Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Follow-up Post on Lighting

Sorry it took me so long to get back to this topic.

When we started replacing our lighting in our travel trailer we didn't know whether we should go for fluorescent or LED lighting.  We wanted good, even lighting, cool burning bulbs and something relatively economical to use.  We tried both and I have come to a two part conclusion.

1.)   LED lighting is popular, cutting edge, and sure to improve.  It is also very bright.  You can get it in a variety of colors, or degrees of warmth, you have a good variety of options for output, and a LOT of design options.  LED's are also the most economical to use.  If you have to monitor your power usage closely, LED's are probably the best choice.  They also last a lot longer than any of the alternatives.

I put my LED light fixture over my kitchen sink, just under a cabinet.  The first thing I noticed was that it's very bright in the immediate area, and since it was in my kitchen I really liked that.  It wasn't long that I began to realize that the  light doesn't really spread much.  It lights the immediate area very well, but at night, when the rest of the room is dark, I noticed that it really doesn't illuminate much beyond the cabinet area at all.  It's possible that it's got something to do with the fact that I mounted it under a cabinet, even though it is mounted near the front, but I really believe it has more to do with the lights.

They have strange covers over the lights on all the fixtures I saw, presumably to disperse the light more evenly.  The cover on the one I got makes a strange sort of amber-ish "rainbow" effect at the edges of the light pattern.  Being under my cabinet and shining directly onto my counter top and sink it was very obvious and took a long time to get used to.  I did, however get used to it, and it's a non issue now.

2.)  I personally find the lighting from the fluorescent bulbs preferable for a couple of reasons.  It is a cool light, like the LED we chose, and it's also bright without being harsh or glaring.  Some people have experienced problems such as headaches and dizziness when exposed to fluorescent lighting for extended periods, but you know who you are.  Don't use them.  For the rest of us, I find they are satisfactory, even pleasant.  They are quite bright without creating big, harsh shadows.

The fluorescent lights also spread and lights around the whole area well.  There's no weird pattern in the light coming through from the light cover because they either come with a plain cover or no cover at all.  Unfortunately, there aren't many design options, so if you are looking for something stylish you may be in for quite a shopping adventure.

The bottom line:  If you're off grid and have to be very careful with power consumption, LED is probably the way to go.  They are long lasting and use very little power.  ( some elementary info and stats I collected on power usage are on my other blog page: here.)

If you are not quite as concerned about the power usage, the fluorescent lights seem like a better choice to me.  Fluorescent lights are much easier on power than regular lights, but not as good as the LED's.  They last a lot longer than regular lights, but not quite as long as an LED.  From my limited experiment with them, they seem to illuminate larger areas better than LED's and they cast no weird light patterns.  Replacement bulbs for fluorescent fixtures are much cheaper and (so far) easier for me to to find locally than replacements for the LED fixtures.

Although I don't know a whole lot about all this, I am speculating that since LED's are newer in the market, they're probably still improving and changing them a lot.  That's good for the future of LED lighting, but in the short run, if industry standards are still being determined, it could mean that your fixture could become obsolete.  The lights may be modified to the degree that they no longer fit older fixtures and you could have trouble finding replacements.  Maybe, maybe not.

Now, where does that leave me and what will I be choosing?  Drum roll please:
I think that with as many fixtures as most RV's have, if all or most of them were LED, there would be plenty of light to cover, so I can scratch that from the list's negative column.  The weird light patterns are just something I'd have to adjust to, and I can: scratch.  Replacement bulbs might be an issue at some point, but they last SO LONG that it might never be a big problem.  If I buy a few replacements now, while I know they'll fit, I probably would never have to worry about them: scratch.  We plan to go off grid, and with that, power usage will be a very, very important consideration.  LED's win on that one BIG.  The original expense of the fixture with lights already in them is the same or very close no matter which way you go with it, so that isn't a factor.  I may put fluorescent fixtures in strategic places for occasional use because I like them, say in the center of a room or maybe leave the one in the bathroom, but for overall daily use, I'm going with LED.

Please feel free to comment with your views on it.  I haven't gone out and bought all I'll be needing, so I am still open for suggestions and corrections.   :)