All cruising boats must be self-sufficient in terms of electricity, and so the less of it which they have to use, the better. Lighting is a major part of the electrical consumption of many boats – but this consumption can be vastly reduced by using efficient lighting such as LEDs.
In a previous article we discussed an excellent anchor light produced by a small company in Fiji called Bebi Electronics. This light is at least as bright as a conventional anchor light with a 25W incandescent bulb, whilst using some 3% of the power which the 25W bulb would use.
Similar power savings can be had by using efficient interior lights.
LED Cabin Lights
In our previous article we mentioned two cabin lights; a small spot light by Bebi and a brighter (and correspondingly more power-hungry) light sold by a company called Ultraleds.
Although Ultraleds has terrible customer service, a very short guarantee, and a very non-durable product, we were forced to conclude that since the Ultraleds light was many times brighter than Bebi’s product, it was the better choice.
Since that time, we had an extremely bad experience with Ultraleds – to cut a long story short, an expensive order was lost in the post, they were extremely rude and insulting when we phoned them, and it took several months to make them refund the order – so we will not be dealing with them again and we cannot recommend them to anyone else.
The Fautasi LED strip light by Bebi Electronics
At the time of our last article, Bebi pointed out to us that they had recently started producing a new cabin light called the Fautasi. Whereas the Bebi cabin lights which we had previously reviewed are intended as spot lights, and labelled as such on Bebi’s website, the new Fautasi light is designed as a replacement for a traditional 8W fluorescent strip light.
We have recently acquired a Fautasi for review, and we are favourably impressed by its performance.
Appearance, Construction, and Features
The Fautasi has a beautiful wooden casing made from an indigenous Fijian tree called Dakua Salusalu. There are three rows of six LEDs on the front; the middle row facing straight downwards and the outer rows angled outwards by 30°.
Inside the wooden casing is the epoxy block common to all of Bebi’s products. This makes their lights truly weatherproof, and in fact most of their lights are guaranteed to work up to 1m underwater.
There are several models of Fautasi. It is unique amongst Bebi’s products in having a model with a built-in switch, presumably because the strip lights for which it is intended to serve as a direct replacement invariably have built-in switches. It is important to note that the switched version of the Fautasi is also unique amongst Bebi’s products in not being submersible – the reason being that whilst the light is built to the their usual standards, the switch itself is not waterproof. This does not apply to the unswitched version, which is covered by Bebi’s normal guarantee that it will work up to 1m underwater for up to an hour.
The switched version of the light has three wires coming out of it – the normal positive and negative leads, plus a switched positive wire which can be connected to another light so that the same built-in switch operates both lights together.
A final feature which is present in the switched version but not the unswitched version is a small yellow indicator LED. The switch has three positions; on, off, and indicator. The idea is that this should help you find the switch in the dark.
Bebi also produce a version of the light with a second switch, which is a three position dimmer. I think this is a good concept, but we haven’t tested this version of the light and so can’t comment on its implementation.
Finally, each model of the light is available in either warm white or cool white. The model we’ve been testing is a cool white, which is most similar in colour to the 8W fluorescent light we were replacing. I’ve seen the warm white version on a friend’s boat and I thought it was much too warm; somewhere in between would be better in my opinion. However, that’s just my preference – the colour of light which people prefer is subject to a lot of variation.
In order to provide a meaningful test, we used the Fautasi as a direct replacement for an existing fluorescent light. The two photos below are an accurate representation of the amount of light before and after. (You can enlarge each photo by clicking on it.)
Your first reaction upon looking at the photos is probably that the fluorescent light looks much brighter – but notice that the bed is lit just as brightly in the second shot. Although the fluorescent light is brighter to look at, and creates more glare, the Fautasi actually lights the surface below in a very similar way.
Overall, I think the Fautasi produces slightly less light than the original fluorescent light, but it is perfectly adequate in this situation. And what’s more, it uses only 12% of the power, or 0.078 amps instead of 0.67 amps.
The Bebi Fautasi is relatively expensive, at US$42 for the unswitched version, US$49 for the switched version, or US$54 for the version with the three position dimmer. Bebi don’t charge for shipping to anywhere in the world, though they do have a US$6.50 per-order handling fee.
By way of comparison, a cheap 8W fluorescent light costs about US$20 – but you have to keep buying new tubes, costing another few dollars every few months. And you don’t get the low power consumption of LED lighting.
All in all, we consider the Fautasi to be well worth the investment as a replacement for most fluorescent lights throughout the boat, and we’ll probably be buying more of them in the future to replace the few fluorescent lights we still have.
There are still brighter products around – such as the Ultraleds lights mentioned in our previous article – but they use more power, are less durable, and do not have the lifetime guarantee offered by Bebi on all of their lights. (We’ve tested this guarantee – one of our Kalokalo spot lights developed an intermittent fault after three years of heavy usage. We emailed Bebi to ask what they thought the problem was, and they sent a replacement to us within days.)
We’re still looking for the best LED cabin light, and if we find a better one we’ll let you know. But at the moment, the Bebi Fautasi is the best light we’ve found, and it’s made by the best company we’ve dealt with.
Visit Bebi’s website for more information on the Fautasi. For those with 24V electrical systems, Bebi also make a 24V version of the Fautasi which is called the Drua.