended wattage for your generator. 

Generator sizing for 12V DC Bowfishing Lights

A.) [Amperage] * [Voltage (incl. Power Factor)] = Wattage

60 Amps * 14 Volts = 840 Watts (for 6x Swamp Eye Light Bars)

 

B.) Wattage / 0.80 (power factor) = Generator Wattage (recommended size)

840 Watts (for 6x Swamp Eye Light Bars) / 0.80 = 1,050 Watts.

In theory, it is best to size up your generator to the next best size above 1,050 Watts, but in actuality a 1,000 Watt generator would do fine since it is only 50 Watts over, or 5% over in this case. The margin for error we are calculating is 20% which is fairly significant. 

Generator sizing for 24V DC Bowfishing Lights

A.) [Amperage] * [Voltage (incl. Power Factor)] = Wattage

30 Amps * 26 Volts = 780 Watts (for 6x Swamp Eye Light Bars)

 

B.) Wattage / 0.80 (power factor) = Generator Wattage (recommended size)

780 Watts (for 6x Swamp Eye Light Bars) / 0.80 = 975 Watts.

In other words, you can run 6 Swamp Eye Light Bars on a 1,000 Watt generator without over-idling the generator and limiting the lifetime of the generator.

I would personally recommend just getting the 2000W or 2300W Powermax Generator, it's small and compact with plenty of extra room to add things in the future. You're also at half-load, so it will idle very quiet and use a minimal amount of gas. 

Here's a little explanation behind the change in voltages for converters

Something you may have noticed here is how running 24V DC is a little more efficient than running 12V DC. The reason for this is related to the way we size the bowfishing lights and also the way converters actually operate. DC bowfishing lights will claim to be 12V DC or 24V DC, but in actuality there is a range of voltage they can accept. 

Most 12V converters output 14 volts and 24 volt converters output 26 volts. Rather than your bowfishing light accepting only a limited voltage, in reality, it is going to take everything it can get. Therefore, when you run bowfishing lights on converters they can appear to be brighter than on battery because they are actually receiving more power than on battery. A battery may start at 13-14 volts, but over time it will lose charge and in turn the wattage output will decrease.

To put it simple - on a battery, the bowfishing lights are feeding off the limited power that is available. On a converter, they are being force fed as much power as the lights will possibly take. Due to this, lights will typically appear a little brighter on converters connected to generators as opposed to being connected directly to batteries. 

Step 4: Connect Bowfishing Lights to Power Converter

 When running a bunch of lights off a single power converter, there is no better converter than a 12 Volt Powermax Converter for 12 volt DC bowfishing lights or a 24 Volt Powermax Converter for 24 volt DC bowfishing lights. 

Connecting bowfishing lights to power converter:

  1. Connect all positive wires (typically red in color) from bowfishing lights to one single wire sized for the total amperage of your bowfishing lights. This will be your main positive terminal "trunk line" that goes to the power converter. 

  2. Connect all negative wires (typically black in color) from bowfishing lights to one single wire sized for the total amperage of your bowfishing lights. This will be your main negative terminal "trunk line" that goes to the power converter. 

  3. Connect positive terminal trunk line to the positive terminal port on the Powermax Power Converter.

  4. Connect negative terminal trunk line to the negative terminal port on the Powermax Power Converter

Step 5: Plug Power Converter into Generator

This is the easiest step of them all, the Powermax Power Converter has a wall outlet plug on it so you literally just plug it straight into the generator or if you need to add an extension, use an extension cord to plug it into the generator outlet. 

Step 6: Get to Bowfishing

The work was all worth it. Now you can run all night long on a gallon or two of gas and not worry about batteries running dead. LED bowfishing lights are a great option as long as you pay attention to the heat issues we discuss above. Want to learn more about bowfishing? Check out our bowfishing tips

Bowfishing with Generator


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