By Greg Illes
Back in the late ’90s, small, unknown companies were about to make electronic history. New developments heralded a sea of change in the LED lighting market and the world of lighting overall. In succeeding years, bright LED lights have worked their way into every realm of artificial light, from flashlights to traffic signals and even outdoor video displays.
It is only natural for RV technology to benefit from this new capability, with a huge array of light fixtures and light bulbs available for RV LED lighting. Why all the fuss and excitement? Two really simple reasons:
First, LED lights use very little energy to produce light as compared to other light sources such as incandescent. For a given amount of light, an incandescent bulb might use 1.5A from your battery. For the same light, a fluorescent will draw 0.5A, and an LED will draw only 0.15A (one tenth)!
This can have remarkable impact on battery endurance. In practical terms, lights that would drain your battery in a day or two can be run for a week or more.
The second reason to use LED lighting is that these bulbs will far outlast incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, with lifespans normally 10 times fluorescents and around 50 times incandescents. For most practical purposes, in RV use they are lifetime bulbs which helps to offset their initial cost.
Converting to LED can be as simple as changing light bulbs or as complicated as changing or adding entire light fixtures. For this discussion, we’ll focus on the bulb change.
Bulbs come in three general shapes — flood, projector and right angle. They also come with different bases, with the 1141/1157 (bayonet) being one of the more common. You’ll need to purchase whichever format is right for your fixtures.
Bulbs are available in a fairly wide range of intensity, which is measured in “lumens.” A 10-lumen light is suitable for a dim night-light, while 100-200 lumens will work for room lighting.
Bulbs called “white” can vary from warm (yellowish) light to cool (bluish) light. This characteristic will be typically rated in degrees kelvin, such as 5500. Whichever shade you prefer, keep the color consistent throughout any common area or the light will look strange and distracting.
These bulbs are available everywhere these days (RV retailers, Amazon, auto stores) but at wide price variances, so it pays to shop around. Since the bulbs are expensive, you may want to only partially retrofit the most-used fixtures.