Hi, I think some of you will be interested in how I converted my RV lights to LED.
I initially tried 12 volt LED bulbs about 5 years go, and they were not satisfactory: they were expensive, didn't put out much light, and failed within a few hours due to over-heating problems. But now the technology has advanced significantly, and the current state-of-the-art multi-LED panels are truly amazing. I have converted every light in my Class C (even including the porch light, the range hood light, and the cab dome light) by retrofitting the existing fixtures with this technology. Basically I replaced each standard bayonet based incandescent bulb with a panel containing 48 SMD LEDs, arranged in a 6x8 array. These panels are available on eBay for less than $3 each including shipping -- you can find them by searching for "48 SMD White LED Light Panel".
The photo shows a typical light fixture after conversion. I just removed the incandescent bulbs and stuck the LED panels to the fixture. The panels come with double-backed foam tape on the back so they will self-stick, but I found the adhesive doesn't hold in the long-run, so I added a few dabs of silicone adhesive to the corners of the panels.
Many of the newer RV light fixtures use #921 wedge base bulbs, and the LED panels mentioned above come with an adapter for those so wiring is simple. Most older RV light fixtures (such as mine) use #1156 bayonet base bulbs, and there is no adapter included with the LED panels for those. So I cut the wedge base adapter off the wiring for the LED panels, and just soldered the wires to the appropriate places on the light fixture's bayonet bulb sockets.
How do these LED retrofitted lights work out? After about 8 months of use, I can say without reserve that they are FANTASTIC. Each panel puts out WAY MORE LIGHT than the incandescent bulbs they replaced, and they only use one-sixth the power (as measured with my digital amp meter: LED panel = .25A; incandescent bulb = 1.5A). Their published life is 20,000 hours and up. I have installed about 50 of these LED panels between my rig and my friends' rigs, and so far zero failures.
I even converted one of my florescent fixtures to this technology. I removed the twin 16 watt florescent tubes and the ballast, and pasted in 6 LED panels in their place (I added a toggle switch so I can use the LED panels 3 or 6 at a time). That light is great -- instant on, no flickering, and way more light than before.
PS: (Added on 3Apr12 edit) Check out the Red LED light I added on April Fools Day - details on Page 9 of this thread:
Moderator edit to re-size picture to forum limit of 640px maximum width to avoid scrolling.
Wish I had known you were retiring a florescent fixture..... I would have traded you it whole for one of my spare 2 bulb units I have in a box...
If you plan to retire the twin 18" 30 watt jobby, I'll trade ya a regular 1141 style base twin bulb unit for it , or you can have the wedge-based unit that it will replace .
* This post was
edited 02/27/12 07:13pm by JoeChiOhki *
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Good job! I have replaced many of mine with the warm white 36 1210 LED panels. I have had a few failures where 3 of the 36 LEDs failed. This only reduces the light by 8%, hardly noticeable. Certainly makes good sense.
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Could you please show your florescent conversion? Are these the lights you purchased?
Hi Clint, yes, those 6x8 panels are identical to most of the panels I bought. You will want to buy the ones where the LEDs are yellow when not illuminated -- these produce a beautiful warm white light.
Last summer I also bought some 6x6 panels (36 LED), and in fact those are what I used when I converted the florescent fixture because that was all I had handy. Here is a picture, with the diffuser removed:
This is my main light fixture, located in the center of my ceiling. I am really loving this light.
I left the original rocker switch in place, but used it to toggle on/off three of the panels, creating a "two level light". For the main power I added the red switch, which is push on/push off.
Somebody asked why I tore apart a perfectly good florescent light. The answer is that these LED lights are better in all aspects -- LED lighting is the wave of the future.
For the florescent conversion, I had to extend the wires on 4 of the 6 LED panels (connections are soldered, and insulated with heat-shrink tubing).
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edited 02/27/12 10:03pm by NetBoy *
Thanks for a great post/review. Just to clarify, the lights that Clint linked too are the right ones? I have been considering this for a very long time. For these prices, I think I could afford to buy enough to convert the entire camper.
Soldering Tips: Many people are afraid of soldering. It is really quite easy, as long as you have a basic understanding of the technique. Here is a good youtube video about soldering: Soldering Basics
On the incandescent fixtures I converted, I soldered the wires from the LED panels to the fixture's #1156 light sockets. In fixtures that are not new, the socket will normally have some oxidation on it. Solder will not stick to oxidation, so to get a good solder connection, it is critical to clean the surfaces down to bright metal. Sandpaper is one good way to do this.
Once clean, heat the spots where the wires will be attached with the soldering iron until they are hot enough to melt solder, and pre-tin those places with solder. The trick is to get the work hot enough to melt the solder.
For wiring and electronics, always use Rosin Core Solder.... not Acid Core. Radio Shack is a good place to buy solder.
When buying solder for electrical/electronics work, ALWAYS use 63/37 Alloy solder.
Radio Shack calls it "precision solder".
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Great job on your retrofit. LEDs are definitely the way to go. I recently retrofitted all of my lights with LEDs, too. I like your idea of using silicone adhesive. My LEDs came with velcro tape. They seem to be holding up well so far, but I have doubts once the temps here hit the 100s. I put 7x3s LEDs in my overhead lights, 7s in my reading lights, and two LED puck lights in the dinette area.
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NetBoy, Nice and neat job. Great advice to others. I also see you used H/Shrink tubing on the florescent conversion. So good to see someone take pride in their workmanship. Thanks for taking the time to share. Don