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Old 03-15-2005, 10:53 AM   #1
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LED Lighting questions

So I am at the point of looking at how best to light the interior and possibly exterior of my bus. I do not have a generator with no plans on getting one. I have a large starting battery and two deep cycle 12v batteries on and isolator. Plus a 1200 watt inverter. Currently I have two 40watt ac halogen lights inside that run off the inverter. But I have been thinking about led lighting lately. The stock lights on the ceiling in my bus use aprox 8 amps each so are fairly useless. The guy at the parts store said that if I brought them in I could replace them with LED's that use the same mounts (no modifications) that would draw 0.3 amps each. However the cost of $13 ea would add up fast. I went to a few RV dealers in town and asked about LED 12volt lighting fixtures and they said there suppliers are unable to get them. WHY?
It seems to me they are perfect. Long life, very little power draw and no heat. Are there manufacturers out there and it's taking a while to catch on or what? Has anyone built or retrofitted them? The boards and electronics don't look too crazy. I was also wondering about just adapting LED xmas lights. They are about $20 a string, but could be rewired and placed in the ceiling or under a lip or ledge and not be visible but the light the produce would be.

Any help or suggestions would be a great benifit. Thanks to all that have posted stories and picture. This forum has been so helpful. I am unsure as to weather or not I would have proceeded with my conversion without all of your indirect help and support. -Richard
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Old 03-15-2005, 12:36 PM   #2
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LEDs do draw little power unless you want to get a white one, because white is not a color that an LED can make. LEDs normally come in green, yellow, red, and blue. To make white they must take three color LEDs and put them together on one die to make it appear white.

This probably draws more power than you want but I light the inside of my bus with a string of rope lights connected to a dimmer switch.
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Old 03-15-2005, 03:24 PM   #3
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Re: LED lighting questions


I ran into the same situation as you 2 years ago before I set off for a long trip in my van. LED fixtures or commercially made products are very expensive and we still needed the energy savings because we had to rely exclusively on an 80W solar panel with 2 6V golf cart batteries.

I spent 2 weeks fiddling around, going to Radio Shack, buying circuit boards, etc., etc.

Here is my recommendation:

I built a total of 6 little LED lamps with wood fixtures (they are really nice) and my total power draw when all lights are on is 6 Watts. Basically almost inconsenquential. My total cost for complete lighting in my rig was 120$ including purchase of soldering iron.

1) You can find info, as I did, on the net on how to set up your circuits. It's very easy and you'll need some resistances to make up the difference between your 3 LED's in series at 10.8V total and your 12V supply.

2) Buy circuit boards, wire, and switches at Radio Shack or something similar.

3) Check out this website
They offer huge selection of LED's in all colors and sizes at very, very affordable prices. For example, a white LED at radio Shack was $4.00 and eled was selling them for $0.57 if you ordered more than 50.

4) Make sure you order LED's that are at least middle of the road in intensity. It's a bit more power draw but the lighting will be much nicer.

5) As a tip, I used small aluminum cake and pie pans as reflectors in my lamps.

Have fun and experiment and you'll end up with a much cheaper lighting system that draws practically zero power, will last for 10,000 hours and get lots of Ohhhs and Ahhhs from fellow schoolies.

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Old 03-15-2005, 03:46 PM   #4
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LED thanks

Thanks for the suggestions! I think I will purchase some supplies and mess around a bit. I will keep you posted on my progress. If anyone has photo's or schematics of their succesful creations that would be an asset. -Richard
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Old 03-15-2005, 07:10 PM   #5
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White LEDs are actually near-ultraviolet LEDs with a white phosphor and they are quite efficient. But you are on target - the brightest ones are not cheap.

I plan on using a couple of LED map lights for reading/night lights for the kids but for area lighting I'll used these: ... ts/3033509

For 15 watts of power you get 60 watts of light and you can use cheap AC light fixtures from Home Depot - or free ones from the dump which is where mine all come from.

Backup lighting will be Kerosene powered -
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