Innovations to interior and exterior lighting for recreational vehicles strive to meet several needs, appropriate for the intended task, within an acceptable power consumption range and to look good, create an ambience. While there are additional requirements, these are probably the most common and apparent to the user. As far as being appropriate for the task at hand, the most common uses are providing light to see in, illumination for vehicle night operation and just plain designer accents. Power consumption for all but the vehicles moving lights, is a concern. Low wattage is required to extend the charge state of a battery, or battery bank, during non-electrical AC support such as shore power or generator. Designer accent lighting can be used indirectly in valances, rope lighting runs, and many other eye catching ideas.
Having adequate interior light for such chores as reading, cooking, etc., requires the use of more illumination. This in turn uses higher wattages resulting in the shortening of the charge state of the batteries. This has led to many coaches being equipped with fluorescent light fixtures for decades. These fluorescent lights provide a great deal of light with far less power usage when compared to incandescent lamps. Also halogen lighting has become very popular, though certainly not a power saver. These provide a bright focused lighting and are usually set up in groups with wattage of 10 or so at 12 volts per unit.
The newest innovation slowly finding its way to the recreational vehicle market is the L.E.D. (light emitting diode) lamp. These draw substantially less power than even fluorescent lights and can today, be found on some models used for tail and clearance lights. Additionally they are showing up in decorative rope lighting. There are many advantages to these types of lamps including a much longer service life than the regular incandescent bulb. Regular lamps generally have an expected life of around 1,000 to 2,000 hours, whereas many L.E.D. can provide anywhere from 30 to near 60 thousand hours or more. In brake light applications, they are noticeably faster to illuminate than traditional units. Also, unlike ballasts, in fluorescent light fixture, there is no R.F. (radio frequency) interference.
Recreational vehicle interior lights have not yet seen these superior lamps. When they do, they will offer a host of benefits. In ceiling lighting applications, where dimming may be desired, the L.E.D.s maintain the same color throughout all settings, unlike the yellowing out that we are used to with current light fixtures..
The only negative is the initial cost. L.E.D.s are expensive. For example, a 120 volt 3″ diameter face spot light, equal to about 80 watts or so, could cost over $50 compared to perhaps $1.99.each.
Looking at my own coach, I find that I have 51 ceiling halogens, each 10 watt. The fixtures are about 1.5″ in diameter while the lamps are the pin plug-in bulb type. There are two light levels achieved by switching them between 12 and 6 volt power. There are L.E.D. light replacements for the mini 12 volt halogen which are part number ILG4B3WLED12VW, at a cost of about $43 each.. That would run nearly $2,200 to replace all 51 compared to about $1 each for the existing ones or about $51 total. If and when I can locate a fit, around $11 to $15 a unit, I will replace them. This is due to the extremely short life of the plug-in halogen lamps requiring a unit or two every month to be replaced and the challenge to accomlish this as the covers can be difficult to remove. So I could justify say $750 or so, but have a problem with over $2,000.
Decorative designer type lighting is becoming more popular in coaches and trailers of all price levels. Windows and ceilings are lit with rope, indirect and accent lighting. Some of this lighting is of the L.E.D. type as it offers a choice of compact configurations and soft illumination.
In all likelihood, if every light fixture and bulb were L.E.D. in a recreational vehicle, boondocking would benefit as house bank battery power would be extended substantially while the user enjoyed more lighting. The manufacturing cost however, would increase greatly; this is probably why we will not see this happen too soon. The 2009 Cadillac Escalade will be the first domestic made auto to offer L.E.D. headlamps on their top of the line Platinum addition. But, given time, as more applications appear for both automotive and household use, the price will inevitably come down.
Hoping For A Bright Future – Lug Nut