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Index : Caravans and Caravanning Equipment : Converting Caravan Lighting from Bulbs to 12v SMD LED units - by UKCampsite.co.uk Member P Baker

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Converting Caravan Lighting from Bulbs to 12v SMD LED units

Most caravans and motorhomes are fitted with standard, fluorescent, or halogen bulbs for their lighting. However as power consumption is an issue, more and more people are converting their lighting to LEDs. SMD LED units consume approx. 90% less power than bulbs – for approx the same light output

One of the main benefits to LED lighting is that it is more efficient. You can get more life out of each bulb and it is also energy efficient so it helps the environment, too. The SMD LED gives off very little heat. It also has a low voltage and current requirements. SMD LED stands for surface mount LED. Specifically, it's a light-emitting diode that is mounted onto and soldered onto a circuit board. An SMD LED also has a wide viewing angle, thanks to the fact that it does not have the standard LED's epoxy enclosure that focuses the beam.

Here UKCampsite.co.uk member P Baker gives his guide on converting the lighting in your caravan or motorhome

I usually go to CL sites without hook ups, and I changed all lights to SMD's to save battery power.

With ALL my old normal bulb lights on, I would consume 11.83 amps. On converstion to SMD units, I consume under 2 amps.

With 2 typical SMD units, only point 33 of an amp is used compared with 2 halogen bulbs which use up 1 point 6 amps, nearly 5 times as much!!

Staggering difference in power consumption - is it not?

Usually, no modification is required whatsoever to the caravan wiring and no additional electronics are required, and as long as the SMD type is 12 volts, the change over should be - remove bulb and replace with the SMD unit.

SMD is the name for surface mounted diodes or a name similar. There are many. Basically, what this means is that the SMD is flush mounted on to the circuit board. They are usually a yellow colour in appearance.

SMD is the relatively new type of LED with better performance all round than the 'old' type, which are noticeable by two pins sticking out of them.

How to measure the light output of a particular bulb

Comparing the wattage to determine light output from bulbs etc., is no longer valid. Wattage is the amount of power used.

The best measurement of light output, and generally the accepted way, is the lumens measurement. This is a simple measurement of the light intensity as the human eye sees it.

The lumen is the measurement of the total light output from any type of light emitting device. (Sometimes called LUX)

Even this simple way of determining the total light output is not plain sailing as all that, and there are many other factors to be considered to obtain an accurate figure, but, to keep it simple, when choosing any type of bulb or SMD unit, look at the lumens figure.

Generally, when changing a halogen in a caravan, choose an SMD of 90 – 110 lumens for approx. the same brightness.

An example of a Halogen bulb and an SMD unit is :-
Halogen SMD
12v 12v
10 watts 1. 8 watts (Power consumption)
100 lumens 90-100 lumens (Brightness)

To translate the wattage into amps, divide the wattage figures by the voltage.

Warm White or Bright White?

This is measured in the Kelvin unit, and is usually called the colour temperature. 2800 to 3000K is warm white, and 5000K and above is bright white.

Changing the bulb to SMD

This requires you to determine the wattage of the existing bulb. You will then have to look on E-Bay for that bulb and have a look at the specifications below the illustration to discover the lumens figure.

It is then a simple matter to look up SMD units and choose similar lumens.

I must stress here that there are many other factors to take into consideration, which I do not want to go into here.

What type of bulb holder do you have?

A very good place to see the different bulb holders is http://www.searolf.com/, click on the download PDF catalogue link, then scroll down to see the caravan types. This link is useful as well.

Both these sites show bulbs and bulb holders so you can identify the different types.

The simple way to obtain an SMD is to take one of the bulbs you want to replace to your local electric shop and ask them if they can get an SMD alternative. They should be able to, if they dont keep them in stock.

Choose only SMD's

If they are not SMD there is a chance they will not be able to stand any voltage above 12v. The SMD's don't get hot. You can handle them even though it has been on for over an hour, and they have a reported life of 50,000 hours.

Once you have identified the type of bulb holder you have (Eg G4 type), go on to E Bay and search for SMD G4, SMD 12v, SMD festoon or similar, and have a look for the SMD unit you require, eg. GU10 - G4 or SMD festoon (Festoon for car interior lights (Measure the length) - beneficial for light and power saving).

UK suppliers:



The cheapest SMD units are on E Bay from Hong Kong, (G4 - £2 each Inc postage (At time of writing)) and thats where I bought all mine, and they are good. UK prices are usually double or more, but have a good look around on the net.

For overhead G4 bulbs eg. Bailey Dome lights and flush mounted spot lights, choose a G4 SMD. There are SMD's that emit a bright white light, and those that emit a warm white light. I bought one of each to experiment with. So if you want the warm white SMDs then check specifically that is what you are ordering. Perhaps it might be advisable to choose the cold white type for dark or work areas and reading spots, and the warm white type for the lounge mood lights.

Click this ebay link to view an example of a bright white G4 SMD.

Cheap too - but you will have to wait a week or so from Hong Kong but some suppliers now stockpile in the UK with similar prices. Make sure you carry out a good search on E-Bay.

One note of advice. I have found the best way of fitting the above example is to insert the pins into the holder and then apply pressure to the bottom of the SMD near the base where the pins are, and bend the SMD to the right position. If you do it any other way, the solder joints are liable to break - which is not a problem if you are handy with a soldering iron. Some G4's have vertical pins on the back of the unit, so you will not have to bend any pins if the bulb holder is central.

SMD units usually have a full wave rectifier on it so its not polarity conscious, in other words, plug them in any way. There are some SMD’s that are not fitted with a rectifier. You can check to see if this small black recifier on the back of the SMD. If this is not present, it will mean that the SMD will only work when plugged in the correct way ie. Postive SMD to positive supply.

For those of you that want to modify or add overhead lighting in car or caravan, a dome light is a good modification which can be converted to SMD. Most halogen domes usually use the G4 SMD fitting ie 2 parallel pins.

You can see examples of dome lights by clicking on this ebay link

What size you should fit?

The simple answer to that is an SMD which fits the holder.

Thus, saying that, you can get different size SMD's to fit in the same holder. Again, just to make sure - visit your local electric shop or E-Bay and have a look. E-Bay maufacturers usually give the dimensions in their adverts.

As an addage - 12v. SMD lights will not work with a dimmer switch - YET - and for interest :- you can now buy 230v SMD LED's. I use them in my overhead spots in the kitchen. My energy saving bulbs kept burning out. They might have been energy saving, but it was costing a fortune to replace them - my SMD's last FAR longer and are cheaper to buy and run. Click here for expensive UK prices (£10 plus) and, as before - cheaper on E Bay from Hong Kong (£3.68 Inc postage)

Fluorescent Conversions

I must also mention the fluorescent units that are generally found in vehicles. Strip lights have a power hungry transformer which wastes power. A twin Lumo fluorescent unit consumes 1.3 Amps in comparison to an SMD two unit which consumes point 33 of an amp. With roughly the same light output.

Click the thumbnails below for photographs of a converted twin fluorescent unit.

Finally ... An SMD Torch

As an addage, most of us have a torch – which usually fails when we want it the most, so it’s a search for batteries – usually in the night – which are nearly dead anyway when we do find them! This ebay link is for a torch that does away with all this because it is solar powered. I can recommend this – the light source is an SMD.


Ebay links work at time of publication.

To discuss this article, and for any questions relating to it, or converting your lighting, please visit our forums

Index : Caravans and Caravanning Equipment : Converting Caravan Lighting from Bulbs to 12v SMD LED units - by UKCampsite.co.uk Member P Baker

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