Wednesday, March 29, 2023


Customize your RV: Start with the lighting

During the past three years, I’ve queried numerous RVers about what they’d like to change in their home on wheels. Comments like, “I didn’t know you could do that!” or, “I’d like to replace the couch but don’t know what to replace it with…” occur often.

The importance of an experienced RV cottage industry for all RVs

So where do you go if you want to give your traveling home a facelift? Three years ago, my spouse and I were introduced to an extensive cottage industry for all-things-interior located in and around Red Bay, Alabama. Bob Tiffin, CEO of Tiffin Motorhomes, reiterated how important experienced folks’ skills are when updating or customizing your motorhome, 5th wheel or trailer. It makes no difference what make or model. Bob mentioned at least ten facilities, most started by experienced Tiffin employees, within 30 minutes of Red Bay, Alabama. I found Bob’s nonchalant honesty quite refreshing when he said, “If you want something done to your home on wheels, you’ll find it within 30 minutes of Red Bay.”

Davidson RV, Bob Tiffin’s number one referral for all things interior for your motorhome, 5th wheel or trailer.

This is a series of minor to major customizing projects showcasing many RVers’ dreams, which may inspire you to update or customize your own rig. This first installment deals with lighting and ceiling upgrades. The ensuing articles address custom and functional cabinetry, installing televators and seating enjoyment, updating flooring and RV decor “bling.”

Why LED over incandescent or fluorescent lighting?

LED lighting/bulbs are substantially more energy efficient than standard incandescent and fluorescent lighting that remain in RVs today. Incandescent lights create heat. Remember trying to unscrew a 60-watt lightbulb from a lamp right after you turned it off? You would have burned your fingers. Switching to LEDs in your home on wheels requires less amperage when operating. A boon to your inverter.

An example of the types of LED bulbs that are in the lights featured in this article.

Choose the right LED bulb or fixture for the ambiance you desire.

How do you choose the right LED bulb to fit the area of living space where you desire more or less light? When choosing bulbs or light fixtures containing LED bulbs, look for the color and brightness you may be seeking.

The Kelvin Scale

LEDs are available in warm yellowish colors that mimic incandescent lights (low k number) to the brighter daylight (high k number) colors that are white or bluish-white.

2700 warm light . . . 3000 . . . 3500 cool white . . . 4000 . . . 5000 bright white . . . 6500 daylight

You choose the bulb based on Kelvin numbers (sometimes abbreviated with a “K” in the specification) describing the color temperature or luminescence. Below are bathroom lights that were replaced with the round flat LEDs pictured above (these are the bulbs on Amazon). Notice the whiteness difference from the ceiling and salon wall lighting featured below.

The ceiling lights pictured above are custom-made by Nathan Davidson of Davidson RV to replace the plastic rectangular lights that use fluorescent bulbs. These lights can be plain to match the color of the ceiling, or they can be made to a more exotic stained base to dress up the ceiling. The choice is yours.

Custom decorative ceiling lights and vent covers by in this owner’s 2013 Allegro Bus.

Examples of serious cost savings using LED lights.

LED bulbs compared to, say, a 60-watt lightbulb, use approximately 1/10 of the electricity wattage, 1/10 annual kilo-watt hours used, and are 1/10 the annual cost. A typical LED’s lifespan is exponentially longer than incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.

Slim torchiere with LED bulbs at 4000k replaced the outdated small lamps.

You choose the vast array of LED bulbs to replace the hot, energy-hog incandescent lighting by the numbers. This light in the salon was modified using one of the LED pucks pictured above. Regardless of your RV’s current lighting, you can improve the luminescence or brightness while reducing amperage usage.


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Tommy Molnar
5 months ago

I wish Red Bay wasn’t a zillion miles from home!

1 year ago

Lighting really does make all the difference when doing some modifications.

Mike Sherman
1 year ago

If manufacturers insist on installing rope lights for exterior lighting, they should also install the standard single bulb porch light common years ago so the owner has the option of avoiding turning the area into an aircraft landing zone. The neighbors would appreciate the little yellow porch light, unless they are coming over for a patio party, then crank up those rope lights!

1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Sherman

Great point! We barely use our awning lighting that is the rope style.

Bob M
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike Sherman

I agree, my Jayflight doesn’t have a porch light. I don’t like using the LED rope light. I also can’t stand the blue lights. They bother my eyes.

Wayne Caldwell
1 year ago

We replaced all of our interior incandescent bulbs with LEDs and then replaced the fluorescent tubes with stick-on LEDs. Major difference on our interior lighting and fairly simple operation on the fluorescent fixtures.

Gloria Sluder
1 year ago
Reply to  Wayne Caldwell

We just did the same. Love the new lighting

1 year ago

Led’s are the wave of now. Be careful about the “k” value. 6500K is very bright and the blueish tint is hard on the eyes. Have been slowly converting to LED.
Looks like a visit to Red Bay.

Jean Painter
1 year ago
Reply to  Tom

We LOVE the cool high “K” value lights. They give out so much more light than the yelloish warm lights. It’s a personal choice.

Having said that, we are both in our mid 70s and always need as much light as possible to see.

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