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Caravan LED Lights Explained

Article by CaravansPlus - Caravans Plus

LED stands for Light Emitting Diodes and there have been huge advances in effectiveness and great reductions in price in the last few years. They are ideal for Caravans & Motorhomes.

We get a number of enquires about the brightness and colour of LEDs so I have put together this article that answers the questions most often asked. This should help you decide if LEDs are suitable for your application, how bright they need to be and what colour LEDs are best.

This article covers the following:
1) LED vs Incandescent, Halogen and Fluorescent light types
2) Life span of LED's
3) Why so many chips on my LED light bulb?
4) Understanding units of measurement. What is a Lumen?
5) Understanding LED Visible colour range, What does Kelvin measure?
6) Future of LED lighting

1) LED vs Incandescent, Halogen and Fluorescent light types

Incandescent light bulbs have been the main stay of lighting since the introduction of electric lighting. Due to the relatively poor performance as opposed to newer style lighting methods, many governments including Australia have introduced laws to start phasing this type of lighting out of existence, although the exception is that most 12V globes are still incandescent.

Prudent Caravan and RV enthusiasts are now looking at ways to conserve energy, especially when lights are being powered by sources such as batteries and solar. It makes sense to achieve the highest level of output for the energy being consumed.

You may have noticed in recent years that traffic lights all around the nation becoming brighter, and easier to see. This is due to the implementation of energy efficient LED lighting.

The table below indicates the effectiveness of producing light compared to heat for each lighting type.

Light verses heat

2) Lifespan of LEDs

Whilst not only saving the planet and conserving batteries, LEDs last much longer (on average) than all other types of globes. LEDs provide efficient bright light, that in Caravans and RVs can almost be considered close to day light.

Although LEDs are more expensive for the initial outlay, they are by far the cheapest and most efficient lighting available when comparing running costs. See below the expected lifespan of each light type, shown in hours.

Life Span of lights

As with most items there are different qualities available, so it is best to purchase a proven brand.

3) Why so many chips on my LED light bulb?

The answer is simple. LEDs emit light in one direction and heat in the other. Traditional methods of lighting emit light and heat in all directions, however as previously mentioned the percentage of light from the LED is much greater than the heat output. By putting many LED chips onto a single bulb it allows for 180 and even 360 degree light projection.

Direction light from LEDs

4) Understanding units of measurement. What is a Lumen?

A Lumen (lm) is a unit of measurement, much the same as litres measure volume, a lumen is a metric measurement used to express the visible light emitted by a source per square metre. Direct Day Light produces around 100,000 lumens per square metre.

Using the table below, you are able to make approximate comparisons based on the wattages / lumens between the lighting types. (all figures are approximate)


For example, a 100w Incandescent globe can be swapped for a 15w LED whilst still achieving 1500 lumens.

5) Understanding LEDs visible colour range, measured in Kelvins

LED visible colours - the difference between warm & cool white.

Light colours are measured in Kelvins, or simply expressed as K.
Kelvins indicate the temperature colour, and generally range between 1,000K (dark red/white) to 10,000K (vivid blue/white). Many colours can be generated upon this spectrum such as red and amber for outside clearance markers and tail light assemblies, but also different shades of light for interior lighting, for which we are probably most interested. Daylight is generally expressed as 5,600K
You may have noticed LEDs are advertised as Cool White and Warm White, this can also be expressed by the number of Kelvins.


You can see the colours that the different number of Kelvins creates. The higher the number the whiter or brighter the light is.


As you can see from the above, light equivalent to daylight can almost be achieved however as most of us have grown up with incandescent light bulbs, most will feel more comfortable and at home with the light produced by a Warm White LED.

Cool White LEDs are usually used in bathrooms, outside, and around work areas like the kitchen.

6) The Future of Lighting

Fluorescent lighting has been around for a number of years. It is quite an efficient light, however it does have its problems too.

The Australian Government has been actively pushing for more fluorescent lighting to be used, and in particular the Compact Fluorescent Lighting (CFL's) as direct replacements for incandescent lights in our homes as part of their Carbon Reduction programmes, including giving them out for free.

You should be aware however that CFL bulbs contain up to 5mg of Mercury vapour (the legal limit in Australia), which is extremely poisonous. This gas is released on breakage, and precautions such as evacuation and controlled clean up must be taken, especially in a small confined area such as a caravan or RV.

Over 130 years ago when Edison developed the electric light bulb, he made all kinds of bold predictions for the future including Taxi's made from gold by 2011. He didn't anticipate that his invention, the incandescent light bulb would be on the verge of extinction.

There are forecasts that LED lighting will be the prominent form of lighting by 2015. LEDs will not be the ''be all and end all'' of lighting. Technologies such as Plasma bulbs are being developed, however, like LEDs many years ago, plasma lighting is still expensive technology. LEDs are currently the most economical and environmentally sustainable form of consumer lighting. LED makes sense, and will continue to do so for some time to come.

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    Very good information, especialy for an old fart

  • comment-avatar


    Very comprehensible and to the point... good job

  • comment-avatar


    Extremely useful. Thanks.

  • comment-avatar


    This and similar articles are a real bonus on this website, eg. How to identify your roof hatch. These are part of the reason why CaravanPlus receive such positive feedback, keep up the good work and we will just keep coming back. Don't even bother to look elsewhere, you don't have to.

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