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Prudent RVer says:

LEDs Make the Greatest RV Patio Lights

What good are the exterior patio lights on your RV? Decoration? Have a party? Find your way home at night? Scare critters away? See to install water or dump hoses after sunset?  See to complete your woodworkingproject? Makes your rig look like your RV neighbors? And then, maybe you just like the way they look.

After you have been out several times in your RV, you understand the exterior lights on your motorcoach or trailer are both useful and a bother. They can make the area outside your RV pleasant and useful in theevening, and they sometimes offer protection. But when they just are not bright enough to be useful, or the outside lights attract flying insects, or if they drain your batteries or melt the fixture lenses because you leftthem ON all-night, you may decide they are just not worth the bother.

That's not right. Your coach came with those fixtures; they belong to you; you paid for them, and you should get your money's worth from them. What can you do to make them worthwhile?

When LED lighting became a part of my RV life, I succeeded in cutting down my electrical power usage while boondocking. I fully equipped the interior of my RV with LED lighting, and could suddenly stay out on the
desert until my tanks filled. In the process I began to experiment with using RV LED lights in my patio fixtures and learned a bundle.

* The standard Bargman patio fixture uses the same incandescent bulb as my ceiling fixtures. That meant I could install LED replacements outside as well as inside.

* I tested LEDs in the patio lights in various weather conditions and driving conditions. They survived as well as incancescent bulbs.

* I replaced the melted lenses for those patio fixtures with very hot 1156 bulbs. The new lenses stayed cool with the LEDs.

* I noticed that the flying insects collected around the few incandescent bulbs remaining.  Bugs were not interested in the LED light.

* I replaced the fluorescent tubes and ballast in my Thinlite patio fixture with a fLEDescent and had much better light.

* With configurable zipLED lighting, I increased the light level where I needed more light. Suddenly I could see well enough to do things.

* I removed the hot 1295 incandescent bulb from my scare-light and added LED LightSticks to reach the light level I wanted.

My experiments using RV LEDs in the patio environment were a total success.

RVs have three basic types of patio lights. The first is a single bulb fixture (for example Bargman) with either a 912 glass wedge bulb or a 1141 bayonet bulb. Both burn about 1.4 amps of electricity at 12.8-volts DC and

produce about 280 lumens of light when new. They produce less light when covered with a yellow lens and when they age. Some people want more light so they put a 1156 bulb into their fixtures. It uses 2.1 amps toproduce 400 lumens of light when new. It gets so hot it is known as the "lense-melter."

The second type of patio fixture is a fluorescent patio light, like the 162 from Thinlite. It uses two F8T5 tubes to provide about 800 lumens of light using 1.5 amps at 12-volts. It, too, most often comes with a yellow lenscover, supposedly to keep the bugs at bay.

The third type of exterior light fixture is the round 8-inch "scare-light" seen high on the sides of some RVs. Its standard is a 1295 incandescent bulb that burns 3.5 amps at 12.5-volt to produce an initial 629 lumens,dropping to less than 400 as the bulb ages.

LEDs can replace them all, for an 80% savings in power and a 100% increase in useable light. 

Ask yourself, "Are the patio lights on my rig bright enough to be useful?" Most patio light fixtures equipped with a single incandescent bulb like an 1141 or 912 are just not bright enough. You can see enough of the
patio area to walk around, but there is not enough light to cook or carry on a conversation with your neighbors.

On the bother side, have you noticed that the lights most often left ON all night are the ones you don't see: the patio lights outside your door on the side of your rig and in the rear of the coach. If you still have thoseincandescent bulbs installed, they typically use 1 to 1.5 amps each, and in 12 hours could suck out 18 amp-hours per light of the power stored in your battery. That is over a third of the 50 amp-hours you can safelypull from a typical type-27 battery before doing it damage. If you leave four or five bulbs ON, you can find your house batteries exhausted the next morning.

But what happens when you replace the incandescent bulbs with LEDs and then forget to turn the lights OFF when you go to bed. An LED replacement for an 1141 or 921 bulb will draw only 0.14 amps, using only 1.7amp-hours in 12 hours. Your batteries are safe.

An RV patio without LED lighting is like a dimly lit cave at night. You see enough to stumble about, but you cannot enjoy the beauty of the evening or make use of your patio. Be a Prudent RVer and recommend that everyone use RV LED lighting in patio fixtures.

copyright Sam Penny, August 6, 2010