The Guide to Buying the Best Interior Boat Lights
Interior boat lights can make your boat look really cool at night as well as light up the deck for safety and usability; but if you don't know what you're getting yourself into, it can be a complete nightmare. The wrong interior boat lights can attract bugs, not last, and turn in to a complete maintenance nightmare.
If you want to learn about what to look for in buying interior boat lights, keep reading. If you just want to see our final recommendation of what makes the best interior boat light, then here you go: Recommendation: Best Interior Boat Lights
Table of Contents
7 Factors That Make Great Interior Boat Lighting
Here are some of the major causes of pre-mature failure in interior boat lighting. If you spend the extra money up front on good quality interior boat lights, then chances are you are less likely to deal with these issues down the road. However, if you're just trying to save money, I would plan on figuring out how to tackle these issues down the road because they will find you.
Saltwater / Freshwater Corrosion Resistance
The simple and easy method to combat this is to go with interior boat lights that are IP 68 waterproof minimum, but IP69K waterproof is even better. That being said, be wary of overly cheap interior lights that claim they are IP 68 or IP69K, because it isn't cheap to meet these waterproof ratings. It could be a case of false advertising.
Injection Molded Waterproof Wire Connections
There is nothing more waterproof than wire connections that are injection molded. This is an absolute must have for boats. If the wire connections are crimped, it is only a matter of time before you will be having connectivity issues and needing to replace them.
Improved Waterproof Rating
The most common waterproof rating for interior boat lights is IP 67, IP68, or IP69. We strongly advise against even considering IP 67 waterproof rating for your interior boat lights, so we're tossing that one out of the discussion.
IP 68 Waterproof Rating
- Product can be submerged up to 1.5m for 30 seconds.
- Good rating for products that may be exposed to water, but not so good if they are going to be permanently installed underwater.
IP 69K Waterproof Rating
- Includes IP 68 minimum rating criteria, but also includes protection against ingress of dust and high temperature and/or high pressure water.
- In other words, you can pressure wash the interior boat lights and they will hold up just fine.
- We strongly recommend finding interior boat lights that meet IP 69K waterproof rating. Just one drop of saltwater can cause an electrical nightmare.
Tinned Marine Grade Wire
If you're familiar with boats and have owned one for a while, you already know the importance of tinned marine grade wire. If you are new to owning a boat, then you're going to have to my word for it - don't go for any other type of wire.
Tinned wire is copper wire that has been treated with solder. The solder gives the wire increased corrosion resistance and helps the wire last much longer. In terms of marine products, corrosion resistance in everything you have is the ultimate goal for minimum maintenance.
Dimmability for Optimal Use
If you plan on having your interior boat lights on while traveling from one spot to the next, the ability to dim them down is an absolute must-have feature. Otherwise, they're either not bright enough when you're at the fishing spot trying to tie a hook on or they're too bright and they're blinding you while traveling on the water.
Not all interior boat lighting is compatible with dimming controls, so be sure to address this before pulling the trigger on your next setup.
Quality Circuit Board Design & Components
There's not a whole lot of complexity when it comes to interior boat lights, but when buying off Amazon or anywhere else that gets their lights made in China, they are focused on saving money on manufacturing.
The easiest way to save money and produce cheap interior boat lights is to utilize a printed circuit board with aluminum substrate (instead of copper) and use low quality capacitors and other circuit board components. The average consumer won't be able to see or even acknowledge these components, but it has a direct impact on the longevity of the product.
Quality circuit board components can lead to:
- Longer run times
- Brighter LEDs
- Increased power efficiencies (use less power, brighter lights).
Keep in mind - better quality almost always comes at a higher price. If you want low maintenance and to avoid buying interior boat lights over and over again, spring for quality up front and you won't have to worry.
User Friendly Controls THAT WORK!
One of the biggest complaints of interior boat lights, namely rock lights that can change colors, is that the app that actually controls the color changing lights via bluetooth commonly has problems properly pairing and syncing from your phone to the light controller. This is a common problem regardless of the brand of rock light you use (due to the ongoing phone updates), so if you want the rock lights to be user friendly - go for the included remote control option or opt for manual controls.
Single Color Interior Boat Lights
- Lighting should include injection molded waterproof ON/OFF switch for controlling the lights.
Multi Color (RGB / RGBW) Interior Boat Lights
- Best advice is K.I.S.S. method - "Keep it simple, stupid"
- Included remote control is best for changing colors
- Bluetooth apps are known for having problems properly changing the colors of these lights due to not being constantly updated as your phone is updated. In terms of being user friendly for the long haul, we advise against solely relying on a bluetooth app to control your lights.
- Lights should include separate hardwired ON/OFF switch. Relying on a circuit board via remote control or via an app is not the most reliable method. An ON/OFF switch will physically break the circuit, eliminating the chances of lights randomly coming on or turning off.
- If you go against our advice here, we recommend you at least put a battery switch in to cut all power to your lights when you store the boat or travel after loading boat onto trailer.
Housing Design: Efficient Heat Dissipation
Similar to our circuit board discussion above, having a properly designed housing made of ideal alloys and proper manufacturing processes is essential to long-lasting interior boat lighting. The most common method of saving money is to utilize plastic or powder coated steel for interior boat lighting. We strongly recommend staying away from either one of these options for use in marine environment, you will have many problems in the future.
Best Housing Design for Interior Boat Lights
- Material: aluminum alloy - has great heat dissipation properties for the cost and is corrosion resistant.
- Surface Treatment: stay away from powder coating, stick to an electrolytic process such as electrophoresis coating or anodizing.
- LED Lens / Protection: heat resistant polycarbonate - it is more impact resistant than your standard plastic lens. Good quality polycarbonates won't yellow over time.
Proper Installation: 12V is the Standard Power Source
Unfortunately one of the most troublesome experiences people can have when hooking up any lights to their existing power is by utilizing the wrong voltage.
Keep in Mind When Installing:
- Most interior boat lights are rated for 12V DC.
- Do not hook them up to 24V or 36V DC (voltage of most trolling motors) or 110V AC (voltage of generator).
- Any voltage other than 12V DC is almost guaranteed to fry the light, unless the directions explicitly say otherwise.
Typical Power Draw:
- Low end interior lights typically only draw 9 watts each while higher end lights may draw up to 36 watts each.
- The standard setup is 4-8 lights on a boat, depending on the size of the boat.
- Size your battery accordingly - most of the time they can run on the same battery as your other accessories.
Choose the Best Color for Interior Boat Lighting
Most people purchase interior boat lighting with the sole purpose of making the boat look cool at night, and the secondary added benefit of lighting up the deck for safety precautions - or maybe even being able to tie a hook on your fishing line. These are all great reasons to purchase, but when you're out on the water at night in the middle of the summer - there are a couple other things you might be overlooking.
What Color Interior Boat Light Works Best?
Most interior boat lights come in four primary colors: red, green, blue, and white. You can purchase your interior boat lighting in any one of these colors, or you can get all of the colors in one unit - marked as "RGB" or "RGBW".
Factors to consider when choosing interior boat lighting color:
Maintain Night Vision
Maintaining your night vision is the single most important factor to consider for interior boat lighting. If you can't see what's ahead of you, then you're in real trouble. So invest wisely in an interior boat light that helps maintain your night vision.
If you're able to purchase a bright interior boat light setup that has dimming capabilities, that's great for getting the best of both worlds. When you're stationary and want to see the deck for safety, you can dial up the brightness. When you're in transit, you can dial the brightness down to maintain your night vision.
As shown above, red is the best color interior boat light for maintaining your night vision.
Avoid Attracting Bugs
One of the most overlooked features of interior boat lights is their ability to attract bugs. Bugs can be annoying, especially in the summer when they are most abundant. In reality, bugs are capable of seeing in 3 primary light spectrums: blue, green, and UV light. The one color light that isn't listed here is red. They have a much harder time to see red compared to the other colors.
As shown above, red is the best interior boat light color that does not attract bugs.
All-Around Best Interior Boat Lighting Color
Interior boat lighting needs to safely light up the deck so you can maneuver around the boat without tripping over objects, it needs to look cool, and it needs to do both of these things without ruining your night vision and turning your boat into a swarm of bugs.
As we've discussed in detail above, red is the best all-around color for LED interior boat lights. The same reasons that make red a great color for interior boat lighting are also the reasons it is commonly used in naval ships and aircraft. It lights up what it needs to light up, while being easy on the eyes at night.
Recommendation: Best Interior Boat Lights
The best interior boat lights are going to accomplish each of the topics we've discussed in this article in great detail.
Here's a quick recap of what you're looking for in buying the best interior boat lights for sale:
- Saltwater / Freshwater Corrosion Resistance
- Improved waterproof rating: IP69K waterproof rating is a must for durability.
- Injection Molded Waterproof Wire Connections.
- Tinned marine grade wire for maximum corrosion resistance.
- Dimmability for Optimal Use
- Dim while traveling across the water, bright when fishing and tying on hooks.
- Quality Circuit Board Design & Components
- Better performance and efficiencies with quality parts and components.
- User Friendly Controls THAT WORK!
- Keep it simple stupid - bluetooth apps are known to have problems with syncing after new phone updates, hardwire is the way to go for long term durability.
- Housing Design: Efficient Heat Dissipation
- Stay away from plastic housing, stick to aluminum alloy
- Proper Installation: 12V is the Standard Power Source
- Plan on using a 12V battery source.
- Choose the Best Color for Interior Boat Lighting
- Red is best color for maintaining night vision and not attracting bugs.
How to Best Setup Interior Boat Lights
Buying the best interior boat lights is a strong first step, but afterwards you'll need to set them up properly.
Here are some key tips we've learned in setting up our interior boat lighting:
- Mount the interior boat lights underneath the internal gunnels of the boat (bottom side of the gunwales), shining downward. This will light up the deck and keep them from blinding you.
- If you have an aluminum Jon boat for flounder gigging and bowfishing, we recommend installing them underneath any steps you may have to get up to the deck in the front of the boat.
- When installing interior LED boat lighting, it's best to make sure all wire connections have dielectric grease on them prior to making the connection. This will help the lights hold up for longer.
- Good quality interior boat lights can be used underwater as well. If using them underwater, be sure to seal where the light mounts to the boat hull with a sealant such as 3M's 5200 sealant to be sure water doesn't intrude where the wire comes through. Another method is to mount the lights on a tab, and run the wire inside the boat above the water line.