* LED Light Bulbs *
At RV rallies we have attended over the past few years there have been increasing numbers of vendors selling LED light bulbs to replace the 12v incandescent bulbs inside and outside your RV. Nearly all lights in RVs are 12v so they can be powered by the "house" batteries when parked. The built-in battery charger is powered by the 125v shore power connection, and keeps the house batteries charged. But even small 12v bulbs pull battery current, and some of them seem to burn out frequently. SOme reading lamps in our motor home are 1383 flood bulbs, and some are JC10 Halogen bulbs. And the "porch" light was pretty useless with the standard 1003 bulb, and even an 1156 bulb wasn't much brighter and tended to melt the lens if left on very long!! We wanted to stop the frequent replacing of the more often burned out bulbs by replacing them with LED bulbs, but had trouble finding LEDs that are actually bright enough to use for reading lamps. We even bought some 1383 R12 LED bulbs online that promised greatness, but we returned them when they were simply not bright enough, or a wide enough beam, to be used for reading. The great advantage of LED lights are that they do not generate much heat, AND they typically use as little as 1/10 the electricity of the bulbs they replace. This is a tremendous saving of battery power when "dry camping" without an electrical connection.
But most LED bulbs we have seen just don't meet our standards for use as anything other than accent lighting. Finally, at an 2010 RV rally in Pennsylvania, we found some LEDs that were brighter than those we have looked at before, AND the vendor was willing to sign out a test bulb for us to use overnight with the understanding we would return the next day and either return the bulb, or pay for it ...a great chance to truely test how well the bulbs would work for us! We signed out a two possible replacements for the 1383 reading lamps, and one for the G4-bse JC10 Halogen. The next day we returned the T33 and kept the A1141 3w (first picture above right), and bought a second one. We have 8 of these bulbs in our motor home, but at $24.95 each we didn't want to replace them all at once!! We also kept the G4 replacement (second picture, left) for the JC10, and bought a second one. This one we weren't sure of for reading, but will use in the two fixtures under the china cabinet that serve as accent lights/night lights. We have 9 of these fixtures in the motor home, and the two bulbs we bought were $19 each. And we bought a Revolution 300 lumen bulb (right) at $29.95 for the melting porch light, and a Revolution 200 lumen bulb at $24.95 for the outside light above the water service bay on the other side of the coach. Both Revolution bulbs are a HUGE improvement in outside lighting. BUT ... the first Revolution 300 bulb we bought lasted apx 3 weeks in our motorhome porch light. The vendor replaced it with a caution not to twist it too far (which we had not done). The second Revolution 300 lasted apx 3 mo before failing after being left on overnight several nights in a row. On close examination after removel, it was clear this bulb had severely overheated, scorching and distorting the plastic casing. The vendor replaced it with a Revolution 200, indicating that others have had problems with the 300 model lasting. These bulbs (and other options) could also be used as replacements for our tail, brake, and turn signal lights if so desired. There are even LED "tubes" designed for direct replacement in 12" and 18" fluorescent fixtures, but since fluorescent lights burn less electricity than incandescent to begin with (and the LED tubes are pretty pricey!!), we decided we didn't really need to replace them.
The vendor we got these bulbs from was Kinzer Enterprises based in Pensacola FL, but other vendors probably also have these and similar bulbs. The Revolution bulbs have a Starlite label on them. We don't know the origin of the others. The bottom line for LED bulbs, ESPECIALLY if you intend to use them as reading lights, is the importance of being able to test them where you will use them BEFORE you are locked into the purchase. These bulbs are far too expensive to buy them unconditionally, and THEN discover they won't do the job you need them to do. The first bulbs we bought and returned (a different vendor) did come with a money-back guarantee, but we ended up paying apx $15 shipping both TO us and for the RETURN. Being able to see bulbs at an RV rally (or a local vendor) where you can try them without shipping costs is a real advantage.
Since our early experiences with the above bulbs, we have had some more pleasant LED experiences. After the bulb in our lighted entry handle burned out, I went to a Flying J and found an LED replacement. It wasn't all that great as it was directional, and was "pointed" in the wrong direction. A few months later I came across a "corn cob" style bulb at a Camping World and decided to try it ...that one works great in the handle as it shines in all directions!
For my next LED project I decided to take on the festoon bulbs along the floor inside the coach. One is controlled by the same switch that turns on the porch light and the entry door handle, and the others are on their own switch. Our festoon bulbs are smaller than normal. After trying some and finding they were too large, I finally found the SuperBrightLEDs F30-WHP-12v Fuse LED Bulb-SMC LED Festoon for $2.40 ea. They have just one tiny LED, and are NOT enclosed. They work great!
About the time I got the Festoon bulbs taken care of, an 18" flourescent bulb inside the "china cabinet" went out ...the ballast was bad, for the second time. I decided to try an LED replacement from Jirah LEDs ...their JC-72-FL LED strip for $33. It was fantastic, so a few months later I ordered a "fixture kit" for $60+shipping consisting of two of the JC-72-FL strips for a two bulb fixture that was beginning to flicker. The conversion took about 10 minutes, and it worked great. So a few months later, at a rally, we bought two JC-45-FL fixture kits for 12" flourescents at $45 each to convert two under cabinet fixture that were irritatingly dim and flickering. The conversion took about 10 minutes per fixture, and the result is fantastic. The LED strips stick on with provided adhesive tape, and the electrical connections are made in seconds with the provided connectors. You simply wire around the existing ballast, and could even put the flourescent bulbs back into the fixture if you really wanted too by re-wiring the ballast ...but we won't. Over the next year or so we got around to converting the four remaining 18" fixtures to LEDs too.
We have one 48" flourescent fixture with two bulbs. When looking for a cost effective way to convert it to LEDs, vendors repeatedly told me they had never seen a 48" that was 12v. It appeared my only option was the LEDs strip kits but that would get quite expensive and I really didn't want to string a bunch of shorter pieces together anyway. Finally, after a lot of searching and waiting for technology to catch up, in 2017 I found 12v powered 48" tube lights at M4products.com. I ordered two T-48TUBE-CW Cool White 48" 12 volt T8 LED Tube Light 6000k @ $29.99 ea. They came w/o the promised wiring instrucitons, but that was available on their website. The rewiring was simple to do and and clipping & splicing wires I left the ballasts rivited in place. The end result is fantastic, and along with the improved lighting we lost the electrical interference we sometimes had in the radio and TV. A great solution all around!
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