How Do I Select and Install Underwater Boat Lights?

I'm obviously a little late to the trend but I am in love with the look of some of the boats around me at night when they turn on the underwater boat lighting. I've seen some even change colors to the beat of the music playing on board. Are these lights through-hull designs? Is that a concern for an average DIY type boat owner or is installing underwater boat lights something that should be left to the professionals? My boat lives in a slip so I'll have to have it pulled out. It might just be easiest to have the marina shop install some lighting but I want to do my research before I make any commitments. Thanks for any advice dock line! Pic for attention, not my boat lol.


  • Following this thread... I'm also interested in installing some underwater boat lights. There are so many options out there. From through-hull lights to LED strip lights. Whatever route you choose when installing LED underwater boat lighting, you will have to drill a hole through the hull of your boat. You also have to familiarize yourself with local laws. For instance, you can't have flashing blue lights near me because that is reserved for law enforcement. the US Coast Guard also requires that boats avoid displaying any light that could be confused as another navigation light or another vessel. Because of the need to drill multiple 2" holes through my hull, while avoiding anything structural, electrical or plumbed, I am hesitant to tackle this project myself. Also, because of the work involved, I want to make sure I find some LED boat lighting that is going to last. The price range of these lights and the reviews are all over the board.

  • edited August 2022

    Most underwater LED lights these days are surface mount, and require only a small 1/2" hole for the wires (Plus the mounting fasteners) and are relatively easy to install. Yes the boat will need to be hauled out of the water. There are through-hull lights out there; these are usually the most expensive and the brightest lights out there. The wide range of prices out there correspond to materials, brightness, features, and of course, quality.

    The first and most important consideration is the material the light housing is made out of. This also greatly affects the light quality. If your boat lives in saltwater, then you'll want bronze lights. Aluminum, stainless steel, and plastic lights just don't last, but are fine for trailer or rack stored boats that don't live in the water all the time.

    For brightness, take a look at the lumen ratings of the lights. Not all manufacturers measure lumens in the same way, but it does give you a basic way to compare different lights. Keep in mind that the lumens given for multicolored lights are for the brightest color, usually white. The other colors will be dimmer.

    For features, some lights have just one color. Some have 2 colors, and some have multiple colors. Some are able to be controlled with an external controller while some don't need one. Some can even be connected to smart controllers that connect to and can be controlled by your phone or GPS.

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