LED bulbs to replace RV incandescent bulbs

The friendliest place on the web for anyone with an RV or an interest in RVing!
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.

cully

Active member
Joined
Oct 19, 2021
Posts
40
Location
pacific northwest
my brain is flickering from trying to understand volts, watts, generators, propane, amps, and the list is growing. How did you RVR's pull all that information and application together? School? Your own smarts? I got left at the door and no-one let me in.
 

JayArr

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 13, 2020
Posts
861
Location
Mission British Columbia Canada
It takes time but you have to live it. The full timers learn it faster than the weekend warriors but in the end you need to learn a bunch of troubleshooting and repair skills or have a fat chequebook to pay someone who does.

Back to the lamps.

Mark hit the nail on the head when he described the regulator differences. A resistor costs a couple of pennies and a regulator circuit board quite a bit more.

Here's some more info to help you decide if you want to spend the big bucks on the better regulated ones:

If you are plugged in a lot of the time your converter will be on and the bulbs will be subjected to 14V more often. The cheap ones may be brighter when charging and dim later, if that bothers you buy the good ones. Also the 14V may shorten the life of the cheap ones.

If you boondock a lot then the bulbs will likely only see the battery voltage of 12V and you won't notice and the life won't be shortened.

That sort of leads to the full time/part time differences. If your trailer or RV is just for pleasure/vacation and you only use it a bunch of weekends a year and maybe a two week vacation then the cheap bulbs will probably seem to last forever. If you live in your RV full time the hours will rack up quickly and the cheap bulbs may fail more quickly and become an annoyance. The better bulbs should not vary or flicker as the batteries are charging and if you live full time that may be enough of a benefit to pay the extra.

This is a great forum but it took me a while to figure out that the advice you get back comes from a variety of living circumstances and you need to take that into account. Advice from a full timer may not be the best for a weekend warrior and vice versa.
 

Tiercel

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 20, 2021
Posts
441
Location
Pennsylvania
All I can say is the theory seems sound but these $1.35 bulbs never flicker on shore power and no one cares if the life of a $1.35 bulb might be shorter.
 

Mark_K5LXP

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 17, 2018
Posts
1,789
Location
Albuquerque, NM
An electronically regulated bulb will be the only kind that can 'flicker' when the power source is 12V DC. Resistors won't flicker at the expense of some efficiency. In order to have the best efficiency electronic regulators use some form of on-off switching which if properly done would not cause any perceptable flickering. Enter cheep lighting, use the least expensive circuit and components and it "works" but not without a tradeoff. I've noted that some of the LED bulbs with a remote that lets you select color and brightness can have some pretty noticeable flicker as do some of the LED Christmas light strings. It is what it is so buyer beware, just one of those things to look for along with color temperature, lumens, operating voltage and power.

Mark B.
Albuquerque, NM
 

JayArr

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 13, 2020
Posts
861
Location
Mission British Columbia Canada
My bad, when I said flickering I was thinking of the variance in brightness between 12V and 14V. The cheaper LED bulbs with only a resistor may be brighter at 14V than 12V whereas the ones with a better regulator in them should not vary in brightness based on input voltage.
 

Skookum

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 19, 2018
Posts
430
I've done a couple of LED replacements on our year 2006 motorhome. Everything was incandescent.

The best bang for the buck was replacing the headlights. Ours has 4, 4x6 sealed beams up front (2 low beams, 2 high). I replaced them with a set of Philips 4x6 LED and the difference is stunning for nighttime driving.

We have a couple swivel reading lamps, incandescent, over the queen bed. They get real hot. Stupid design IMO. One of the bulbs burned out so took the opportunity to replace with an LED equivalent, got the 2700k version for warm light. The old bulbs drew about 20w each. The LED's draw just a few watts, and the fixtures and bulbs aren't even warm to the touch.

Our main lighting is all small fluorescent tubes. We generally don't use it. The RV has 7 additional light fixtures with small halogen bulbs that we use instead. Again, they generate intense heat and the bulbs are short-lived. They are the next to be replaced.

When buying LED bulbs, with the exception of the headlights ($90/each), I always try to buy a few spares. That way, if they came from an obscure supplier or a color temp that's hard to match, I have exact spares on hand.
 

docj

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 16, 2010
Posts
1,797
I have 26 fixtures on the inside of my coach, so I bought a lot of 20 bulbs off Ebay, for cheap. The first set I bought was the bright white light. After a year or so, my wife and I decided we didn't like the bright white, so I bought another lot of 20 from the same seller, but in warm white this time. Their warm white is very close to incandescent in color.
X2; we replaced all the "puck" lights with LEDs ~5 years ago when they were still rather pricey in many places. I went on eBay and paid <$1.50 each. They are warm white, don't flicker and none have burned out.

If you prefer to purchase LEDs from a domestic source where you can specify exactly what you are getting I highly recommend SuperBrightLEDs as a highly reliable source. They have lots of inexpensive controls that allow you to remotely dim and control 12V LEDs and a full line of LEDs for lots of applications.
 

CharlesinGA

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 6, 2017
Posts
662
Location
50 miles south of Atlanta, GA
Charles, Is this the price for ONE BULB ??? 1156-24-5050-WW (1141) Warm White 5050 SMD LED Light Bulb Round Base

That is 8 times the price of the link I posted for 3000K warm LEDs that have worked without flaw.
That would be correct. I used the Elite series and a comparable bulb in that series is $12.99 each, with a 10% discount if bought in quantities of 10.

LEDs DO generate heat, actually more than you realize. This is where the elite series comes in, they are an aluminum framed lamp that helps dissipate the heat from the LED. They also have very good driver circuity that accepts a wide range of voltages without flickering or failure.

The old addage is you get what you pay for. In my motorhome I bought a bunch of LED lights that I thought would work, from Amazon, and within 6 months of intermittent use, I was seeing failures of the individual LED's on the bulbs. This is the same thing I saw with the LED lamps that were in my trailer when I bought it.

I have no qualms spending a couple of hundred dollars to get lighting that will work year after year, and not need replacement. I had one of the side pin G4 lamps in a puck light fail on me, totally and instantaneously and I sent it to M4 and they sent me a new one, no questions asked. Only failure I have had.

I find LED lighting dreadful to my eyes. Blue light is ugly yet that's what my RV carries. Is there anything soft about any LED's
The factory LED fixtures lead to a problem, difficulty of repair or replacement of the LED portion of them. Again M4 has replacement light plates and LED systems for factory LED fixtures and they are available in three different shades of color, M4 LED Color Ranges and Base Cross Reference

Here is a link to their replacements for factory LED fixtures. Better LEDs modules for LED Fixtures

Charles
 

Isaac-1

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 3, 2016
Posts
5,456
Location
SW Louisiana
12V LED bulbs have came a long way in the last 4-5 years, you can now buy fairly good quality warm white LED 1156 style bulb with a real voltage regulator and good heat dissipation for around $2-$3 per bulb in multi bulb packs. Here is good example of what is probably a good warm white LED bulb, CRI of 85+ (color spectral accuracy), runs on 10-30VDC, etc https://smile.amazon.com/Bayonet-Contact-AC10-18Volt-Landscape-Lighting-6/dp/B07KN4JWN4/
 

Mark_K5LXP

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 17, 2018
Posts
1,789
Location
Albuquerque, NM
The cheaper LED bulbs with only a resistor may be brighter at 14V than 12V whereas the ones with a better regulator in them should not vary in brightness based on input voltage.
The deal there is with increasing voltage the brightness doesn't increase so much but the current and thus junction temperature goes up dramatically, with the result an exponentially shorter lifespan. White LED's are nominal 4V devices, so strings and cobb lights are typically parallel groups of 3 die in series. Since they're forward biased the current knee is pretty pronounced, almost like how a zener operates. Just a small change in voltage over the threshold results in a huge change in current. Enter the current limiting resistor which can be selected to provide the optimum current for a given LED but in an RV application the input voltage can range between 10 and almost 15 volts. So a compromise must be struck - proper operation at the high end with a reduction of light at the low end, or proper operation at the low end with a reduction in life at the top end. So a middle range is picked and you get what you get, which for the most part can still be a useful service life and good economy. The regulated bulbs will have consistent output and hopefully long life but with electronics present the MTTF may not be as good as a passive LED operating within limits. So you pays your money and takes your chances but in this context compared to incandescent, LED of almost any flavor is the hands down winner.

Mark B.
Albuquerque, NM
 

Mark_K5LXP

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 17, 2018
Posts
1,789
Location
Albuquerque, NM
When buying LED bulbs, with the exception of the headlights ($90/each), I always try to buy a few spares. That way, if they came from an obscure supplier or a color temp that's hard to match, I have exact spares on hand.
Generally a good idea especially with the cheep ones. The only caveat is that LED's do have a finite life, which manifests in gradually reduced output along with shifts in color. So an LED that's been in service for some number of thousands of hours will be dimmer and a little different color temperature than the same one as new. Likely not a big deal for most applications but in a fixture side by side it might be noticeable. So just like the goofy CFL bulbs that were all over the place in terms of brightness and color I ended up mix and matching different ones in different places where it wasn't noticeable.

Mark B.
Albuquerque, NM
 

Tiercel

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 20, 2021
Posts
441
Location
Pennsylvania
I am known for being a little (some would say more than a little) bit of a perfectionist so I am not saying I don't see your point. It did make me grin, however. I think someone should conduct a study and deliberately slightly mismatch LED bulbs in a double fixture and show off their RV to 50 people, then have a survey to ask for a list of ten minor details they noticed. - I never could have guessed that a casual post about how many fewer amps LEDs draw could have evolved as it did. I am glad I made the post. It has been an interesting thread.

I just wish I had not mistitled it. It should have been "LED bulbs - A recent tool to determine the prevalence of OCD in the RV Community." LOL
Don't be offended, I am only teasing. :)

PS: wouldn't bulbs in a double light fixture be prone to change at about the same rate?
 

Mark_K5LXP

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 17, 2018
Posts
1,789
Location
Albuquerque, NM
Yep, hours is hours so all LED's in the same fixture will degrade the same. One will ultimately fail before the others, so replacing that one will make the difference stand out. In a properly engineered fixture that may not happen for upwards of a quarter century so it's not a stretch to consider a given fixture to be a "lifetime" device, one that may last longer than the structure or vehicle it's installed in. One of my side gigs is LED light and power supply design and consulting so I tend to look at how different ones are made.

Mark B.
Albuquerque, NM
 

JayArr

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 13, 2020
Posts
861
Location
Mission British Columbia Canada
That problem is not specific to LED bulbs. We have two pendant lights in our kitchen and always replace the bulbs in pairs when one goes out. Even bulbs from the same manufacturer and same batch don't match if one has 1000 hours on it. (I buy my bulbs by the case)

Here's an interesting note: A standard 60W incandescent bulb may have a lifespan rating of about 1000 hours. That's if it's installed and run at 120VAC. BUT - if you install a dimmer control, put a 100W bulb in and turn it down to the brightness of a 60W bulb it then has a lifespan of about 7 years! I was going through light bulbs like crazy around my house until I installed dimmers, now I rarely have to change a bulb.

The only reason I changed the bulbs in our trailer to LED was to save battery power. I no longer care if my wife leaves lights on inside or outside the trailer, I know it's not really a factor in depleting the battery bank.
 

Tiercel

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 20, 2021
Posts
441
Location
Pennsylvania
The other issue is dimmer switches that must be dialed up and down to turn the bulb on and off as opposed to pushing in. That 1/2 of a second of dimming as opposed to an instantaneous contraction and expansion of the filament greatly extends bulb life. Almost all of my switches are rheostats that force a dial-up and down to turn the light on and off.
 

garyb1st

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 31, 2010
Posts
4,100
Location
Southern California
Except for 5 florescent all lighting in our coach is LED. We replaced one or two in the 4 1/2 years we've owned the coach with bulbs we purchased in Quartzsite. The light is harsh but power draw is minimal. Haven't checked out Gary's article but will do that before ordering more replacements. Even though they don't use much power we prefer to use puck lights when not hooked up. We use 3 sets of rechargeable batteries for the puck lights.
 
Top Bottom