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Old 12-30-2012, 06:12 PM   #1
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1983 34' Excella
1967 24' Tradewind
Little Rock , Arkansas
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LED Retrofit for Fluorescent Ceiling Vent/Light

My 1983 Excella has fluorescent lights instead of the incandescent bulbs earlier models used. However, I have been less than pleased with the fixtures, especially in the ceiling vent/light combinations. Instead of using the commonly available 12" F8T5 tube that the rest of the fixtures (Thin-Lite 112) use, they use a 14" F14T8 that is difficult to locate and has limited choices about the color of the light.

I finally located some "warm white" F14T8 tubes at a local designer lighting shop, and they are extremely cool. Very bluish. Even if they are better than the original cool whites they are still unacceptable, like being in an aquarium. They were also dimmer than the F8T5 fixtures.

I decided on an approach similar to aquionb's in his $5 Retrofit LEDs for 6-light ceiling lights in '73 Overlander thread. Zep has also posted a different strategy for LED conversion in the same thread. I had originally planned to post my conversion there, but decided to start a new thread since my fixtures were originally fluorescent rather than the similar 6 light incandescent fixtures, hoping to avoid confusion. (I did link the two threads together on purpose, though.)

I used 5 rows per side of 120/Meter (600 for 5 meters) 3528 Warm White LED strips from ebay for the primary light and added a strip of Blue 120/Meter 3528 LEDs on the inside near the vent in sort of a "U" shape. I got waterproof LED strips thinking that they might get water on them being near the vent openings. It did make soldering much more difficult, though. Had to remove the clear plastic coating where I cut the strips. Upon completion the soldered connections were globbed liberally (that's a technical term ) with white liquid electrical tape from my local HD.

I mounted a pulse width modulation (PWM) dimmer where the ballast was and moved the knob from the box to the frame of the fixture. The output from the dimmer goes to a DPDT switch also mounted to the frame to choose between the warm white and blue LED arrays. The blue lights dimmed make perfect conditions for watching a movie. Enough light to move around in and it keeps the screen from glaring so much. Plus, the blue is really pretty.

The first photo is a comparison of a completed conversion and an original fluorescent fixture. The next two show the connections to the DPDT switch and the wiring joining the strips.
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Old 12-30-2012, 06:31 PM   #2
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Very cool. Any pix of it installed and lit up? Would like to see the blue.
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Old 12-30-2012, 06:34 PM   #3
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OK, I realize that it sounds like I'm schizophrenic to talk about how the fluorescent lights were too bluish in color and then go on about how pretty the blue LEDs are.

It's the absence of light in the warm part of the visible spectrum that really bothers me. Photographers among you may recall the difficulties of shooting color in fluorescent light. You can try to correct the color with a filter, but there are just no warm frequencies in the light for the filter to amplify.

Warm whites are much more pleasing to me. Seems like a more natural rendition of colors across the spectrum. Then, when I want blue, I want blue, not some pitiful off-color white.

These photo show the fixtures lit, both the unmodified original and the modded one. I've also switched the modded one between white and blue. I also added a couple with the covers installed, I think they really give a better comparison.

I wanted to bring the color of the F14T8 tubes back up. As bluish as they look, they are supposed to be "warm white." They look that bad compared to F8T5 warm white tubes too.
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Old 12-30-2012, 06:35 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aquinob View Post
Very cool. Any pix of it installed and lit up? Would like to see the blue.
You beat me to it. I was composing the next post while you replied.
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Old 12-30-2012, 07:19 PM   #5
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1983 34' Excella
1967 24' Tradewind
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Installed Photos

Oops, I had to take some installed pics.

The first is just the blue LEDs light, like watching a movie. The second is the blue LEDs with a couple of 110v AC lights clipped to the valances aimed up to the ceiling for indirect lights. Third is the white LEDs with the AC lights. I plan to eventually install LEDs behind the valances for indirect lighting and do away with the AC lights. You can see that the AC coiled fluorescents in the clipon lights are even warmer than the LEDs.

The Airstream is actually brighter inside, but when I adjust the exposure to accurately reflect the brightness level, the lights blowout completely. Adding a strobe helps the brightness level, but sort of defeats the purpose.
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Old 12-30-2012, 08:36 PM   #6
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That blue is cool (literally). I may have to get some of those led's and retrofit them. I'm still thinking about where else I can run some more of the LED's, this is a neat technology with lots of potential to spruce up the interior with not that much cost to invest.
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