Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Camper Trailer LED Conversion
My parents recently got a camper, which was a huge step up from a tent and considerably better than the cramped tent trailer from my childhood. One issue for myself was the lighting, almost all campers still use 12 volt incandescent bulbs, they bathe everything in a terrible orange glow and either are too dim or have a pathetic lamp life of less than 200 hours.
This simply would not do, my parents did not use the campers lights simply because the damn lights got too hot and melted the polycarbonate dome causing it to sag. They used too high a wattage bulbs but the ones that were rated for the fixture you could not even read by.
A quick bit of searching and i found appropriately sized cool white 108 lumen 12 volt led panels, they took forever to arrive but a a price of 2 dollars apiece on a bulk order in november i would not expect them to arrive any time soon anyways.
Considering the life expectancy of leds drops quite a bit at higher temperatures and that the panel would be enclosed i decided to add a heatsink. Mounting the lights ended up being easier, i simply broke the the glass and soldered the panel directly onto the wire that held the filament. The result was alot sturdier than i thought it would be and required no modification to the fixture. The heatsink was attached using some silicone thermal glue.
The result was impressive, the light given off was much better than the original bulbs. A much better brighter white light. The leds get around 35c after being left on for an hour... considering that they will not be under continuous use and will only be used seasonally i would expect them to last the life of the camper.
A few of the led panels exhibit problems when they heat up