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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.