A Guide to Caravan Lighting

The holiday season may be coming to an end, but if you don’t like overly hot weather and still want to enjoy the best Australia has got to give, then exploring the country in mild autumn temperatures in a caravan is exactly what you need. The number of registered caravans, campervans and bigger recreational vehicles are on the rise, and so are rentals. This also means that the number of dedicated caravanning accessories is also growing by the day, with the end goal of providing convenience and bringing some (if not all) of the luxuries of home while on the road.

12-volt caravan light
Source: englaon.com.au

The majority of these small appliances and devices (fans, kettles, heaters, ovens, portable fridges, hairdryers as well as necessities like water pumps and air compressors) run on 12V power from the secondary deep-cycle battery. This is topped up by solar or generators. Another accessory that uses the same power supply is your humble 12-volt caravan light.

Combined, lights not only enhance visibility in pitch-dark settings most caravans end up in, but also provide security, safety and an ambience fit for a holiday. While newer vehicles also come with newer caravan LED lights, older caravans can easily make the change from incandescent and halogen lights to this more efficient tech. The benefits are more brightness, better all-around visibility, lower power draw, less generated heat and the fact that you’ll be saving money in the long run by not having to change bulbs all that often.

What to Look for in Caravan Lighting?

Location and Purpose

12 V lighting can be used both indoors and outdoors, within different parts of the caravan and adjoining spaces like annexes. The confined indoor spaces aren’t exactly brimming with light even during the day, so caravan lights and lamps will be on most of the time. To ensure an even spread of light, bright overhead lighting is combined with wall-mount lights (in different locations) and light strips sitting at shoulder height and with lower power output and shorter throw.

You’ll want balanced lighting (combined with natural light during the day) and something that is easy on the eyes.
For exterior lights, consider areas that are hard to spot such as door handles, and have lights that brighten the surrounding areas without encroaching on your neighbour’s personal space (preferably with dimmer switches). Lights outside will be a bit brighter, but you still want to enjoy the view.

Lighting Efficiency and Power Draw

The different types of bulbs not only produce different amounts of brightness but also consume varying amounts of power doing so. This is important for a few reasons. If you have more power-hungry appliances or higher power needs in general, you’ll need the right battery setup (in terms of capacity and charging) to have everything working as it should. And this also means the lights.

led caravan lights
Source: rvservicecentre.com.au

Flickering or dimming lights are a sign that they’re draining the battery and you’ll soon be needing a charger (or generator) or have a mains connection nearby. For an enjoyable trip, consider going with lights that are more efficient and don’t require much to work. LEDs work best in this respect, without forgoing brightness, or leaving certain areas in and around your caravan or campervan in the dark. As a comparison older incandescent and halogen lights can use up to 3 times more power for the same brightness.

Durability, Brightness Levels and Colour Temperatures

LEDs have lower power draw due to less power being lost to heat. This also helps with durability and safety as there are no filaments, glass or gases. And a 12-volt caravan light fitted with LEDs will last much longer (around 50 thousand hours), while not costing much more.

Brightness isn’t affected by outside factors like high temperatures and vibrations so campers get consistent lighting with fast ‘on’ times. And the colour temperatures are more towards that of natural lighting (stated in Kelvin) so easier on the eyes. You can also get LEDs in different colours and colour combinations to create effects and the ambience you want.

Types of Caravan Lights

Based on how and where they’re used, caravan lights can be grouped into two basic categories – indoor and outdoor lights. Indoor lights can be further divided into dome and panel lights, good for overhead lighting, and pendant reading lights in lower outputs. Focussed beams and smaller sizes, flush-mount lights sitting neatly with the caravan walls and other surfaces, wall-mount lights with the ability to brighten different areas and light strips in varying lengths for accenting different parts of the caravan and for discreet lighting. While you won’t be using every light at the same time, combining several of these can produce some interesting results. All variations are sold in standard or compact sizes and can be mixed and matched according to needs and available space.

indoor and outdoor caravan lights
Source: glampercaravanhire.com.au

Exterior lights are often bigger, have sealed (metal) housings to last against rain and impact and are more powerful since they need to cast more light further. Typical examples are annexe lights, lights integrated into door handles, general exterior lights and light strips. These can be combined with other outdoor lighting solutions like lanterns.

Other Considerations

If you’ve spent a fair amount of cash on the caravan or whilst updating the interior, you’ll also want lights with a bit of style. Designs, exterior materials and shapes abound and are more of a personal preference than outright practicality, so choose what catches the eye. You’ll also want lights that are easy to use with features such as touch-sensitive switches, dimming options, a fair amount of adjustability and light switches with integrated USB ports. Lastly, consider how everything will be wired. Lower-powered options like light strips can be hooked up to said USB ports, while bigger lights need to be connected to the battery with the right wiring.