Boating in the dark, or in a thick fog, without good lighting is scary. Most waterways are as dark as can be. This leaves you vulnerable to hitting other boats, kayakers, buoys, etc. And, trying to pull your pontoon onto your trailer late at night is difficult at best (be sure to get some good pontoon trailer guides!)
Maybe there was a long line at the boat launch, maybe had to turn around because you forgot the marine cooler in the garage, or perhaps you just had to take care of some extra work before you left the house.
Whatever the case may be, having some good quality pontoon boat lighting will make your boat safer and more stylish. ‘Toon boats already have a unique look. Now it’s time to amp up your boat with these awesome Pontoon Boat Lighting Ideas!
In today’s article, we’re going to discuss some of the top methods to light up your pontoon boat in order to make it safer, more fun, and allow you to stay out as late as you want!
LED Technology For Pontoon Boats
LED lights were first invented in 1962 by a scientist named Nick Holonyak, Jr. In their early days, they were primarily used for higher-end applications such as computers, vehicles, and phones where replacing typical Edison-style bulbs every few months was just wasn’t practical. Today, of course, LEDs are everywhere.
The technology has improved so much that they’re by far the cheapest lighting solution on the market and are used more than any other lights thanks to their long life and low power consumption.
LEDs can be programmed to emit an unlimited number of colors and white shades on the color scale, although many are simply programmed for a few different colors or your standard RGB (Red, Green, Blue) shades.
What makes them so great for boating applications is that they don’t use up a lot of battery power. In fact, LEDs use 75% less energy than your typical incandescent bulbs, meaning that they won’t tax your boat’s marine battery life. They also last 50-times longer than incandescent bulbs, with an average life of 50,000 to 75,000 hours depending on the brightness!
One of the main problems with typical incandescent and halogen bulbs is that they burn very hot. When cold water touches them, the bulbs can easily shatter. This is why when you go on an old-school boat, you’ll often see these large glass protective jars screwed over the lightbulbs to shield them from the water.
LED lights, on the other hand, barely release any heat. The tiny diodes can be encased in various clear polymer gels allowing the entire circuit to be waterproofed while still emitting plenty of light.
This makes them a great application for marine boating. You can literally put these LED light strips on the side of your boat’s deck and they’ll function for years even with repeated contact with water.
This being said, it’s important that you don’t just pick any LED light for your pontoon boats. If you just go on Amazon and type in ‘LED Light Strips’, you’ll find plenty of options.
However, most of these are not rated for water or heavy-duty boat usage. When shopping for these lights, make sure that you only look at fully-waterproofed, marine-rated LED lights!
Pontoon Boat Lighting Ideas: Turn Your ‘Toon Into A Spacetoon
By now, hopefully, we’ve been able to sell you on the idea of adding some LED lights to your pontoon. They’re affordable, last for years, and don’t have the limitations or high power draw of your typical incandescent systems.
By the time you’re finished pimping out your ‘toon, it’ll look like something out of a science-fiction movie!
Below, are some of the best ideas to help push you in the right direction.
1. Extra-Bright Navigation Lights
In most states, Coast Guard and DNR Law Enforcement require that all boats have at least one set of navigational lighting featuring green and red lights. Green represents the starboard (right) side of the boat and red represents the port (left) side of the boat.
While most boaters are content to buy the typical battery-powered pedestal navigation light, why not pay the same amount (or less) for extra-bright LED strips that you can place on the bow and stern of your boat?
Not only will these lights make you more visible to other boaters at night, but they’ll also help to light up the water around the front and back of your boat which can help you navigate around potential debris!
Note: make sure these lights are approved in your area before you choose them. In most cases they are significantly brighter than traditional lights.
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2. On-Deck Lighting
It got dark a bit earlier than you expected. You and your family are headed back to the marina. Your spouse gets up to go to the cooler and grab a drink, but it’s so dark out that they slip on a puddle, fall overboard, or bust their behind on the deck.
While it may be a bit funny for you to watch, you can guarantee that your spouse isn’t going to be so happy about it!
This entire situation could be easily avoided if you had some LED deck lighting for your pontoon boat. Just like the navigation light strips that we discussed in the previous section, you can install long, colored lighting strips all around the interior of your boat deck so that every inch of your boat will be illuminated.
Apart from general safety, lighting your boat’s interior will allow you to party as long and late as you want. It’s perfect for throwing an evening boat party while you cruise around the lake with your friends and family!
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3. Outer Hull Lighting
So, now that you’ve got your navigation lights to comply with legal regulations and the interior of your boat lit up, it’s time to add some stylish LED lights to the outer hull of your pontoon boat.
These lights, above made by the brilliantly named Pimp My Pontoon, are just like the LEDs that you would use on the interior of your deck. But these are designed to be a little bit tougher, brighter, and usually come with better adhesive since they’re going to be in constant contact with water.
The function of these lights is two-fold.
The first reason people buy outer hull pontoon lights is for style. They look good, light up your boat, and make it look modern and futuristic.
The second reason people purchase these lights is for safety. These lights allow your boat to be seen from thousands of feet away. You’ll never have to worry about another boat (large or small) crashing into your pontoon.
In addition to this, many marine-rated LED light strips have a high light output. This helps to illuminate the water around your boat for several feet, ensuring that you can better navigate in the dark, pull your pontoon onto your trailer, and won’t have to worry about floating debris or oyster beds.
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4. Safety Lighting
Last, but not least, one of the top applications for pontoon LED lights is for general safety lighting. Many boat owners install a low-emitting LED strip along the guard rails to let their passengers know where to grab hold should waves get choppy.
These lights can also be installed around your control center and instrument cluster to help with navigation and reading the instruments. You generally want to stick with white lights on these.
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You may want to consider some temporary safety lighting if you want to install a portable bathroom on your ‘toon as well.
How To Install LED Pontoon Lighting
Installing LED light strips is incredibly easy. The only thing that you’ll have to put serious thought into is how to wire your light strips to your battery. Depending on your boat’s setup, you may have to wire them directly to your battery or you might be able to wire them directly into your boat’s power lines. This vary’s greatly from one boat to another.
Once you’ve got the wiring sorted out, most of the Pontoon Lights we’ve shown here are attached by adhesive strips. Just stick ’em on, easy as pie.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you install the lights on a clean and dry surface. If you want the light strips to properly adhere to the surface, then make sure you take a clean alcohol wipe to remove any debris, boat wax, or other material that may loosen the adhesive’s hold.
Installing LED lights on your pontoon boat is incredibly easy and also happens to be one of the least expensive upgrades that you can make to your boat. You could fully deck-out the interior and exterior of your ‘toon for less than $300 or a lot less if you only wanted to do one of those.
Have fun iterating on these Pontoon Boat Lighting ideas!
Not only will LED lighting allow you to stay out on the water for longer, but it’ll also increase safety for your passengers and other boaters on the water by fully illuminating your deck and your boat’s profile.