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j54mark 04-06-2004 06:35 PM

New 12 V Fluorescents - Advice Please
I bought some 16 watt Thinline recessed fluorescent fixtures for my '85 25' Sovereign. The goal is to improve on the illumination provided by the single two bulb Bargeman incandescent located about midway between the front vent and the A/C. Sadly, in the 25' the ribs in this area are about 1 inch too close together to permit a recessed fixture.

Possible solutions:
1) Get a surface mount fixture. Objection - a single 16 watt fluorescent still has insufficient light power. A 30 watt is too long.

2) Install two, one on either side of the vent, retaining the Bargeman light. This is what I am leaning toward. Objection: the ceiling is curved at that point. It APPEARS that the curve is not strong enough to make the appearance a problem, in fact, it APPEARS that the light housing itself is flexible enough at the outer edges to conform to what is only a very slight curvature. BUT - if I am wrong, there are going to be two large holes in the ceiling. Further, the lights will be angled slightly toward the center. I am not at all sure that is an issue either, as both together should provide nice general illumination.

If I do this, I may also replace the Bargeman with a surface mount fluorescent of similar style.

3) Offer the two lights for sale on Ebay and buy a couple of surface mount 30 watt fluorescents and mount as above, one on either side of the vent, and have some real lighting power. Objection: Be a bit of a load for battery power alone. Using the two or three lamp setup in 2) above would allow more judicious selection of light vs. power consumption.

Now, if I go with the lights on either side of the vent option, anyone have a suggestion as to where to pick up the 12v power? I need only to rob about 3 (or 5 if going with two 30 watts fixtures) amps. There is the entire bundle of coach wiring right there at hand. Of course, I have no idea what wire does what.



nickcrowhurst 04-07-2004 03:18 AM

Mark, we have the same layout as you, with the corner double bed. I agree that it's truly excellent. I am considering the same lighting options, and I would go for option 3, as this should give good reading light, and at least you have the option of 60 or 30 watts, depending on battery capacity. You've saved me some heartache by discovering the ribs are too close together for the recessed fittings. Thanks! You clearly are looking to have good light when boondocking. For this, we have a truly un-American solution! We have a paraffin pressure lamp. This takes a cup-full of paraffin each evening, and provides a very powerful light. One example is at
We use this in the cabin of our cruising sailboat to conserve battery power. It hangs from a hook in the cabin ceiling. An advantage in the English climate is that it also gives out heat. We have to keep a ventilator open at each end of the boat to prevent a shortage of oxygen. We also have 12v fluorescents throughout the boat, but we prefer the light and friendly warmth of the pressure lamp. It makes a hissing sound, and this might be objectionable to some. Also, the filling is best done outside, where spillage is not such a problem. Pre-heating with a spoonfull of methylated spirits is required with our lamp.
On the subject of the wiring loom, there is a color coded wiring diagram in my Airstream manual. I assume you do not have this. Perhaps a kind forum member could scan you a copy of the relevant page, or post the color-codes in this thread. I'm 4,000 miles from my manual, unfortunately. Good luck. Nick.

Pick 04-07-2004 05:06 AM

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When I replaced my foward vent and light fixture with a Fantastic Fan over the gaucho/dining area, I lost the light fixture. I replaced it with a 16 watt Thin-Lite fixture. The fixture puts out quite a bit of light. It seems to put out more light than the original 6 bulb fixture.

j54mark 04-07-2004 06:12 AM

Pick, your photo is very much like my setup, right down to the Fantastic Fan, except my TV antennae is aft of the A/C. I was thinking of installing the two recessed lights one on either side of the vent fan, just outboard of the joints where the interior panels come together.

I see you installed your light athwart ships. That was one other option I had considered. Does it snug up to the ceiling adequately? There is a curve there, even at the center of the ceiling.

For those confused by Nick’s post, “paraffin” is perfectly good English for “kerosene”. Nick, many older Airstreams came equipped with a LP powered gas mantel lamp. They probably are even more convenient in use as they do not require yet another fuel can. They do require permanent mounting, however. I think there is a photo in my photo album of the remains of one that came with my coach.


nickcrowhurst 04-07-2004 02:02 PM

Mark, thanks for the translation. I'm currently also having trouble remembering to drive on the left! For the last 35 years I've owned a Bedford Dormobile (camper with a lifting roof). This has the gas mantle lamps you describe. The mantles shatter at every journey, but for boondocking they are a practical solution, provided ventilation is considered. Do let us know how the Thinlite solution works out. Nick.

RoadKingMoe 04-07-2004 02:52 PM

Airstream put 12 of the 16W ThinLites in our 34, in pairs in some places, so you can have the light of a 30W fixture when on campground power, but only use one and save battery power when boondocking. There are two in the living room overhead, two in the galley overhead, two in the dressing area overhead, and two over the bathroom mirror. There is one over the couch, one over the galley sink, one over the appliance garage, and one in the bedroom ceiling. Some are surface mount, some are recessed.

These are augmented with incandescents near the door, over the dinette (on a dimmer), in the range hood, on the mini-wardrobes on each side of the bed, with two reading lights under the couch and bed overhead cabinets.

Pick 04-07-2004 04:59 PM

j54, it snugs up on the corners only, there is a gap in the center of the ceiling. Doesn't bother me though, I like the fact that it only uses the energy of one of the bulbs in the old fixture. I like using propane/LP powered lanterns when I can. Left them all up in Ohio though, would have been nice on the colder Florida nights for light and a little heat. Making coffee with the Coleman "Boondocker Coffee Pot" in the morning warms up the place in the morning. :)

j54mark 04-07-2004 06:32 PM

"Airstream put 12 of the 16W ThinLites in our 34"

12!! My how things change. I got mine out of a 90 model 34' salvage. I got the entire supply - all four.


j54mark 04-09-2004 10:11 PM

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While still undecided about the lounge area lighting, I went ahead and replaced two of the incadescent ceiling lights this evening. Wow! What a difference. Both is quantity and quality. No more dingy yellow lights!

Here is a photo of the new installation.


j54mark 04-09-2004 10:15 PM

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This closeup shows the one problem I had: I had to rivet the plastic ends to snug them up against the ceiling panel. It wasn't too bad in the bedroom, but the area just outside the bathroom is rather far from any ribs, so it wanted to sag and buckle. I'll find some white paint somewhere to touch up the rivet heads and they should largely disappear.


R&SZinser 04-12-2004 07:25 PM

What model of lights did you use in lieu of the old incandecents? I'm thinking of doing the same thing you've done.


j54mark 04-12-2004 09:20 PM

They are Thin Lite model 732 - see the specs at .

I was having trouble fitting the lens over the screw heads, so I re-installed them with rivets. They tighten up against the ceiling much better, and the lens fits more easily.

They came out of a '93 Excella 34'. It looks like I have two extra - if you are interested, pm me. I also have a template I made for cutting the opening. I can get one more, but I could only figure out a place to put in two of this type.

I am also installing a model 656 just aft of the front vent ( and a model 115 ( under the front storage bins.

The one in the rear bedroom and the hall add a far cleaner, brighter light. I cannot tell you what a difference they make. And about 1/2 the amperage draw!


silver suz 04-12-2004 09:34 PM

J54 MARK- thank you, That's what I have!!! an LP powered gas mantle lamp with coleman written on it but a permanently fixed propane line to it!!! Thanks -now I know what it is! Are they relatively rare? Silver suz

j54mark 04-12-2004 10:06 PM


Originally Posted by silver suz
J54 MARK- thank you, That's what I have!!! an LP powered gas mantle lamp with coleman written on it but a permanently fixed propane line to it!!! Thanks -now I know what it is! Are they relatively rare? Silver suz

Not at all. At least one was standard or optional for many years. New ones are still available.


j54mark 04-13-2004 09:16 PM

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An update.

The new light is in under the front storage bins, and the new 30 watt fixture for the ceiling should be in on Friday. The 15 watt fluorescent under the bins absolutely washes out the airline style lamps in the corners above the couch. It provides plenty of reading light.

I would like to find something in a halogen eyeball spot to put in the corners. To date I know of no source.

Note: The light in the ceiling at the center top is a temporary expedient until the 30 watt unit arrives. I had to have something to see by.


thenewkid64 04-13-2004 09:22 PM

Check out this source for 12 Volt lights. Lots to choose from

silver suz 04-13-2004 09:32 PM also around page 500 in their cataloge. tincanluv might want to check out the latter for adhesive plastic backed metal embossed sheets. s. suz

j54mark 04-13-2004 11:08 PM


Originally Posted by silver suz

Turned out to be Thanks for the lead. I had Swego bookmarked and had forgotten. There are a couple of possibles there.

The difference with all the new fluorescents is startling. The old lights are undervolted at 12v, and cast a very yellow light. The fluorescents are a cold light, but everything is a more natural color, and are so much brighter!


silver suz 04-14-2004 07:09 AM

sorry for missing the www part. I was very tired last night but I wanted you to know about that source, since they have the halogen eyeball spotlight. s suz

j54mark 04-14-2004 08:47 AM


Originally Posted by silver suz
sorry for missing the www part.

Most browsers will assume the "www" tag. The problem was "sailor", not "sailer". Actually that was not really a problem - I figured it out.



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