Instructables

LED Caravan lighting

Picture of LED Caravan lighting
One of the biggest drains on your caravans power are the lights. Each of those twin fluorescent fittings draws 8 watts from the battery, that's 16 watts each light, that does not sound a lot until you start counting up the lights in your unit.
How about being able to have all of the lights on and still not draw as much power as one of those fittings? Ahh enter the humble LED..
 
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Step 1: Tools

Picture of Tools
First you will need some tools;
A soldering iron, flux and solder
A thin bladed screwdriver
A 'Philips' or cross headed screwdriver
A cordless screwdriver and 4mm drill bit
A multimeter
A quantity of 4mm clear plastic ties - DO NOT use black as these will show up when the light is on! (To work out how many ties you need, if the lights are twin tube, you need six for each one)
A pair of sharp snips to trim the tails off
Extra gas for your soldering iron, just in case!

Step 2: Removal

Picture of Removal
Right so now we're ready to start. Unscrew the two Cross headed screws securing your light and gently pull the wires through until you expose the connectors. Make a note of which one the red (positive) wire goes to and unplug them both.

Step 3: Rear View

Picture of Rear View
This is what the back of your light will look like. Remove the sticker covering the circuit board and gently prise out the tubes ONE at a time, ensuring that you hold the metal parts and not the glass, if these shatter the resulting shards are very nasty!

DO NOT be tempted to just solder your LEDs on here, as there is a transformer on that board that WILL fry them - as a friend recently found out.. :o/

Step 4: Desoldering

Picture of Desoldering
BEFORE trying to remove the circuit board, you must de-solder the two connections at point 1 on the picture. This is where your thin bladed screwdriver comes in handy, as you de-solder the connections gently prise the circuit board up at the edge using your screwdriver. The switch is locked into the light and forcing it will break it, so take your time.

When the board is free, de-solder the next two connections at point 2 on the picture, freeing the wires, don't throw these wires out, they're going back in!

Step 5: Goodbye tubes!

Picture of Goodbye tubes!
Be careful in disposing of the tubes as they can shatter very easily. Also throw out the circuit board, that hungry little transformer is no longer welcome!

Finally solder your red wire to one side of the switch (circled). The white one we will use in a while.

Step 6: Adding the LEDs

Picture of Adding the LEDs
number 1a.jpg
Shop around! I obtained these LEDs from HongKong for 99p and �1.99 postage per strip. Go for the 'blue white' if you want bright lighting, if it is just 'mood lighting', the 'yellow white' may be better. Dont be afraid to experiment. And VERY IMPORTANTLY, use the LEDs that stand up from the base (see picture two) Make sure that you check which wire is your live, they are not always clearly marked!

Drill six holes at equal distances on the outer edges of the light base, at either end one LED in and another roughly in the middle. Carefully tie these in place ensuring that your LEDs point out at right angles to the holder -see picture! Trim off the tails and turn the fitting over.

Step 7: Wiring the light

Picture of Wiring the light
Now we are almost done.

Solder both negatives together and both positives together.
The positive wires we now solder to the other side of the switch and remember the white wire? We now solder the white wire to the negative wires.

Step 8: Let there be light!

Picture of Let there be light!
Carefully re-connect the two wires, remembering to put the positive back to the right one!
Tuck the wires back up into the roof and replace the Philips screws.

Turn on and pat yourself on the back, you are now a 'Green vanner'!

Now, back to my wind generator experiments... Any questions, give me a yell!

Hi windy,

Thank you for a wonderful project that I am attempting to complete, I am a novice caravan owner and love the idea of going off grid and using low watt LED's to supply my light requirements, however I am stuck... I have removed the two nasty power hungry tubes and replaced them with kinder LED strips and have connected both ends, now how do I wire in the switch?, picture supplied/

led light.JPG
Windy Miller (author)  sullivanbarry10 days ago

Hey great to see another convert - trust me you will notice the difference! Ok the idea of the switch is to interrupt the flow of power, personally I would take the red and black wires and attach them to the red to red and black to white on the switch. Make sure you tape these connections up before refitting the light, I forgot the first time then spent half an hour looking for the right fuse! Hope this helps - Windy

NZ Morry1 year ago
There is one big problem, if the led strips one uses are not signal interference free they will effect TV and Radio on board to some degree!
pedixi2 years ago
Thanks for the clear instructions.
Could you give me any links or advice to buying the right LED strips please?
Thanks
ledshed pedixi2 years ago
Hi, see http://led-shed.com for a range of LED lights - it's a new business with an expanding range of LED lights which were inspired by a self build :-)
Windy Miller (author)  ledshed2 years ago
Thanks ledshed! Definitely a good business to be in ;o)
Certainly is and one that came about by coincidence more than anything else - after struggling with lights on my own conversion, I had a few left over and decided to put them on Ebay, the demand was so high I ordered more stock and started from there :-)
Windy Miller (author)  ledshed2 years ago
Nice one! I'm surprised how many people come over to us when we're off camping, just to ask about the lights. One bloke came over last weekend and shook my hand, he had followed my advice and changed all the lights in his motorhome. He then went off and spent three weeks in Ireland off grid, with just a small solar panel. He could not thank me enough. :o)
Windy Miller (author)  pedixi2 years ago
Sorry for the late reply, I've been busy starting a conversion on an ambulance which is soon to be our camper!

A quick search for 12 volt led lights on your favourite auction site ;o) will bring up the flexible strips that I use. Price varies greatly so read the small print and always go for the 'Bright white' option as these have a very slightly blue cast. The other option is the 'warm light' which is rather yellow by comparison and really not strong enough to use as lighting, but good for soft or background lights.
I tend to go with the cheapest on the day, after checking their feedback obviously!! and have never yet been let down.

Hope this helps a bit
Windy
Windy Miller (author) 2 years ago
Update: We have recently purchased an Ambulance to convert into an RV, first job was to replace the lighting with LED's instead of the fluorescent tubes! Found some on ebay from China @ £1.99 each with postage, these are now fitted and are so much brighter than the old ones!!

Windy
glennonjd3 years ago
Superb and simple - I saw this, bought the parts and completed the job with the 5 fittings in my van over a rainy Sunday. Excellent instructions and a nice end result. To maximise light output, I also installed two LED strips even into each of the single tube fittings - give that the strips I bought were £1 each, it was a cheap job too.

Many thanks for the inspiration sir.

Cheers
J
Windy Miller (author)  glennonjd3 years ago
I'm glad that others are benefiting from my experiment! TBH we've never regretted it and still have a smile when people notice how good our lights look and ask how they can do it.

The pleasure is mine
Windy
Squabywokl4 years ago
For a person who loves caravanning, this would be an AWESOME X-mas prezzie!!! I'm so gonna try it!!
Windy Miller (author)  Squabywokl4 years ago
Hey I'm glad you like it :o) Some naysayers may tell you they are dimmer, trust me when I say they're talking .... erm rubbish ;o) Any questions, give me a holler! Windy
bruc33ef5 years ago
Major hack. This also provides a great template for those who want to lower the power consumption in other vehicle types and solar installations, such as RVs and the like.
Windy Miller (author)  bruc33ef5 years ago
Very true, I've heard that some people have also replaced their car bulbs with an LED equivalent, but I am unsure as to the legality of this route, Thanks for the comment Windy