For those that have an enclosed trailer, or RV, you know that you can never have enough light. However, when you add more light you often make trade-offs - namely higher current draw, which can overload wiring, run down batteries, increase heat in places you don't want it to, etc. I set out on a quest to improve the lighting in our trailer, while trying to minimize the downsides.
The SLEDSPACE.COM trailer is an enclosed that has three single bulb dome lights installed from the factory. These lights each utilize a 921 series automotive bulb, similar to what is used in the vastly underpowered back up lights in many vehicles. These lights are powered off of a 12v automotive battery that is installed on the trailer, which is charged from the truck while towing.
To easily add more light I had two options:
1) Add additional lights.
2) Replace the existing lights and/or fixtures with something brighter.
Adding additional lights was a less than ideal option, as it required more install time and some possible re-engineering of the existing lighting system, could possibly overload the wiring that was installed when the trailer was built and would reduce the available run-time of the lights.
One option I considered was changing the existing single bulb fixtures to two-bulb fixtures, but this presented similar issues - as I would be doubling the electrical draw and possibly facing the same challenges as above. The best bet was to look for a brighter bulb, one that would not adversely affect the trailers wiring and power supply.
With this in mind I looked at some incandescent bulb options, which turned out to be a no-go for a variety of reasons. I started looking at some of the LED bulb offerings, but was not impressed with the end-result many people reported. It seemed that the LED 921 bulb replacements were no better than the incandescents, and in many cases worse in real-world applications.
After doing a fair amount of research, I found an RV interior LED retrofit lighting kit from Rigid Industries. I actually couldn't find much information on this particular product and lighting application, but I know that Rigid makes the best LED light bars in the industry, and backs their products 100%, so I went for it.
The Rigid RV interior lighting product is a PC board with high-power surface mount LED's. It comes in two versions: a three LED 315 lumen model - RVLED 350 LUMEN - and a six LED 450 lumen model - RVLED 450 LUMEN. What makes the RVLED lights even cooler, is that they come with a generic electrical lead off the of the board, and you tell Rigid what kind of bulb you are replacing and they send you the correct adapter for you plug/base type. They have bases for a number of different bulb types.
Wanting to get as much light as possible in the trailer, I went with three of the RVLED 450 LUMEN models - with the 921 base adapter.
Installing the lights was as easy as changing a bulb. I simply removed the light lens, removed the bulb, plugged the base adapter into the bulb socket, affixed the board to the inside of the light fixture with the included double sided foam tape and replaced the fixture lens. Retrofitting all three lights took me less than five minutes.
I wanted to perform a fairly objective test between the two, as I knew that the lighting types would be a bit different (incandescent vs. LED). Before I performed the lighting changeover, I made sure it was dark outside and hooked my truck up to the trailer, leaving it running. I wanted to eliminate variables related to power supply or ambient light when I compared the before and after. I also set up a light meter near the center of the trailer, a little more than two meters away from the nearest light (floor to ceiling) and in between two fixtures (so the light from any one fixture would not shine directly into the meter). Here are the results:
Incandescent: 24 LUX
LED: 30 LUX
This works out to a 25% increase in measured light output. A hugely successful result in my opinion.
However, the added light output is not the only benefit. The new LED's also have an advantage in that they draw 1/5th of the power of the 921 bulbs they replaced.
921 Incandescent Bulb: 1.4 Amps (Sylvania specification)
RVLED 450: .28 Amps (Rigid specification)
With three bulbs I was drawing about 4.2 Amps with the 921. Three of the Rigid RVLED 450 units only draw about .84 Amps - the three LED's draw less than one of the 921 incandescent bulbs. While these specs are somewhat theoretical, it illustrates that the LED's are much more efficient - making things easier on the power supply and trailer wiring. By significantly reducing the power draw of the existing light fixtures, I actually have the flexibility to add additional lighting or accessories down the road.
Other huge advantages to the LED's:
On cold days with a battery that is a little drained, I am likely to have even more light than the incandescents - as it will be easier for the battery to run them at full brightness.
LED's do not lose some of their luminosity over time like incandescents do.
LED's are less prone to burning out or damage from rough handling.
LED's produce less heat than incandescents.
Overall I am very pleased with the end-result, and feel that this was a worthwhile upgrade. I like the bright white light that they emit, and my trailer seems much less "shadowy" than before. As an added benefit, the white lighting also seems to make the interior of the trailer "pop" a little more.
You can get the RVLED 450 LUMEN - PN RGDRVLED6 - at:
After - The camera may have adjusted the shutter speed for the lighting conditions, but compare the light on the ramp to get a sense of the additional light output