Wisdom came with florescent lights mounted throughout the boat. A total of 9 lamps could evenly distribute a pale yellow glow. Each lamp consumed 16 watts, burning 144 watts to light the whole boat. The truth is only 2 lamps worked so the boat was rather dark inside.
I decided to update the lights rather than replace high energy consuming bulbs. I decided to convert all the lights to LED!
I took a stroll over to West Marine and suffered incredible sticker shock as I gazed upon small lamps with prices ranging from $23 to $52 per lamp! I returned to the boat without any lamps but full of ideas.
The lamps they offered all reminded me of lights I had seen before in IKEA. I made a trip to the closest IKEA and discovered that their cabinet lights are 12v DC! The best part is that a 4-pack only cost $22!
I decided to place the IKEA lamps over the existing holes from the old lamps. This allowed me to complete the conversion without replacing the ceiling.
Each lamp had 3 holes that we not evenly spaced, one for the wires, and two other areas for the screws. I simply placed a set of 4 lights evenly spaced to cover the 3 holes. I also added a few extra lights in dark areas of the boat.
The IKEA LED lights provide more illumination than the florescent ones and only consume 3 watts between 4 lamps. This allows me to have interior lights on while anchored out and not worry about my house battery bank holding up.
The conversion itself was more involved than I had anticipated (like all boat projects tend to be). I had to lower the ceiling in each part of the boat to remove the old lamp, then (by the use of a jig I made out of the box the lights came in) install the 4 new lights in their respective spaces and run the wires.
IKEA lamps are 12v DC which means you can cut the fancy IKEA connector off and wire the lamp directly into the boats 12V system. LED lights are polarized, so be sure you connect the lamps positive to the boats positive (you can trace the wires inside the transformer to figure out which wire is positive).
I have read that if the lamps are connected with their polarity crossed, they will either die instantly or else have a shorter life. I did not want to find out so I made sure it was correct before I connected it to the current.
Once the lights were wired and tested, the ceilings and all their associated mouldings were reinstalled.
The new lights provide plenty of light to live and read by while producing minimal heat.
The downside to the cheap lights is they are not marine grade. I don't believe they use tinned copper wiring, and I don't expect them to last forever. They have been working wonderfully since 2012 and for a fraction of the price, I think they are doing just fine!
When installing 48 lights (which only draw 36 watts when they are all on), cost became a significant determinant. My cost from IKEA totalled to $264. If I had bought them from a marine store such as West Marine, it would have cost me around $1,104.
These little cabinet lights deserve some credit, they can light up a tiny living space with minimal electrical consumption, they look modern, and they are flush mount!