Marine-friendly lights available
Almost as soon as my article on fluorescent lights ("Long-lived lights," Issue No. 88) had gone to press, I came across another light manufacturer called Alpenglow. This company has a somewhat different product that resolves some of the issues I raised in connection with the more popular brands. Several factors distinguish its fluorescents from most others.
The ballasts in these lights have a constant current output, regardless of the input voltage. This makes them more tolerant than other fluorescents of fluctuations in the input voltage. It also means the light output is pretty well constant over a wide voltage range. The inverters in the ballasts produce a pure sine wave as opposed to the more common square wave. This significantly reduces radio frequency interference (RFI). According to Bob Stanley, company president, the compact fluorescent bulbs used by these units are even higher in efficiency than the 15-watt bulbs recommended in the article.
The net effect, claims Stanley, is a fluorescent light unit that will stand more abuse and have a longer life-expectancy than many others. Nevertheless, he reiterates some of the advice in my article, namely that bulbs should be replaced at the first signs of failure, and also that it is death to any fluorescent to repeatedly turn it on and off. In particular, he notes, the first person up in the morning should leave the head light on, and it should stay on until the last person is done. The power draw during the hour or two that the light is on will be negligible.
The downside to all this is that these lights are significantly more expensive than others on the market. However, on a voyaging boat the extra expense may be justified in terms of extended life expectancy and lower repair costs.
Alpenglow can be found at P.O. Box 415, Thirsty Lake Road, Eureka, Mont. 59917. Phone: 406-889-3586.