When the sun sets and the lights come on, we begin trying to conserve every amp of electricity we have. We turn on our navigation lights and begin our dilemma. We need to have them on for safety reasons, but each bulb is burning through our batteries.
When the deck lights are on, we are burning 3 bulbs (Port, Starboard, Stern). We can reduce the consumption by converting the Port and Starboard lights into a combination unit, which is still burning 2 bulbs (Forward Combo, Stern).
Our next best step is to switch over to a masthead light, which burns only 1 bulb! Dilemma solved! Other navigators can see us from miles away as we quietly sail along burning only 1 light bulb.
This single light consumes around 2 amps, which doesn't sound bad, but when you think about it, that one light bulb will burn around 20 amps in 10 hours. If that bulb were switched out for an LED bulb (which is a direct replacement), you could burn a mere 0.1 amp. In 10 hours of night sailing, that would only be 1 amp.
I have switched my lights over in 2012 and I haven't needed to replace a burnt bulb since. I used lights by Dr. LED which can be found at West Marine. Their bulbs are USCG and COLREGS complaint and work as a direct replacement for the old bulb. No fancy wiring to run or adapters to install, simply open the housing, remove the old bulb and install the new LED bulb in its place.
This way, you can sail by night without draining your batteries and safely alert other sailors to your position and relative heading.