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Old 01-05-2007, 09:30 PM   #1
Yankee Lighting Company
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Emlenton , Pennsylvania
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LED Camper Interior Lighting

Yesterday, one of the members private messaged me for my thoughts on LED interior lighting as the main source of light; which is what this member was considering for their camper. Now, being an LED lamp designer/manufacturer, my first thought was "cha~CHING! ... a possible sale!" ....... and then I remembered how I really feel about the subject and this subject is something that I know a LOT about.

The LED rage is on, with wild claims of energy efficiency and high reliability. Products are popping up everywhere and seemingly for everything; Except for interior lighting of any kind. Almost all other LED colors can be used to replace standard lighting with no problem. When one does find something that looks like a great LED lamp for house or home, it's REALLY expensive! Why is that? It's because white LED technology is still very much in its infancy and has a LOT of growing up to do. I'll try to keep this as non-technical as I can.
  • There are no true white LEDs; at least, none that I know of. White LEDs are actually blue LEDs with a phosphorus coating that glows white when the LED is illuminated. They shine a strange color and do not light things up the way that we're used to. LED manufacturers are working on better coatings for a better white LED, but I haven't seen anything that impresses me yet. There are some good Warm White LEDs out there, but they're still VERY expensive, which brings me to my next point;
  • Cost. If you consider lumens (lumens are like gallons) per dollar spent on buying a lamp, right now you're better off with compact fluorescent lighting. They don't last as long as an LED, but they're more efficient than most of the LED lamps out there and shine a better shade of white.
  • Proper LED design. There are seemingly thousands of white LEDs for a lamp manufacturer to choose from. I get samples sent to me all the time. I have LED samples from two years ago that I haven't tried to light up. Most of those samples are from non-name-brand LED companies that are selling inexpensive, improperly constructed LEDs. There are only a few companies that manufacture good quality, high power LEDs. Nichia, Lumileds, Osram EOI and my personal favorite, Cree, to name most of the few. If the LED isn't designed & constructed properly (most are not), it will fail or at least fall short of your expectations. Bottom line; you get what you pay for; cliche', but true. Too many companies are making LEDs with improper epoxy for the casing. The epoxy reacts with the phosphorus coating, clouds up and decreases the amount of light emitted. There are other common design faults too. That's just one example.
  • Improper circuit design. This one is a biggie. First off, poorly designed circuits are not efficient, so you're shooting yourself in the foot by using junk LED lamps. Most LED vehicle lamp manufacturers use the worst circuit design; even some of the most recognizable brand names use crappy circuits. LEDs are sensitive electronic devices and in order to do their job properly and efficiently, they need good circuitry to drive them. When buying ANY kind of vehicle lamp, make sure that the lamp is either "surge protected," or better yet "regulated." There are a lot of spiked voltages happening in vehicles, like when electric door locks are used, relays from horns and the AC kick in etc. Any spike can cut short the life of your expensive LED lamps, unless their circuits are designed to protect against it. I wouldn't be concerned about small clearance/marker lamps, but for larger LED lamps, spend a little more money and get regulated or surge protected units. A lot of Peterson, Maxxima and Truck-Lite brand lamps have good circuitry ... and of course my own brand, YANKEE® . Incidentally, yes, I do own that classic vehicle lamp brand name .
So what are some good uses for high output white LED lamps? Glad you asked!
  • Amish Buggy Headlights. No, I'm not kidding. In fact, I invented the first ever LED headlight for an Amish buggy in 2001.
  • Exterior Flood/Spot lighting. Our eyes adjust better to the strange color of white LED lighting against the contrast of the dark outside.
  • Low-level interior lighting; night lights, for example.
  • Backup lamps.
  • Showing off. Maybe you like to spend money on things to be cool . I think we're all a little guilty of that ... I know I am!
So, how are you going to know when white LED technology has gown up? I say, when you see stores like The Home Depot stocked full of LED lamps for inside the house, it's a safe bet that there are white LED lamps for campers that are reasonably effective and affordable. Hope this helps!

~ Dave
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Old 01-05-2007, 10:26 PM   #2
Rivet Master
2006 25' Safari FB SE
Huntington Beach , California
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Smart advice

Hi Dave,

It is great to see vendors who are brave enough to expose the underbelly of new technology and caution the consumer to buy smart. Your information is on target with the reality of most LED based products. The good news is that the availability of reasonably priced LED lamps from qualified manufacturers is expanding and will eventually be installed in Airstreams as standard illumination, especially since the lighting systems are low voltage. Based on my experience in the industry, I expect to see this conversion within 2 years, maybe sooner.

As one who also has a history in LED lighting systems, I am also confident that forum members will convert to LED based lighting well in advance of the factory.....previous threads prove there is significant interest and a ground swell of desire. After all, Green is good. For any members who want to help guide the market to useful LED products...I am all ears.


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Old 02-08-2007, 04:07 PM   #3
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Boerne, TX / , Evergreen, CO
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Missed this thread when it was first created, but you have caught my attention. I have bought some LED lamps for my trailer, and despite the color shortcomings, I have been happy with the energy saving result.

Is there anyway to tell if the products I currently have are quaility? I haven't seen any specific markings denoting LED type, not have I experienced any failures, yet. When you do come up with your RV products, post it up here. I'm very interested!
Chris and Christina- Boerne, TX / Evergreen, CO - TAC TX-7
2008 27'FB Int'l Signature CCD
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