One of the most problematic areas on a mast is the electrical system. This article will focus on the specifics related to a proper mast lighting system. This system can be divided into the light fixtures themselves, the circuitry and connections, and the proper use of these lights. In this article we will focus on light fixtures. The following sections will discuss wiring the mast light circuits and their proper usage.
The quality of light fixtures varies from the simplest incandescent plunger bulbs to solid state LED construction Obviously the price of these fixtures varies greatly as well. I always said that if I were to manufacturer a light fixture and want it to last, it would cost several hundred dollars. Probably wouldn’t sell enough of these to keep the heat on in a yurt. Therefore, it is important to make the best circuit with what we have. Light fixtures can range in price from as low as $60 to as high as $395 depending on construction processes.
Most fixtures are very simple with friction-fit bulbs. After testing many systems, I have found that the biggest enemy is moisture. Even though most light fixtures have sealing technology, eventually moisture gets everywhere. Even the best-sealed fixture will condense as temperature and humidity levels change throughout in as little as one day. This moisture attacks the bulb connection material and causes corrosion until, after time, the conductivity of this connection fails. The answer to creating longevity in this type of fixture is to simply clean the contact surfaces with a red Scotchbrite cloth. Then replace the old bulb with new and coat the contact surfaces with electrical grease. At this point we have given up on eliminating moisture. Instead we want to control where it lives in this light fixture. In this case, everywhere but on the contacts themselves.
If we want to eliminate moisture we have to look into LED construction. These lights have solid-state circuitry and the whole package uses printed circuit board technology. Perko and Aquasignal make relatively inexpensive LED mast head lights for use as an “all-around” white light. Lopolight on the other hand makes a masthead light that really is state-of-the -art, completely encased in a special epoxy resin mold and an anodized aluminum case, thus eliminating exposure to the elements.
The basic benefits of LED technology are that the electrical draw is less that 30% of incandescent lights, shock and vibration resistant, and the life expectancy is usually rated at 50,000+ hours. At this point I need to explain something about LED lights. A common misconception is that LED is a light that is used to illuminate. Ever purchase an LED flashlight? They look cool, but even with clusters of diodes and magnification lenses they don’t cast off a powerful beam to see with. That said, LED lights are meant to be seen, not to see by. These points explain some issues that pertain to common problems with light fixtures. The next article will introduce the wiring components and their associated effects.
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