Updated March 2016

Lighting for caravans has changed. Now, by far the most practical and least energy drawing are LEDs (light emitting diodes). This article shows why.

The best LED lighting for caravans now provides ten to twenty times as much light for the same energy as incandescent lighting. And ten times that of halogen lighting. An LED’s high efficiency is partly due to its light being concentrated as a cone. In LEDs used for lighting for caravans, some light will be reflected from light coloured surfaces. If the need is to evenly light an entire room or space, compact fluorescents still do so for similar energy use and lower price.

LEDs work most efficiently as lighting for caravans such as individual reading lights and cooking areas. They are fine for outdoor lighting as long as you do not want to illuminate the sky. They make good night lights as they draw so little energy  there is no risk of depleting a caravan’s 12 volt supply.

Lighting for caravans – types and outputs

Low wattage (3-5 watt) LEDs fit the MR 11 thin dual pin bases. Those from 5-10 or so watts fit the MR 16 dual pin bases (used for 35 and 50 watt halogen globes). The MR 11 LED globe has pins 4.0 mm apart, and is a maximum of 35 mm diameter. The MR 16 has pins 5.3 mm apart, and has a maximum diameter of 51 mm.led-bulb-spotlight-mr16-12v-dc-1

This typical five watt MR 16 base LED produces light in a 60 degree cone – ideal for reading etc.

The MR 11 and MR 16 are fine for caravan and motor homes. Their tiny pins do not however grip sufficiently over rough tracks etc. The latter requires MR 16 light fittings that secure the globes securely in place.

The GU10 style LEDs have thicker two-diameter pins and are inserted with a push and twist action. These are made in larger wattages. Many are supplied with tiny power converters that enable them to be run from 230 volts.

LED GU10

The GU10 based LEDs have pins that hold the globes firmly in place. 

Lighting for caravans – LEDs ease cabling issues

A major benefit of LEDs in lighting for caravans is that many caravans and motor homes have 12 volt wiring that was often far too small. This caused lights to flicker or dim when the fridge cycled on. LEDs for lighting in caravans draw so little energy that the original wiring is more than ample. They are also less sensitive to voltage drop.

LED strips are useful for lighting dark cupboards etc. They provide ample light yet draw next no power.

Whilst an LED’s power rating is in watts, this gives only a rough indication of the light produced. The reason is (a) LED efficiency varies a lot from brand to brand, but is substantially price related. A really good (e.g. Cree) 5 watt LED is likely to produce two to three times as much light as a 5 watt eBay special. The best indication is the output in lumens (a measure of the total light emitted). The more lumens per watt, the greater the efficiency. As an indicator a top quality 10 watt LED (of 2016) produce as much light as a 100 watt incandescent.

Lighting for caravans – the cone of light

There is a further complication. This is that most LEDs produce light in a cone. This may be from 15 degrees to about 140 degrees. There is none (but reflected) light outside that cone. Because of this an LED of say 250 lumens may be just fine for a reading lamp but not where a broader spread is required. Any good lighting shop will have demonstration examples.

(Right now a typical caravan is not likely to need more than four or five good quality 5-watt LEDs, in most cases only one or two will be needed at any one time).

LED globes are made in varying shades of white. They vary from the warm white of incandescents to a hospital operating room’s harsh white. For those who prefer a ‘warmish’ light use LEDs that have a ‘colour temperature’ of 3100 degrees K (Kelvin) or at most, 4000 degrees K.

Some people report excellent value ultra-cheap LEDS from eBay. Our own experience is that whilst cheap they vary hugely in quality and reliability. Despite having some 80 LEDs in our three-story home we now buy only the top brand name products.

Lighting for caravans – further information

LED lighting in camper trailers, caravans and motorhomes is covered in depth in my all-new Caravan & Motorhome Book. It is also covered in the Camper Trailer Book, and Caravan & Motorhome Electrics. The latter covers every aspect of the design and installation of electrics and solar in camper trailers, caravans and motor homes. Even auto electricians use it as a text and reference book. Solar That Really Works! covers every aspect of using solar in camper trailers, caravans and motor homes, Solar Success is for home and property systems. For information about the author please Click on Bio.

This topic often come up on forums. If you feel this article may assist others please consider posting this Link on the relevant thread.