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Why Use LEDs For RV Lighting?

It is important that Full-Time RVers, and many Part-Timers, use at least some LED lamps in their RVs. The four primary reasons for using LED lamps in an RV are

Safer - hot incandescent cause fires in RVs - LEDs lessen your danger

Cooler - LED lamps run at least 200 degrees F cooler than incandescent bulbs - 850 degrees F cooler than halogen bulbs

Power Savings - LEDs use 1/7th of the electrical power required by an incandescent light for the same luminosity

Longer Lasting - LEDs last 11 years on the average, 100 times longer than equivalent incandescent bulbs

You save hassle, time and money, such as

Batteries stay charged much longer, and so live longer

Replacing bulbs is no longer a continuing task and cost

Generator does not need to run so much, saving on expensive fuel

Solar Panels can keep up even if you burn LED lamps all night

Bugs fly away to find warmer lamps

You and your family can survive longer "off the grid,"
     whether on vacation or in evacuation or survival mode

The lighting fixtures in our homes and RVs operate by converting electrical current into light, but most fixtures use a much different process than LEDs and create a different mix of light.

The most common light fixture is the the "incandescent" bulb. When an electrical current flows through a wire filament (Edison used a carbonized silk thread in the first light bulbs), the resistance in the filament causes the filament to heat, becoming so hot that it glows with visible light in addition to emitting infrared heat. In fact, in most incandescent bulbs over 85% of the electrical energy becomes heat; only 15% becomes useful light. That heats the bulb and base of incandescents to above 500 degrees Fahrenheit, higher if it is confined.

The light emitted by an "incandescent" bulb is composed of a spectrum of colors, from infrared to ultraviolet, and depending upon the type of filament and the amount of energy expended, emits a spectrum somewhat like the sun just before a dusty, red sunset.

One variation of the "incandescent" bulb is the halogen bulb. Instead of sending the current through a metal filament, the current vaporizes the tungsten filament into a bromide gas to create a plasma. This heats the gas to the point that it glows just like the filament does. The halogen spectrum is closer to that of the sun on a bright day, but still, most of the energy goes into simply creating heat. The bulb and base of

Halogen bulbs get even hotter than normal incandescents. In fact, the quartz glass must reach at least 700 degrees Fahrenheit before the bulb begins to operate correctly, so DO NOT TOUCH HALOGENS when lit. The usual operating temperature of a halogen bulb is much hotter than a normal incandescent (as much as 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit), and there is a greater danger of burns and the bulb shattering.

The fluorescent light became popular several decades ago as an alternative to incandescent lighting. Fluorescents operate by exciting the inside of a special glass tube containing mercury with an alternating current so that the mercury/glass surface fluoresces (glows with visible light). A flourescent light uses about a quarter of the energy used by an incandescent lamp to produce the same amount (measured in "lumens") of visible light. However, one criticism of flourescents is that the spectrum is much stronger in the blue and ultraviolet than in the red. The operating frequency of the ballast driving the fluorescent tube is 10,000 to 20,000 cycles per second, and this can bother some people with static and resonant humming.

Fluorescents have been popular in RVs, but their advantage is more limited than most people realize. An RV fluorescent fixture is typically only twice as efficient as an incandescent fixture, and its comparative cost is significant.

The inefficiency of incandescent and fluorescent bulbs and their propensity to produce significant heat make the LED lamp a viable alternative. Note, incandescents are called "bulbs" because the light producing mechanism must be encased in a glass bulb to hold a vacuum (or special gas) and to protect the filament. Halogen and fluorescent bulbs contain a gas used in the lighting process. LED lights are called "lamps," the more generic name for a lighting device.

Excessive heat is a significant safety factor in RVs. The most common source of fires in RVs is the lighting fixtures in the ceiling and on the sides of RVs, especially as the wiring and bulbs age and the surrounding inflammable material dries out. Incandescent CAN and DO cause fires in RVs.

Typically, over 85% of the energy of the electrical current flowing through an LED lamp is converted into visible light. Very little of the energy is used to create heat. However, if a resistor must be used in series with the LEDs to reduce the DC voltage to match that required by the LED, the voltage drop across the resistor will create heat that must be dissipated.

LEDs are safer in an RV because they run cooler. This provides an added advantage on a hot night when camping. LED lamps attract far fewer bugs at night; bugs are looking for warmth, not light.

Power savings is especially important to someone who is "living off the grid" or "boondocking," that is, living in an RV or boat without being attached to the 120 volt AC lines from the electric utility. Without such "shore" power, the electricity must come from a battery bank, and those batteries must be recharged with solar, wind, or generator systems.

Finally, LEDs last 100 times longer than incandescent bulbs and at least 10 times longer than halogen and fluorescent bulbs. Edison's original bulbs had a lifetime of a few minutes before they burned out. This has grown to several hundred or even thousands of hours. But LEDs have an average lifetime of 100,000 hours. Over time, replacement costs add up and far exceed the initial cost of an LED lamp.

To repeat, the four primary reasons for using LEDs in an RV are

Safer - hot incandescent and fluorescent lights cause fires in RVs - LEDs do not get hot enough to start a fire or blister your fingers

Cooler - LED lamps run at a maximum of 165 degrees F - 200 to 800 degrees cooler than incandescent and halogen bulbs

Power Savings - an LED lamp uses 15% of the electrical power required by an incandescent or halogen bulb for the same luminosity

Longer Lasting - the expected life of an LED is 11 years; normal incandescents last up to 1,000 hours - 1% of the life of an LED.

And now with LightBlasters Lumeon LED lamps, you have a lighting solution for your RV that fulfills the potential for LEDs.



NB: All writings and photos and most graphics at this website
copyrighted 2001 to 2006 by Sam and Alice Penny.