Disclosure: I paid for all the lights referred to in this review myself and have no relationship with their manufacturers or distributors. Links marked with (eBay⇒) or (Amazon⇒) are affiliate links. This means I get paid a small commission if you buy something after clicking on the links. This money helps to pay for the running of the website.
Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) have been in use in electronic equipment for decades. They are available in a wide variety of colours and the power lights on your television, stereo and computer equipment will almost certainly be LEDs. The last few years have seen LED lights become much more popular in motorhomes, campervans and caravans. The advantages are clear:
- Very low power consumption (often just 1-2W)
- Long-life bulbs
- Decreasing cost
Although most motorhomes and caravans still seem to come with a combination of fluorescent lights and halogen spot lights, LEDs are gaining a foothold in the original equipment market and are even more popular as an aftermarket upgrade. LED replacement bulbs are available for most halogen lights that use a fraction of the power required by halogen bulbs. A typical LED replacement for a halogen spotlight would use 20% of the power of the original halogen bulb.
The problem, until recently, has been that the light emitted by LEDs was often rather cold and blue – not warm and bright in the way at halogen bulbs are. Understandably, many people were not keen on sitting in such a light while on holiday in their motorhomes – they wanted something that created a warm, relaxing ambience.
Luckily, LEDs have improved and so has the light they emit – at least in some cases.
12V LED Light Review
LED Strip Light: In our motorhome, we only have LED lights (eBay⇒) – but we have two different types. The main lighting is provided by three LED strip lights like these:
They cost around £25 each two years ago, so they were not cheap – but they have proved excellent and (I think) only use around 2W, meaning we can have all of them on all evening without worrying about power consumption. (Using three of these for six hours uses 3Ah from the leisure battery. Using 3 single 8W fluorescent tubes for six hours would take 12Ah from the battery).
The other good thing about these strip lights is that they provide a relatively warm light. They can be swivelled on their mounts to direct the light, although this is a two-handed operation and best not done too often, as they are quite stiff to turn.
The only downside of these lights, compared to the fluorescent tubes that would normally be used, is that the light is quite directional and does not spread as far to the sides of each light as the light from a fluorescent tube would.
LED Reading Light: The other LED light we have in our van is a reading light with a flexible arm. This was much cheaper (around £10-£15) and provides an interesting contrast to our strip lights.
The light fitting and the LED bulb were sold separately – we could have had a halogen bulb, instead. While the light fitting works well, the LEDs provide a noticeably different light to those in our strip lights. It is a much bluer, colder light. We tend to just use it for reading in bed and it isn’t a problem, but neither of us would like to have the whole interior of the van lit in that way.
This picture tries to show the difference in colour between the two lights. You can see that the light from the strip light is more yellow than the reading light:
LED lights will undoubtedly become more widespread, both in domestic environments and in vehicles. Their long life and power efficiency makes this almost inevitable.
One of the obstacles to more widespread adoption for interior lighting at present is the colour and warmth of the light. This is being addressed by LED manufacturers but buyers should beware that not all LEDs are the same. If buying LED lighting for your motorhome or caravan (or home), I would recommend buying from a shop where you can see the lights in action before making your purchase.
Buy 12V LED lights on eBay (eBay⇒)