I’ve read every thread dealing with LED lighting eagerly, to see what folks were doing. Been researching this for some months. Seems newer coaches have center ceiling-mounted fixture and puck style lighting; my old bus is filled with Thin-lite fluorescents everywhere, many of which are exposed. Replacing them with another fixture would require something with an equal or larger footprint so as to not leave imprints from the previous fixtures visible.
From what I had seen, most LED lighting offered, while using less power, also produced less light. I didn’t think my coach was particularly well lit, to begin with, and after a lot of reading it seemed that on a lumens/watt basis, fluorescents were still out front. Then I stumbled upon marine beam – Replacement LED bulbs for your existing boat fixtures. Hmmm – don’t need to change the fixtures – just mod and relamp. Sounded good.
This is one of the few web sites offering LED lighting which actually lists useful data on their products, as opposed to descriptions such as “super bright” (compared to what?). While I found some specs at a few other sites offering fluorescent LED replacements, no one came close to what marine beam is offering.
Looking at the specs for the F8T5 lamps (12 inches, 8-watt fluorescent), you have:
MarineBeam – LED Fluorescent Replacement T5 Tube – 4.5 watts, 0.35 amps, 560 lumens
So the Thin-lite provides 50 lumens per watt and the marine beam 124 lumens per watt. Replacing the fluorescent lamp with the LED lamp will provide 40% more light using only 44% of the power of the fluorescent. They have constant current drivers built in to account for ever-changing battery bank voltage. And a 2-year warranty to boot. Please note – this is comparing cool white to cool white color rendering. Many have said they prefer warm white, which produces less light, be it fluorescent or LED. I personally prefer cool white as it provides truer color rendering.
They are not cheap, but – in my case, I had to replace most of the ballasts in the coach at $25 apiece and up, and gee, better carry spares, too, then new lamps and more spares… suddenly the LEDs lamps are not so expensive after all. And I don’t need spare anything and don’t need to replace lamps annually. Sounded good.
After exchanging a couple of emails, I did a bulk purchase to replace all the lamps in the coach (except for the indirect T-8 lamps in the blinds – I’ll deal with those later). This came to 12 of the F8T5 lamps, and 10 F13T5 lamps. FWIW – I asked if there was a volume discount – I was sent a discount code which saved me 10% on the purchase at checkout. I also got one of the marine fixtures to replace an under cabinet fluorescent the previous owner had installed (and made a mess of).
At this point, nothing has been installed yet; trying to finish up other projects before I do the relamping. I did, however, take some photos to compare the illumination of the Thin-lite fluorescent fixture to the Marinebeam LED lamp. I removed the under-counter fluorescent in the coach, installed a brand new Cool White lamp, then took the marine fixture with an LED lamp, and a regulated 12 volt DC supply (regulated at 13.8 VDC), and hooked everything up. I took the photos in the bright morning sun which comes through the kitchen windows, but my camera reacted to the light intensity by dimming itself to compensate – so the photos look like they were taken at night.
In my eyes, it’s no contest – the marine beam LED lamps are significantly brighter than the Thin-lite fluorescents, finally crossing the efficiency threshold (lumens/watt) that fluorescents have long held. Interesting that both lamps are cool white, but the fluorescent has more pink/yellow visible.
The LED lighting install began yesterday; my electrician friend came by so I set him loose on the lighting while I worked on the fridge install trim pieces and sorted out the engine bay. He was on a roll and insisted on working until it was done – which took until 10:15 pm last night. All that remains now is the three short fixtures around the bathroom vent fan and the under-cabinet light in the kitchen.
The difference is truly astonishing. You have to see it to believe it. The pictures don’t really do it. I wanted to do more comparison photos before and after, but half the existing lighting wasn’t working, so it wouldn’t be a fair test. I did take a couple of pictures of one side of the bedroom showing a pair of the F8 LED tubes next to a pair of F13 fluorescent lamps.
After removing lamps and covers, we looked at the installations and decided it would be easiest to just remove each fixture, modify it, then reinstall it. We encountered one mismatched fixture which had been previously changed and some previous owner wiring modifications which had to be straightened out. All the ballasts had been replaced at least once in this coach’s lifetime. No more.
Once the fixture was removed, the rivets securing the ballast were drilled out, and the wires were cut close to the ballast. Only one wire is needed at each socket, so the extra wiring was removed. A couple of pics below show a modified F8 fixture ready to be reinstalled. The fixtures were hard-wired back into place; where wire nuts had been being now crimped butt connectors.
I know most folks prefer warm white – but I like the pure white color of these lamps. Given how much brighter the coach is inside, I don’t see much need to ever have all the lamps on. Even just the hall light provides adequate lighting front to back to see where you’re going. The bedroom is bright enough that I can work on the engine without any supplemental lighting
A disclaimer regarding the photos – I’m from the point and click the school of photography. As such, the camera adjusted itself for the lighting in the frame, and consequently some photos appear brighter than was actually the case, and in a couple of shots, appeared dimmer. Someone who knew how to operate a camera could get much better results than I can. Some pics were taken at dusk, the rest after dark.
I’m very pleased with the transformation and end result. Probably been a very long time since all the lights worked in the coach.
Adding some colored mylar strips inside the diffuser lens’ can make a dramatic difference in the mood and intensity of the lighting. Something to play with when time allows. I’d rather have to dim a bright light than live with a dim light.