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UPDATE: Check out the new and improved ways we’ve converted our entire RV to LED. View our entire LED video playlist here.
Being frequent boondockers (for the uninitiated, that’s camping without hook-ups), we’re always looking for ways to conserve resources. Even though our RV came equipped with some fairly energy efficient fluorescent lighting, LED lights are the reigning champs of miserly power consumption, using about a third the power of a fluorescent. Today we show you how to convert a 12-volt fluorescent fixture into low-power LED lighting.
Before we start, please remember that electrical projects aren’t for everyone. Even 12-volt power requires extra caution in this case, since the capacitor in a fluorescent light ballast stores energy even after the power has been disconnected. If you’re not comfortable working with electricity, hire a professional!
There are LOTS of ways to convert RV lights from incandescent (halogen is most common) or fluorescent to LED. The simplest is for incandescent lights, where you can purchase a direct plug-in replacement for an existing bulb. You can also replace entire fixtures with LED equivalents. But since these solutions can be a lot more expensive, we prefer to look for other alternatives. LED strip lights are an inexpensive replacement for fluorescent tubes, and really versatile too, since they’re designed to be cut to length. They just take a little extra effort.
LEDs are available in a range of colors from cool to warm, which are listed as “K” ratings, which refers to the color temperature in degrees Kelvin. We suggest skewing toward “warm” as very cool LED light is similar to very cool fluorescent light, in that it can make your RV seem like a laboratory. lol
The general range of color runs from about 6,000 to 7,000 K (very cold blue cast) to about 2,500 to 3,500 K, which is much warmer, with a yellow cast similar to an incandescent light. If you want something in between, 3,500 to 4,500 K has warmth, without being too yellow, although they can be hard to find.
It might take some trial and error to find exactly what you like best. We actually demonstrated this installation with lights that were too cool, so we ordered warmer lights to replace them. At only about $15 for a 5-meter (16.4 ft.) roll on Amazon, it was so inexpensive to try them out, we weren’t too worried about it!
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Even though we're handy RVers, we're not professional technicians. So although we're happy with the techniques and products we use, you should be sure to confirm that all methods and materials 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.