RVing 101 Guide: Lighting

A brief guide on RV lighting for beginners

RV lighting indoors and out
RV lighting is more complicated than you might think, especially when traveling. Andy Reynolds/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Not too long ago you had the sun, stars, and flame as your only sources of light. Thomas Edison and countless other lighting pioneers have since changed that and just about everywhere you go have an artificial source of light, including RVs. If you want to be able to see and make sure you aren’t overtaxing your electrical system you will need the proper lighting.

If you thought a light was just a light you’ll soon find you’re mistaken because we’re taking you back to RV school with RV lighting 101. 

RV Lighting 101 

RV Lighting Options 

Gone are the days when there were one or two kinds of lighting or bulbs available. There is now a host of options. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular lighting options on RVs and get into the pros and cons of each. 

Incandescent Lighting 

Think of the light sources of your childhood and you are most likely picturing incandescent light bulbs and lighting. Incandescent light has gotten flack in recent years for its large energy appetite compared to its low light output as the majority of energy in an incandescent light turns to heat and not light. 

Pros of Incandescent Lighting

  • Cheap at the point of sale
  • Many people enjoy the “ambiance” that incandescent lighting creates

Cons of Incandescent Lighting

  • Inefficient 
  • Higher power consumption and utility bills
  • Short lifespan
  • Being eliminated from the market due to poor energy efficiency 

Fluorescent and Compact Fluorescent Lighting (CFLs)

As the days of incandescent lighting come to an end, fluorescent and compact fluorescent lighting have taken its place. Fluorescent lighting uses excited mercury vapor and a phosphor coating to produce light. The corkscrew looking lights? Those are the best example of compact fluorescent lighting. 

Pros of Florescent Lighting

  • Energy efficiency saves money
  • Long lifespan

Cons of Fluorescent Lighting

  • Fluorescent lighting can be too “harsh” or bright for some people 
  • Takes time to warm up 
  • More expensive at point of sale

Light Emitting Diode (LED) Lighting

Light emitting diode (LED) lighting has been around for several years but new regulations, interest in energy-efficient applications and developments in technology have made LED lighting a popular option in all applications including RVing where energy consumption may need to be monitored. LED uses electroluminescence in a semiconductor to produce light. 

Pros of LED Lighting

  • Energy efficient 
  • New technology and development have given consumers more options of color and brightness
  • Long lifespan with some products lasting tens of thousands of hours
  • Creates more direct points of light for focused lighting

Cons of LED Lighting

  • Most expensive at point of buy
  • Cheap LED lighting may wear out or flicker

How to Improve Up Your RV’s Lighting 

RVs can have a long useful life, but some of these older RVs may have older lighting fixtures that use specialized and custom incandescent lighting bulbs. A large problem with this is that some RVers may have trouble finding proper replacement bulbs leaving RVers in the dark. 

Many CFL bulbs can be used in applications where you would use incandescent lighting, but this is not always the case. If some of your lighting fixtures are passed their prime in an otherwise solid RV it may be time to consider upgrading. 

Try visiting your local RV store or take your ride down to the dealership. They can work with you to determine problem areas and make proper lighting changes like installing energy efficient LED lamps, track lighting, overhead lighting and more. Use this opportunity not only to upgrade the type of lights you use but also their placement to have an RV that is lit to your standards. 

Light is out a literal way to see the world and it goes without saying that your RV should be outfitted when it comes to lighting. Now that you know the pros and cons of different lighting types you can consider upgrading your old school incandescent fixtures to energy efficient CFLs or LED lighting.