Converting RV Lights to LEDs: Part 1 – Incandescents & Halogens

TheRVgeeks Electrical, Great RV Products, LED Conversion, Updates & Upgrades 55 Comments

The process of converting our RV’s lights to LEDs has been a bit frustrating… until now. This video explains what’s been happening.

We’re also excited to announce our newest RVgeeks Contest! On April 14, 2014 at 8pm Pacific Time, one lucky RVgeeks viewer will win a $250 Online Shopping Certificate to M4 Products, our new favorite LED light supplier, which they can use to outfit their RV with brand new LEDs!

M4 is also offering a special discount for RVgeeks viewers. Visit their website at www.M4Products.com and enter the Discount Code “rvgeeks5” at checkout to receive a 5% discount on your entire order!

The contest ends on Monday, April 14, 2014 at 8 pm Pacific time, so watch the video for details and be sure to enter today!


↓↓ SCROLL DOWN TO VIEW CONTEST WINNERS! ↓↓

( Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog to be notified of  upcoming giveaways! )


If you’ve seen our video about converting our RV’s fluorescent lights to LEDs (if not, you can view it here), you may have noticed that it’s been a while since we’ve shared any more tips about switching to LEDs.

The reason for that is because we’ve been experimenting with converting our RV’s other lights (halogen, incandescent and even other fluorescent light options). But it’s been a bit frustrating, since options for LED color and brightness can be confusing, and many suppliers don’t accurately convey the information you need to choose the color temperature and brightness you want.

Then we heard about a company on the iRV2 discussion forums called M4 Products. The information on their website was really thorough, and the owner’s fast, detailed response to our questions made us confident that his lights would be the right color and brightness.

After so much trial & error, buying from M4 was the best experience we’ve had so far. Since we were heading toward southern California, where M4 is located, we made an appointment to stop by to see about upgrading more of our lights.

Being a fellow RVer, Steve (M4’s owner) was incredibly knowledgeable about LED applications for RVs, and the quality of his products was obvious. We’ve looked at, and tried, our fair share of LED bulbs, and Steve’s are the best quality and best value we’ve found so far.

Click here to visit M4 Products:
www.M4Products.com

Be sure to enter the contest, and good luck!


Recent & Related Videos:


CONTEST WINNERS!


Congratulations to our winners — Don & Carol B. (entry #1001)!

 



We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

We sometimes receive products for evaluation at no cost, and The RVgeeks are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. But our opinions are our own, you won’t pay an extra penny, and we only link to products we personally use, love and can recommend to friends with complete confidence.


Comments 55

  1. That worked on a couple, thanks! One canister fell out, but to my great relief, it went right back in the hole. It was interesting to see the canisters are only held in place by a little metal clip that just fits above the hole in the open ceiling (no screws). Who knew… thanks for getting me past my first rv repair ;)

  2. Yes, it’s a recessed halogen canister. I can’t get the bulb cover off to get to the bulb. The whole canister spins when I try to gently turn the cover.

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      Author

      In our RV, those lenses have to be pushed UP and turned, so be sure to apply upward pressure as you turn. But they only need about an eighth of a turn to release the lens from the fixture, so if a small amount of rotation doesn’t release the light, don’t keep turning. Hope this helps.

  3. We lost our home in a flood last May and have just bought our first Dutchman 5th wheel (used) as a temporary living alternative. Since we plan to do a lot of RVing soon, this was a good start. We have learned so many wonderfully helpful tips for RV newbies from your videos!! Thank you so much. We are trying to change out our lighting to LED and are having trouble with lighting canisters turning while we try to remove the cover. We are worried we will damage the wiring. Anyone have any tips on how to hold them in place? Thanks!

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      Author
  4. Pingback: $300 LED Giveaway! Plus a 5% M4 Products Discount Code

  5. Thanks for another great video.

    We just bought some of the Elite Series G4 puck LED lights from M4 (exactly like the ones in your video). We have a 2006 Mountain Aire, almost the same as yours, and the reflectors in the fixtures block the the G4 LEDs from inserting all the way. The LED works but winds up being crooked and only partially inserted into the socket.

    Did you opt to remove your reflectors? Is so, how? I don’t see any obvious way to get the reflector out. Thank you!

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      Author

      Hi David,

      Ours JUST fit without removing the reflector. It is possible that Newmar switched puck lights between 2005 & 2006, since that was the year they raised the ceiling height. Not sure about removing the reflectors, since we never had to do it. We were ready to remove ours in case it was needed, and we recall that we expected that it might leave the light socket loose by doing that. Sorry we don’t have more info on this. Not that it would necessarily help, but a phone call to Newmar’s parts and service department might confirm that a new fixture was used in 2006, and maybe they can guide you on how to dismantle it.

      Please let us know how you make out.

  6. Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wished to mention that
    I’ve truly loved browsing your weblog posts. In any case I will be
    subscribing for your feed and I am hoping you write again soon!

  7. Hello folks just wantded to tell you about M4 LEDs. We purchased 4 T5 NW to replace our bedroom fluorescent lights and 2 921 NW for over our kitchen table. All I can say is WOW. We had some minor problems and emailed Steve at M4 and he was very helpful even being on the road took the time to help us. Since I have place an order to replace all lighting in our coach. M4’s Website is very easy to find the right replacement bulbs and and if you have a problem the staff if eager to help you. Thanks for the lead to this fine product and business.

  8. Thanks for all the good and some times fun info. My wife,5-year old daughter, 4 dogs, and my self have been fulltiming in our 39′ coppercanyon 5er for 5 years. This was partly do to loss of job/ busness in 08 and water flooding our rental house. My dad & mom had us in camping from birth and been in all types of campers,pick-up/travel/class-c/class-A.
    We were looking to get a new 5th wheel because of some water damage to the rear-end,but after looking at the numbers we decided to repair and update our 5er over replacement.
    We installed 300w of solar,420ah battery bank with 2025 TRI-METRIC,2000w pure sine inverter.We rebult back bunkhouse and made into a bed room for our daughter and replaced the back wall of camper. Also we are residing our front slideout because the RV industry thinks you can put cardboard on the back of a fiberglass sheet and glue it to wood!?!?!?
    We realy like your info on the TP (we use scotts) and the 2 on LED lights,we found some and did not like thelm because of light collor and low light. All your info is verry helpfull,thanks.
    We are in North Carolina repairing the 5er,then we are off to Wyoming for the summer to work a ranch in Oshoto (near Devils Tower).
    Hope to cross paths with you some day.

    1. Hi Gypsies! It sounds like you’ve got a great setup and a great mobile life. We were at Devils Tower last year (for about the fourth time) and might be back next summer (2015). We’re usually RVing west of the Rockies, so you just never know where we’ll be out here. Hope to see you on the road. Safe Travels!

  9. I have been unable to enter the contest. The box at the base of this posting does not work for me. I’ve clicked the “Enter” and the “Log in” and this post just returns and I am unable to enter anything.

  10. Thanks for a great website!
    I’m still learning tons of useful stuff even after 8 years of part time RVing. My wife even enjoys reading this website as well. She sort of likes making sure I’m doing things the right way on our RV….LOL!
    Great spot on those LED’s, I plan on changing our Damon Daybreak’s lighting sometime in the future.
    Thanks again for being just an Everyday Guy’s RV info site!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Mario, and please tell your wife “You’re welcome” for keeping you on your toes! lol Seriously, thanks for watching. We have lots more in the hopper, so stay tuned. :)

  11. I am converting a school bus to an RV. I want to use LED lighting exclusively in it. I purchased “track lighting” that uses a 12VDC MR16 LED Bulb. & discarded the transformer /rectifier. I also purchased an Automatic Battery charger/maintainer to convert from shore power to 12VDC It is large enough to supply the entire current needs, & charge the batteries, 4 6V golf cart batteries wired in series parallel. The automatic charger has a built in “disulfide mode” that causes its output to approach 18 VDC. In this mode The output burns out the 12v MR16 12VDC bulbs. I can’t use a 7812 regulator on each light because of the difference in input/ output voltage. Is a transistor regulator circuit on each light the only way to solve this over voltage?
    I Love these lights & would like to use them. But replacing each bulb that happens to be “on” when the charger DE sulfides is APITA. I am concerned about adding any other 12VDC LED lights for fear of the same problem. I don’t really want to put in a “regulator” Large enough to handle the entire rig for the few times the charger DE sulfides. any suggestions? Am I the only one with this “problem” PS I have been a electronic technologist for over 40 years so I understand basic electronics.

    1. Odus,

      I am checking on some more info on your specific application and our MR16 specifically. Your charger on desulfide mode at 18v is quite high. As I understand the mode also sends pulses to help clean the plates. Pulses are fine with a DC and AC bulb (our MR16 is) but I want to verify the combination with the high voltage level is fine in your application.

      As you said you are burning out your standard MR16 I want to ensure I provide you with the best answer.

      Aggressive chargers with our 921 and 1141 bulbs has already been verified and they work fine. Also, let me know the brand and model of the charger for verification too.

      Thanks, Steve

    2. Odus,

      Sorry for the delayed response, but I wanted to check and do a few things. After reviewing the specs, and torture testing an MR-16 on the bench with my nastiest charger, I am confident that our MR-16 will handle your charger in all modes. If you purchase a test light or whole set, I will cover them “no questions asked” in your system for the first month for a full refund so you can ensure they are stable with your charger. They are of course also covered for a year under warranty for replacement as well.

      I hope this helps your choice. I have always thought about doing a RV conversion from scratch, but at this point it will only remain a dream. If you have any of your conversion posted online, I would love to see it.

  12. As always great RV info we have been slowly transitioning to LED also the lights you showed from M4 looked like better quality bulbs, you could see the quality, thanks for all you guys do!

  13. Great video, thanks, and I’ll check this company out.

    We started converting our coach to LED as well. I’ve replaced the courtesy light bulbs with 168-194LED from Autozone. A bright white, great for the application, and they needed to be really small to fit under the covers. I even put them in a few of my sconces, like the ones over the bed, and they’ve worked real good, and were only $9.95 each. (Looks like they are now $12.95.) Plus, I put a couple in the dining area light. Worked out real good when we had an unplanned stay this winter in Elkhart, IN this winter. Learned a lot about winter RVing too! :-)

    There really is a difference between LED bulbs, which was particularly evident in the dining room light, which held 2 different LED bulbs.

    Something that I didn’t hear mentioned is that a LE’s light is directional, which is the reason that the bulbs they showed had LEDs all over them to get 360 degree coverage. This can work to your advantage, by using a little planning, you can get a narrow beam for the lights over the bed, or a 360 bulb for the dining light.

    Also, some LED bulbs are polarity sensitive. For instance, replacement LED bulbs from a certain chain of camping stores. This is noticable in halogen fixtures, where the bulb can be installed one of two ways. Turn it around and it works. One of the bulbs in the dining fixture is like that, I find it annoying and think it’s a sign of a cheap bulb. The ones from Autozone were not polarity sensitive.

    Don’t discount the difference that the light temperature makes. It can be used to advantage in different areas of the RV, as they have done in the video.

    The longer life of an LED bulb is a real advantage also.

    As a neophyte RVer, I love your videos, and have applied them. (Like, how do you dump your black tank?)

    BTW, I like your intro and ending music. :-) :)

    1. Thanks for the great input Dave! There is definitely a lot to know about switching to LEDs. We’ll be posting a follow-up with more details in a few days, with even more videos in the works. Glad you like the music. That’s me playing. :)

  14. Great video, looking forward to more! We made the mistake of hastily buying cheap LEDs last summer for an anticipated boondocking trip. They were so cold (color) and dim that we removed all but four after a month (the bulbs next to our bed and a couple in seldom-used fixtures stayed). I’ll definitely be checking out M4, especially with that discount (thanks!). With LEDs, you definitely get what you pay for!

    1. Thanks Ami! That was exactly our experience. The first bulbs we bought were so “cold” (blue color) that it made our bathroom look like Frankenstein’s laboratory. lol It was so bad we couldn’t wait a month. They came down after a day! We shot a follow-up video last night with more details about our exact bulb choices, showing the color differences. We plan to have that up this coming Wednesday.

  15. Thanks you rv geeks you guys are awesome. My wife and I are living in our rv in ND and I’m working the oil fields, we love your videos. I was just looking at led lights when I got your email. Faith is a wonderful thing. If you ever need to know about surviving -70 below wind chill and staying warm in your rv you have our email. We are in a 2005 sportsman sport coach elite 40 ft. Your fresh water hose wrap worked perfect. Can’t wait for retirement hope to run into one day in Arizona for a warm winter stay. Keep up the great work stay safe and God Bless.

    1. Hi Wille & Pam! Sorry for the delayed response. Didn’t get your note for some reason until this morning. We appreciate the offer of advice on how to survive at 70-below wind chills, but we think we’ll pass on that and see you in Phoenix instead. ;-)

  16. Another great video! I am currently in the process of converting to LED and this video and website helped. Thank you RVGeeks.

    1. That’s awesome Chris. At this very moment, we’re shooting a short follow-up video, covering more specifics about exactly which lights we replaced and which model and color LEDs we used. Hoping to have that up this coming Wednesday. Stay tuned!

  17. Great Video but I still have to guess what bulb crosses to what bulb. Can you list the bulb #s and what the LED #s are?

    1. Thanks for the comment and question Kenneth. Stay tuned for some upcoming follow-up videos, where we’ll get into much more detail about the specifics of each bulb type. We’ll try to get that together ASAP. In the meantime, we’ll get some detail into the YouTube video description about which exact bulbs we used here. If you check the video description later today, we’ll have that up.

      1. I’ve just purchased a very lot of LEDs for my motorhome. My RV is a 2005 Newmar DutchStar. I noticed in the video that you replaced the courtesy lights, looking on the M4 website I couldn’t find the replacement part. Can you post the part number? Thanks

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          Author

          Hi Mitch,

          Assuming the courtesy lights in your ’05 Dutch Star are the same as in our Mountain Aire (which we would think they would be… they look like small chrome plates with a half chrome, half translucent lens dome sticking out of them), then the bulb we used is the BA9s-5-5050-WW Warm White. They’re tiny little 5-LED lights, but they put out the same amount of light as the little 1895 incandescent bulbs they replaced.

          If you’d like a little brighter light, and don’t mind the more blue-cast (instead of the yellower color of the warm white bulbs), you can go with the Cool White versions of the same bulb.

          Hope this helps!

    2. Hi Kenneth. We’re now in the process of making a follow-up video with exact details about the choices we made and the bulbs we used. For now, here are the details. We replaced the wedge-base peanut bulbs (921-size incandescent) from over our dining room table with M4’s 24-light Main Line 921-24-5050-WW Warm White ( http://www.m4products.com/921-24-5050-ww-warm-white-5050-smd-light-bulb-with-wedge-base/ ). We also showed the Elite series as an option, which puts out the equivalent amount of brightness from only 17-lights. That’s the 921-17-5630-WW Warm White ( http://www.m4products.com/921-17-5630-ww-warm-white-elite-series-wedge-base-brightest-with-samsung-5630-leds/ ). For our halogen replacements, we used the Natural White Elite series: G4-6-5630-SIDE-NW ( http://www.m4products.com/g4-6-5630-side-nw-natural-white-elite-series-smallest-g4-t3-samsung-5630-leds-side-pins/ ). These bulbs put out the same amount of light as the halogens they replaced, while fitting into the housing without having to remove the reflector. Lights are available in three color choices: Warm White (the warmest), Natural White (whiter than “Warm” and more like daylight), and Cool White, which we did not use anywhere on board as we feel the color is too blue for our taste. Hope this all helps! If you order, don’t forget to use the “rvgeeks5” coupon code at checkout to get 5% off your entire order! Best of luck in the contest, too! :)

  18. I replaced all my interior lighting with cheap 48 SMD led panels from ebay and I love them I bought them all at the same time and they all have the same color
    I think they were $4 each from hong kong. I bought extras but haven’t needed them after 1 year of frequent use.

    What I really want it an off road bar for my pick up and flood light for the bed. Basically the sun on 10 watts.

    1. Thanks for the cool idea! We definitely did some cheaper LED upgrades as well (our video about switching out fluorescent tubes to cheap LED light strips is here: http://youtu.be/SAMPQrAu0aI ). We’re very happy with some of them, but since it was a challenge to get the color and brightness we wanted in some places, we also wanted to do some higher-end upgrades, and these were a lot easier to match.

  19. So glad you chose M4…..I went out on a limb purchasing LEDs from them because they were so helpful and took the time to explain! I believe both Steve and your business with this Blog/video has taught me and my family more about RVing with our first coach! Oh and who was to know that there were many ways to correctly handle an RV’s commode!!

    1. We’ve been so happy to hear that so many other RVers have had such great experiences with Steve at M4. We like to think we can recognize a really reputable business, and Steve has not let us down. We can’t recommend him enough.

  20. Great article! We have been looking to upgrade to LED, but have held off waiting for more information before putting out the cash to do the upgrade. This video and article helped greatly, maybe this will be the year. :)

  21. Great video! Switching to LED is on my “TO DO” list but concerned about getting the “color” right.

    Thanks,

    Mark

    1. Color is definitely a bit tricky, Mark. But M4 has two we would consider using. If you like the real warmth of regular incandescent bulbs, their “warm white” color is very similar. We opted for their “natural white” for places where brighter, whiter light was desirable, like over the sink in the bathroom. It’a a pleasant color, but throws more white light for reading, working, etc. The only reason we didn’t go for natural white over our table is because there are three bulbs together there, and as a result they put out plenty of work light, even with the warmer color. We’re planning a video soon all about LED color choice, where we’ll compare some side-by-side to give you a better idea, including the “cool white” which we don’t actually use anywhere. Just a bit too blue for our taste.

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