RV LED Lights, Conserve Battery Power & Camp Longer

Nighttime with motorhome LED patio light illuminating the campsite and forest meadow

It’s no surprise that RV LED lights are seeing the light of day. The advantages are just too good to pass up. These state-of-the-art lights sip only a little battery juice, can outlast you and your RV, and are as bright or brighter than standard RV lighting.

LED light bulb replacement
This RV LED light bulb is a direct replacement for 1156/1141 incandescent bulbs

Because LEDs consume very little power, you can extend your RV boondocking adventures. Another big advantage is they produce far less heat, keeping your motorhome or travel trailer cooler and reducing the need to use power hungry air conditioning – another boon for boondocking.

Light emitting diodes have been around since 1962, but only recently has the technology been developed for RV use. It’s now possible to replace every incandescent, halogen, and fluorescent light in your RV with LED lights. You’ll find direct replacements that make switching over to LEDs as easy as changing a light bulb. You can also buy LED light fixtures that are designed to take full advantage of this revolutionary technology.

Since many RVers have questions about LED lighting, I’m going to fill in the blanks with this article. We’ll go over LED advantages and disadvantages, color temperature, brightness, and what to look for when choosing RV LED lights.

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Awesome LEDs

If you’re still on the fence about switching over to LEDs, this section is for you. Here are some reasons why LED lights have become such a huge success with other RVers…

  • Extremely Energy Efficient – LED lights draw roughly 1/10th the power that standard incandescent and halogen lights consume. By saving the drain on your batteries you can go RV boondocking for longer periods. Your battery bank can be smaller and you’ll need less solar power to keep your batteries charged.
  • Won’t Fade Interior – They produce no UV light so they won’t fade or discolor your furniture, drapes, or walls like incandescent and halogen lighting.
  • Mercury Free – LED lights don’t contain mercury or lead like fluorescent lights do.
  • Long Life – They can shine for up to 60,000 hours. That’s nearly 7 years of light. Compare that to 2,000 hours for an incandescent bulb and 1,000 hours for a halogen. You’ll likely never have to replace an LED light.
  • Bright – You’ll find RV LED lights that are as bright or brighter than the incandescent, halogen, and fluorescent lights they replace.
  • Much Cooler – They produce less heat and won’t burn your fingers while lit. Incandescent and halogen bulbs burn at 200 degrees Fahrenheit while LEDs burn at 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit. LEDs won’t heat up the inside of your RV like standard lights, keeping you cooler and giving your air conditioner a break.
  • Instant Light – Once you flip the switch, the light comes on instantly at full brightness. You don’t have to wait for the light to brighten as with fluorescent lights.
  • Very Tough – They’re able to withstand the rigors of RV travel and they won’t break due to vibrations or jarring.
  • Safer – Because LEDs are tougher, last longer, brighten quicker, and use less power they are much safer and more reliable than standard bulbs when used in tail lights, brake lights, turn signals, and head lamps. When used in brake lights, LEDs have been proven to provide following vehicles more stopping distance. This is because they brighten sooner, giving following drivers more time to react.

The Dark Side?

There isn’t really a dark side to LEDs, but there are a few things to look out for…

Higher Initial Cost

LED lights can cost 10 times as much as comparable incandescent light bulbs. But once you’ve converted your RV to LED lighting you’ll save money: LEDs use less battery power so you can get away with a smaller battery bank. You also won’t need as much solar power to keep the batteries charged when boondocking. LEDs produce less heat, giving your air conditioner a break along with your generator when it’s used to power the A/C. So in reality this is just the price of admission to a show that pays you back.

LED light tube
This LED light tube replaces 12-inch fluorescent light tubes found in RVs

Voltage Sensitivity

An RV’s 12-volt house system experiences voltage fluctuations that can damage LED lights. RV LED lights use voltage regulators to compensate for these voltage fluctuations. For this reason it’s crucial to choose an LED light that is made for RV use. I once purchased five standard automotive LED lights for use as interior lighting. All but one failed within a year. I found out the hard way that standard automotive LEDs should not be used for interior lighting.


It may sound strange that a cooler burning LED light can overheat, but it is possible. If the ambient temperature is high enough and the LED lacks an adequate heat sink, the LED can overheat leading to failure. Overheating can also occur when a standard automotive LED is used for interior lighting. RV LED lights have good heat sinks and voltage regulators so overheating shouldn’t be a problem. This is just another reason why it’s important to choose an LED light that is made for RV use.

The Color of Light

RV LED lights have a color temperature rating that tells you how warm or white the light will be. Lights with a higher color temperature rating will produce a whiter light. Lower color temperatures produce warmer colors.

Switching your interior lights to a different color temperature can have a dramatic effect on the look of your RV living areas. If you prefer the warm color of standard incandescent lighting you’ll want to choose an RV LED light with a color temperature rating of around 2,700 K.

Warmer color temperatures promote relaxation whereas cooler color temperatures help with concentration. You might want to consider this when choosing the lighting for a specific room. For instance, you could use a cooler LED light for an office/work area and a warmer LED light for the bedroom.

Here are some common examples that show the range of color temperatures.



1,850 KCandle Flame, Sunrise, Sunset
2,700 KIncandescent Light Bulb
3,400 KWhite Fluorescent Light
5,000 KSunlight at Noon
6,500 KOvercast Sky


The brightness of RV LED lights is measured in lumens. A typical 1156 incandescent bulb produces 400 lumens. You have to keep in mind that incandescent light shines outward in all directions and some of it is wasted within the light fixture.

Many LED lights on the other hand produce directional light. Directional light can appear brighter, so less lumens are usually needed to brighten up your RV’s interior. This is why many LED lights have a lower lumen rating than incandescent light bulbs.

RV LED light fixture by Starlights
RV LED light fixture by Starlights

When replacing an incandescent bulb with an RV LED bulb in a light fixture that was designed for incandescent light, you may notice a reduction in brightness. In order to fully take advantage of the directional light produced by LED lights you’ll need to use a light fixture that was designed for LEDs.

You’ll find several RV light fixtures on the market today that are made specifically for LED lights. These light fixtures will provide maximum brightness, while using LEDs that consume minimal battery power.

Choose Wisely

Here are some important points to consider when choosing RV LED lights.

  • If the LED is going to be used for interior lighting, make sure it has a voltage regulator. Without a voltage regulator an LED can fail within a few months.
  • Pick an LED with a color temperature that suits your tastes and that matches your other lights, if you want a consistent look.
  • A warranty is nice to have considering the higher cost of LEDs. If a light should fail within months, you’ll be protected.
  • When outfitting your light fixtures with RV LED bulbs, check the dimensions to be sure the bulb will fit in your light fixture. LED bulbs can sometimes be larger than the incandescent and halogen bulbs they replace.

RV LED Manufacturers

When lighting your RV’s interior with LEDs it’s important to choose a light that is made for RV use. These companies make RV LED lights that can handle the voltage fluctuations your house batteries experience.

A Perfect Match

LEDs are a perfect match for RVs of all types, especially for those that go off the beaten path. Upgrading your standard power hungry/heat producing lights will bring your RV up to speed, and once it’s done, it should last a lifetime.

Featured image by Rob Hayman

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