About LEDS

LED Lights In and Around a Motorhome, Caravan or Boat.

LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. LEDs have been with us for some 40 years. Recent developments over the last 5 years have seen the efficiency of LEDs, SMD5050 Chip, improve to the point where they can now be used for more than just indicator lights and displays on instruments. LEDs are gradually making in roads into television sets, outdoor displays, automotive lights, commercial, residential and marine lighting.
 
When replacing incandescent, halogen and florescent lights with LEDs the benefits are that they have the ability to produce an equivalent level of light to these traditional means while using up to 80% less electricity. This means the benefit for those with motor homes, caravans and boats is less drain on electrical systems meaning batteries will require less charging by means of solar panels, generators or being plugged in to power.
 
The question now is how do you take advantage of this technology? Some motorhome and caravan manufacturers are beginning to install some LED lights, however for most of us we need to upgrade our existing lights. This can now generally be done simply by unplugging the existing halogen or other and replacing with a LED equivalent fitting. Examples would be G4, MR, GU, Bayonet, Wedge, Festoon, Fluorescent and many others.
 
These bulbs do cost a little more than an ordinary bulb but do carry a warranty and can offer up to 50,000 hours of service life. Beware however there are replacement LEDs and replacement LEDs. There are a number of characteristics you should check off before purchasing replacement bulbs:
 
Power supply circuitLEDs run on very low voltage and usually need an advanced power supply to drop the voltage to the correct level and cope with the voltage ranges experience in any motor home or caravan electrical system. At rest the system will be around 12 – 12.5V whilst charging voltages can reach 14.2V. These advanced power supplies are known as constant current drivers. Some LED replacement bulbs available use only a resistor, which does not adequately control the voltage. The result is replacement bulbs that will only last a number of months at best. Any LED you buy
should be rated at least 10 – 25volt.
 
Heat DispersionLEDs while producing heat levels that are almost undetectable do need to get rid of heat on the individual LED units. The use of aluminum circuit boards solves this problem. These are often white in colour. Don’t buy any with a cheap plastic circuit board.
 
PolarityLEDs by their nature only allow power to flow in one direction. Good quality units automatically reverse the polarity meaning you don’t need to worry which way you plug them in or rewire your light fitting so that your new LED bulb will work.
 
Colour TemperatureColour temperature is the colour of light that the LEDs produce. Think of standard florescent lights compared to normal incandescent globes. LEDs are now available in a range of colours the main two being cool white and warm white. The key is to pick the right colour for the application. Cool white, 5000 – 6300K, are great when you need a good bright light for reading and for areas like the kitchen and bathroom. Warm white, 2900 – 3500K, will give you a light of similar colour to halogen and incandescent bulbs. Good quality LEDs are available in both cool white and warm white.
 
Light Output – Traditionally we think of a bulb by wattage. In motor homes and caravans we usually have had 10 to 20 watt halogen and incandescent bulbs and 8 watts + fluorescent. As watts are a unit of energy, that in the case of bulbs represents their consumption, we need to measure light output and not watts. Usually light output is measured in lumens. There are various conversion tables around however a very rough rule of thumb is 10 watts = 100 lumens. Using the SMD5050 Chip the output of a good quality light that uses is a 10 Chip (LED) should be at least 160 lumen. The light output is almost equivalent to a 20 watt halogen however power consumption is approx one eighth that of a 20 watt halogen. 
 
At the end of the day what does this all mean to you. Take the time to make a list of all the "interior" light bulbs you have in your motorhome or caravan. Be sure to count all the bulbs in the various areas like the kitchen including the stove hood, dining area, living area, toilet, bathroom, bedroom and outside lights. What about those reading lights and map lights? Do you have lights sunken into the ceiling or into the cabinetry?  
 
You can make a rough estimate of how much power you would pull from your house batteries if you turned on all the lights by adding the total wattage of all the bulbs and divide by 12. A rough example is that one 20 watt halogen divided by 12 volts equals 1.6amps. Let’s consider a motorhome or caravan that has 8 x 20 watt and 10 x 10 watt halogens. That’s a total wattage of 260 watts, power consumption of nearly a 22 amp drain. For you motorhome or caravan what did you get?
 
Let’s put 22 amps in perspective. 260 watts of solar, many only have 80 watts, may give you 12 – 14 amps for up to an hour or so on a peak cloudless summer’s day. Discounting any loss that means that if you ran all the lights for one hour you would need probably up to one and a half hours of peak summer sun to replace the power used. Most people, I hear you say, never turn on all their lights. Well why shouldn’t you be able to turn on as many lights as you want without any worry and almost no regard to power usage.
 
Consider what replacing with LED lights may mean. If you replaced those 8 x 20 watt and 10 x 10 watt halogens with the equivalent light output from the (10 x SMD5050 Chip) LED lights the power usage would probably be only 3.5 amps in total. That’s a huge saving on power compared to 22 amps. Now back to the 260 watts of solar. 3.5amps is usually achievable even on a dull day.
 
LED lights are now available in many configurations. These include MR16 and MR11, G4, Bayonet single and two contact, Fluorescent Tube, Strip, GU10, Wedge, Festoon and many others. The number of LED chips in a light generally range from 6 to 15 and even 48 in the flat panels. There are two main light colours, cool white (5000 – 6300K) and warm white (2900 – 3500K). There’s a LED light to fit your application.
 
What about the objection to price. Well consider this. The latest 10 SMD5050 Chipped LED lights that’s equivalent to a 10 – 20 watt halogen shouldn’t cost you more than $29 incl GST. When you consider a one year warranty, low power consumption and all the other benefits why wouldn’t you change your motorhome, caravan or boat lighting to LEDs.
 
If you would like any further information please contact us