08/01/2014
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Motorhome LED lighting

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LED replacements for fluorescent and halogen bulbs have improved significantly in the last couple of years and the improvements in efficiency mean that most of the electrical power is given out as light.

LEDs are actually around 10 times more economical than a halogen bulb and have now surpassed the efficiency of fluorescent lights. This means that they are a ‘must have’ for maximising your 12V habitation battery capacity (this is commonly referred to as a ‘leisure’ battery).

Today’s LEDs run almost cold, so there’s no fear of accidently touching them and burning your hand. This has also led to an alternative form of lights, on a 10mm-wide flexible strip, which is typically sold in a range of lengths up to five metres. So, an upgrade of our motorhome’s lighting situation was on my mind. This moment of inspiration was driven further into my consciousness by a friend who had recently acquired a Carthago A-class, which already had lots of bling installed (as it was much newer than ours). Well, “that’s it” my wife, Janet, exclaimed one day, “we must do something about it!”

With the reel of lights duly purchased, we went back to base. A local supply of 12V was found directly above the door associated with the electronic ‘gubbins’ to do with the television system. A route to the proposed layout of the LED tapes was identified and measurements were made. I needed some thin wire so it would be unobtrusive and found a couple of reels of red and blue that would do.

The five-metre length of LEDs was terminated on one end already 
with a couple of short wires. However, to keep the pattern neat when fixed around the door, I required three lengths of LEDs, one on each side and one across the top. The strips are marked about every two inches (that’s 50mm for modern folk) where it can be cut.

The vendor at the show offered me some plug-on connectors for the end of the cut LED tape, although those with a steady hand and a small soldering iron should be able to make a smaller, tidier joint.

The tapes were laid into position removing the paper from the adhesive backing bit by bit. It was all connected up and volts were applied to try it out.

Wow, these cool white lights were super bright and dazzled even during the midday sun. Janet suggested they needed to be turned down a bit.

TAKE NOTE

Remember that, even with 12V systems, there is a risk involved, so if you do not feel competent or knowledgeable enough, you should alway call in a professional to do the work for you.

There are also several other considerations when working with LED lights, whether adding new ones or replacing existing bulbs.

It’s important that all these extra strings of LED lights and thin wiring are safely fused; a three-amp fuse should be the maximum size of fuse used.

You should never stick LED strips to metal surfaces. The electrical connection pads (positive and negative) are present on both the front and back of the tape. Only the glue might stop them shorting out on a metal surface and this should not be relied upon.

The solder connections to the micro-switch were insulated with heat-shrink sleeves to keep them safe.

This article is an extract from a longer piece in February 2014 MMM magazine. To order your copy, click here.



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