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Green Your RV With Energy Saving LED Lighting

May 12, 2011 in Press Releases

Republished from examiner.com

If you are still using incandescent lighting in your RV and you’re considering boon docking or dry camping, now might be a good time to green your motorhome, travel trailer or fiver by switching to a semiconductor based energy saving LED (Light Emitting Diode) light source. “These bulbs are small computers. We have drivers, resistors, regulators, mother boards, wires, switches, and more. The internal schematics of a good quality LED will look like the inside of a computer,” said Jason P. Weaver - President and CEO of Starlights, Inc. – one of the leading North American recreational vehicle LED manufacturers.

When the first RV LEDs came to market they were costly and often involved modifying the wiring in the light fixture - later versions used an adapter that plugged into the existing fixture. Today’s LEDs remain costly but are now offered in numerous bulb configurations and provided in a variety of colors to suit almost every taste. If you don’t like the harsher blue light cast by some LEDs you can opt for a warm, slightly yellow, “natural light” (NL) effect LED – check out theslideshow to see the difference. Most of the bulbs commonly in use in recreational vehicles now have an LED counterpart though there are some - like the incandescent 9019 bathroom globe bulbs - that currently have no LED equivalent. In such cases this may necessitate replacing a complete incandescent lighting unit with an LED based lighting fixture.

The benefits of LEDs:

LEDs are considerably more energy efficient than normal bulbs and can significantly reduce the power demands on an RV battery bank. An LED uses only 10 percent of the energy of an incandescent bulb and converts around 90% of the electricity that it does use into light – rather than heat - whereas a standard bulb converts only 15% of the electricity that it consumes into light. As a general rule of thumb LED’s operate somewhere between 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit compared to the 200 degree Fahrenheit temperature of incandescent or halogen bulbs. Starlights Inc. estimate that a well manufactured LED bulb will last about 60,000 hours, compared to a 1003 incandescent bulb which will last approximately 200 hours.

Jason Weaver provides a further cautionary note. “Like a typical car or truck, an RV's exterior lights are powered at first by the rigs battery, and thereafter by the alternator (when the motor is running). The crucial difference lies in the inside of the RV. The inside lights run off of the house battery bank. Anyone that has taken a voltage meter to this battery bank knows that the house batteries endure dramatic voltage fluctuations. Higher voltage doesn't bother incandescent, halogen, or fluorescent bulbs - they simply burn brighter and die sooner. LED components, on the other hand, can stand neither heat nor voltage fluctuations. Either of these two variables will kill the LED bulb, sometimes in a matter of minutes. This is why so many people have been burned by automotive type LED bulbs. They aren't built for RV interior living… Starlights interior bulbs have regulators, superior drivers, and the best components - which is why they are so much brighter and last longer.”

Replacing Incandescent Bulbs with LEDs:

The high cost of LEDs when compared to incandescent bulbs may prevent the budget conscious RVer from switching out all their old bulbs but it’s easy enough to figure out what lights you use the most and plan accordingly. The standard switchable twin light fixture seen in many RV’s lends itself to replacing one of the two bulbs with a high intensity LED whilst leaving the remaining incandescent bulb turned off. The other most commonly used bulbs – like bedroom lights, reading lights, dinette table lights and porch light bulbs – are all good candidates for replacement.

A large RV can use 30 or more individual interior incandescent bulbs. The most common interior bulb in RV’s is the 1141 BA15s base incandescent but RV’s can also use a variety of other bulbs such as the 1003 BA15 base bulb, the 921 wedge base bulb, the 1139F spot light and the 9019 globe bulb. For the purposes of this review I replaced the most commonly used bulbs in my Fourwinds Class C RV including the following:

  • A selection of interior 1141 incandescent ceiling light bulbs were replaced with both the 12 diode Starlights Revolution 150 Ultra Bright LED ($19.99) and the 15 diode Kaper II (Camping World) LED #55022 ($18.99 each). Starlights also manufacture a warm 250NL LED ($29.99). A single 1141 incandescent bulb will draw over 18 watts whereas a Revolution 150 LED will draw just 1.8 watts and the Kaper II 15 diode LED just 1.33 Watts;
  • Two interior 1139F bedroom reading lights were replaced with the 18 diode Kaper II (Camping World) LED #55023 ($18.99 each). The Kaper II 18 diode LED draws just 0.84 Watts;
  • One exterior 1003 porch light was replaced with the 12 diode Starlights Revolution 200 Ultra Bright LED ($24.99 each). The 1003 incandescent bulb draws 12 watts whereas the Revolution 200 draws just 2.5 Watts;
  • Two 921 wedge dinette table lights were replaced with 12 diode Starlights Revolution Wedge 160 Natural Light (NL) LED ($24.99 each). The 921 incandescent bulb draws 18 watts whereas the Revolution Wedge 160 draws 2.5 Watts. Only one of the two Starlights Revolution Wedge 160 bulbs that I received would actually fit in my light fixture and although I received a replacement from Starlights within 48 hours the LED replacement would not stay seated in the fixture. I have opted to install a Ming Green Long Life 250 lumens wedge bulb - purchased from Dyers RV - Check out this review of the 921, 1141 and 1156 Ming's Mark LED replacement bulbs.

LED Bulb Information:

  • Kaper II 15 Diode Pure White LED replacement for 93, 1141 and 1156 | 78.45 Lumens Draw:0.07amps – 1.33 Watts Estimated Life 20,000hrs Operating Temperature 87° Fahrenheit |
  • Kaper II 18 diode Pure White LED replacement for 93, 1003, 1141 and 1156 5,000K Operating Temperature 100°Fahrenheit Draw: 0.07amps – 0.84 Watts Estimated Life 50,000hrs |
  • Starlights Revolution 150 LED replaces 1003, 1073, 1141, 1156, 3497, 5007, 5008, 7506, 1093, 1129, 1159,1295, 1459, 1619, 1651, 1680 & 7527 6500K – 150 Lumens Draw: 0.1500amps– 1.8 Watts Estimated Life 60,000hrs |
  • Starlights Revolution 200 LED replaces 1003, 1073, 1141, 1156, 3497, 5007, 5008, 7506, 1093, 1129, 1159,1295, 1459, 1619, 1651, 1680 & 7527 6500K – 150 Lumens Draw: 0.1500amps– 1.8 Watts Estimated Life 60,000hrs |
  • Starlights Revolution Wedge 160 NL LED replaces 194, 516, 579, 901, 904, 906, 912, 915, 916, 917, 918, 920, 921, 922 and 923 3200K Estimated Life 60,000hrs Draw: 0.2083amps - 2.5 Watts |
  • Ming’s Mark Inc 27 Diode Warm White LED replacement for 1141 and 1156 | 330 Lumens Draw: 3.24 Watts |Beam Pattern 360° Estimated Life 100,000hrs Color Temperature 3000-3500K Operating Temperature 77°Fahrenheit (25°C) |
  • Ming’s Mark Inc 18 Diode Warm White LED replacement for 921 Wedge bulb | 200 Lumens Draw: 2.52 Watts |Beam Pattern 360° Estimated Life 100,000hrs Color Temperature 3000-3500K |

Where to buy LEDs:

There are a variety of LED suppliers but the most commonly used are:

  • Camping World- a small selection of RV LEDS;
  • SuperBright LEDs - a great selection of LEDs for automotive, marine and RV use;
  • Starlights Inc- the best selection of RV specific LEDs plus automotive, modular and motion lighting products.

What to look for in an LED:

Jason Weaver of Starlights was keen to stress that whether you buy Starlights bulbs, or another companies', make sure you look for three things in an LED:

  1. A voltage regulator for interior applications;
  2. A solid warranty - the last thing you want to do is plunk down $20+ for a bulb that lasts 2 months;
  3. A quality product that gives you plenty of light.

Note: Prices were accurate at the time of publication. Starlights Inc recently raised their prices 10%. Additional Information: Starlights Incandescent-LED bulb fit chart | Ming's Mark LED Review |