In addition to the 230-volt lights, my caravan was fitted with four fluorescent ceiling lights, which were OK and all working well, but if there’s room for an improvement at a modest cost, I like to modify. So the improvement with the change to LED is that they provide a similar amount of light, but at a reduced demand on the 12 volt battery. So for the past few weeks, I’ve been converting the fluorescent fittings to LED.. After the fitting has been removed from the ceiling, it needs to be completely dismantled.
The original fitting with cover removed.
The dismantled fitting.
All of it, except for the back-plate, the end covers and the switch can be got rid of. The back plates on mine are ridged and quite thin, so I purchased a one metre length of 50mmx3mm aluminium strip. The strip was cut into suitable lengths to fit between the end caps and was then attached to the base plate with double -backed adhesive pads. Adhesive pads are sufficient because when the fitting is screwed to the ceiling, the screws pass through the aluminium strips.
The back plate with reinforcement strip
LED strip can be purchased by the metre, five metres or even 10metres. It comes in 8mm and 10mm widths. It can also be waterproof or not. The waterproofing is a strip of plastic covering the individual LEDs. Since it’s being used inside, non-waterproof is fine. Finally, the strips are graded by Lumen from cold to warm white. Reels of LED strip and connectors are available from Amazon or ebay.
The reel as it arrives
The individual strips need to be connected together. This can be done by soldering short lengths of wire however, snap connectors can be bought – and again these come in 8 and 10mm widths.
The strips of LED should only be cut at the marks indicated along the length of the ribbon – about every 50mm or so.. Each side is also marked positive or negative, since they are polarity conscious. Get the strips the wrong way round, and they won’t work. Once they are cut, they need to be joined with the connectors. Under the hinged cover there are two tiny terminals. The cut ends push under the terminals. When the cover is closed, the pressure holds the strip in place. I found it best to join the four lengths, then test, before fixing them down on the base plate. Having made sure each strip works, the protective backing is peeled off and then fixed to the base plate. To control the light, the original switch needs to be incorporated into the circuit so there’s a little bit of soldering to do. The soldered joints are insulated with lengths of heat-shrink.
Strips of LED connected and mounted.
After the ceiling lights were completed, I added some lengths of LED strip under the curtain pelmets around the seating area of the van.
The converted ceiling light
LED lights are designed to work on a 12 volts supply, but usually our caravans when plugged into the mains are operating at 13.8 volts. When they operate at the higher voltage, the LEDs tend to overheat. The adhesive can then begin to melt and loose it’s grip and over time, some of the individual LEDs can even fail. The answer is to run the lights at a controlled 12 volts. From the caravan fuse box, I identified the two wires supplying the ceiling lights. I cut the cables and inserted a drop down converter.
The converter fitted into the caravan wiring
Without the converter fitted, after a couple of hours, the pelmet LEDs were running at around 70C. With the converter fitted, they run at not more than 30C.