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Old 09-26-2016, 08:23 PM   #1
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What I learned about Retro-fit LED lighting.

Here’s a summary of what I learned about LED lighting, which admittedly isn’t much, for those of us with older campers that want to go to LEDs.

My forage into the world of LED lighting began as a search for softer, more even and quality light. Being an avid photographer and a big fan of Ansel Adams I spend a lot of time looking at (and whining about) the quality of light, not just the quantity. I found all the light in my camper to be harsh and specular. I wasn’t really all that concerned about low current draw or low heat or many of the other benefits of LED lighting.

Soft vs Specular (Harsh) Light.

In photography you can make light softer or harsher by changing the relative size of the light source. A large source is soft compared to a small source. The filament of an incandescent 921 bulb is a very small, therefore harsh, light source.

I started off by changing the globes over the dining table and the wall lamp by the couch to something more frosted. That helped. Then I changed several of the ceiling fixtures completely, to real frosted glass and metal fixtures. And that helped, too. But the 921 bulbs produced blistering heat. Literally the new fixtures were too hot to touch. So I was now in the market for LEDs.

Now a note here: A LED will produce a softer light than the incandescent bulb it replaces. A bulb light source is a tiny filament. A good LED “bulb” (really should call it an array) will be about the size of the end of your thumb, a much larger, therefore softer source. Even better (softer) when installed in my nice, frosted fixtures.

Cheap E-bay Chinese LEDs.

So I’m off to E-bay in my ignorance and naivety. I find 10 LEDs for $15 and order 2 sets. I replace all 19 of the 921 bulbs inside my trailer with no-name cheap LEDs.

They are nothing short of awful. They are dim and a very cold blue color. Lesson learned. You will spend about $8 - $10 on decent LED bulbs. However, my cheap LEDs are usable for under counter, storage bay, reading lamps and other applications so it wasn’t a total loss.

By the numbers, what I learned about LEDs.

There are certain types of LEDs that are identified by numbers. Electronics buffs my age will recall such identifying numbers as 12AU7A, 2N222, 74LS00. (Wow, that’s a lot of history!) It’s just more of the same. The LED types you will want are these:

• 5050
• 5730
• 2835
• 1210

Most folks are going for the 5050 and 5730. They produce a lot of light reliably. Your application, meaning making the LED fit where you want it, may indicate the use of 2835 or 1210. That’s OK.

About color.

The LED type has little to do with the color of light the LED produces. The color of the light is determined by a resistive network (magic) inside the LED array. So you can get a 5050 LED array in several colors. Interestingly, color is measured in temperature as in degrees Kelvin. (Why is beyond our discussion here)

• 3200K – a warm yellow that looks like a real incandescent bulb (which I like)
• 4100K – a more neutral white
• 5500K – a bit cool, blue that most people prefer because it seems brighter.

When you order your LEDs you can pick which one you want.

About brightness.

A singular LED segment will produce a certain amount of light, in Lumens. Period. No more. If you want more light, you add more LEDs to the array/bulb. A 30 LED bulb produces lightly more light than a 24 LED bulb. If you want twice the light you must literally double the number of LEDs on the bulb.

Now you will find another issue. LED bulbs/arrays can get to be quite large so you have to think about whether the LED is going to fit inside your fixture. Fortunately, LEDs come in some pretty clever shapes, including flat panels that will fit most any fixture.

Bulb bases.

LEDs come in a wide selection of base styles. I only needed 921 “wedge” and 1076 bayonet to replace all the incandescent bulbs I intend to upgrade. LEDs are polarized. When you insert the LED in the socket if it doesn’t work, turn it over or around. (That includes the 1076 style) Installing it “backwards” won’t hurt it, it just won’t work. Also, 921 based LEDs sometimes get loose, requiring the wires on the base to be adjusted for better contact.

LEDs are available for just about every application including replacement for fluorescent tubes and those decorative bath vanity bulbs. I’ll leave mine be. I like my fluorescents just fine and at nearly $20 each for the vanity bulbs, ($60 for the set!) that’s out of my budget.

There are plenty of LED dealers on line. My favorite is Cabin Bright | Innovative 12 volt LED Lighting. They are fast and reasonably priced. Others will add their favorites I’m sure.

Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive treatise nor do I claim to be an authority on the subject. This is just a summary of me figuring this out on my own over the last few months.
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Old 09-26-2016, 08:33 PM   #2
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Nice info. One addition. The cheap EBAY arrays use low quality drive components that generate a lot of RF noise which can interfere with Radio and OTA tv signals.


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Old 09-26-2016, 09:53 PM   #3
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One thing I learned is that if you have LED headlamps, you better not pull a trailer that drops the rear end of the truck 3/4" or you will upset a lot of people coming the other way on a dark road.
Trailer: Lifted 228BH, heavy duty springs and Yokohama tires DELAMINATED ROOF
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Old 09-27-2016, 05:47 PM   #4
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Someone on my other favorite forum passed this info along, so now you can compare apples to oranges re: lumen output.

lumen outputs per chip for some of the common LED's:
  • 5050 = 15 lumens
  • 1210 = 7-8 lumens
  • 3528 = 5 lumens
  • 5730 = 50 lumens
lumen ratings for common incandescent bulbs found in an RV:
  • 921 = 264 lumens
  • 1156/1141/1076 = ~400 lumens (1157 on bright side, too)
  • G4 10W = 160 lumens
  • G4 20W = 350 lumens
  • G4 35W = 650 lumens
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Old 09-28-2016, 02:33 PM   #5
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Flybob makes a very good point about the RF interference from some bulbs. On our old RV, I bought one of those LED porch lights with the motion detector and left it turned on while parked. I'd be watching TV via the HD antenna and suddenly the signal would be completely gone. Puzzled me for quite a while until I figured out the porch light was knocking out the signal every time someone walked by and it came on.

Couple of other minor items to remember with LEDs, too. LED bulbs have a + and a - terminal and they are not interchangeable like standard automotive bulbs. If you plug the bulb in and it doesn't light, remove it and turn it around. Also, LED lights are very sensitive to grounding. If you're having problems with them, check your ground, especially on trailer lights, etc.

On a side note, our 2015 Legacy had all recessed LED ceiling lights. No "bulbs", just a circuit board with LEDs soldered on it. Out of 20 fixtures, 19 of mine were either totally or partially out almost immediately after receiving the MH. I knew the manufacturer had some QC problems and was replacing the fixtures, but I was having such bad results from my dealer's service department that I just wanted the fixtures and I would replace them myself. FR said they would do that but the dealer needed to place an order for the fixtures. Dealer refused unless they did the install. Long story short, I waited until the one year warranty period was over, then contacted the manufacturer. They shipped me 20 replacement fixtures, complete with new lenses, and I had them in hand within 48 hours. Replaced them and the new ones are working great.
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Old 09-28-2016, 05:55 PM   #6
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hidee ho

Great info from all of you guys, thank you! I also replaced all of our bulbs with LED'S over time and like the results. I especially like that I can have any number, sometimes all, of the lights on and the dang fan on the power converter doesn't come on. In the winter when we camp and have the holding tank heaters on, anything that adds to the current draw will cause the fan to come on and it's somewhat loud when you're watching tv.
Anyway, thanks for the great writeup! Happy Camping!!


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Old 09-29-2016, 04:08 PM   #7
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I have dual pancake fixtures in my 2011 Georgetown 327DS and replaced all of them with LEDs. I bulk purchased 48 led panels on the web and used them as 914 bulb replacements. These panels have no regulators built into the panel so I installed a voltage regulator in the center section of each of the fixtures. The voltage regulators were another bulk purchase from the web. I have no interference to any of the electronics in the rv from the regulators.

My total cost for each fixture was around $6. I have the voltage regulators set to 11V which keeps the led's running very cool. It also completely eliminates any flicker caused by transient loads on the 12V system.

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Old 10-01-2016, 08:55 PM   #8
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Great write up Radio. Thank you.
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Old 10-01-2016, 09:06 PM   #9
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I'm a CREE person myself, you get what you pay for...
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Old 10-01-2016, 09:21 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by SidecarFlip View Post
I'm a CREE person myself, you get what you pay for...
They do 12 volt stuff?

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led, light

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