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12 Volt Fluorescent Light Fixture

If you have visited many of my pages I am sure you are aware that the majority of our camping consists of "Dry Camping", where electrical power is at a premium. One of the biggest "power hogs" in our Santa Fe is the two dual bulb incandescent light fixtures.  Without the ability to select one or both bulbs we were constantly worried about turning off the lights as it consumes in the area of 3 amps!

The first time I saw the fluorescent fixture in the Pop Up Time Web Store I was interested as it only uses 1 amp.  Now, PUT doesn't offer the lights anymore, but RV (read that as 12v DC) fluorescent fixtures are available many places.  Before you go running down to Lowes of Home Depot remember that you need 12v DC fixtures, NOT 110v AC home fixtures.  While the bulbs may be the same the ballast does not work on 12v.  before you ask, the ballast is the part of the fixture that raises the source voltage to the level need for the light to "start".

While many fixtures are available, be careful of deals that seem too good to be true.  Stick with major brands as they tend to last longer in the rough use of the RV world.  One of the major players in RV lighting is Thinline and they are available in many stores.

Now, the one I purchased did not have the 1/4" female 12v Dc power socket that you find on most RV light fixtures, but I went ahead and purchased one, deciding that I could add a 1/4" female 12v Dc power socket myself.

These photos are thumbnails, click on a picture to see a larger version

Here is the light I purchased.  It has 2 bright F8T5 lamps and only consumes 1 amp.

 

 

 

P0001756.jpg (53039 bytes)I added the 1/4" female 12v Dc power socket to the side of the fixture.  Be aware that there is not a lot of room inside the fixture to add things.  It required that a metal plate in the fixture be trimmed and the hole must be drilled in exactly the right spot.  Before you think I am really great at this, I must admit - I was lucky in the spot I decided to drill. I also decided not to connect to the electrical wiring inside the fixture.  I attached wires that were of sufficient length to connect directly to the camper power wires.

 

P0001764.jpg (26091 bytes)The 1/4" female 12v Dc power socket are actually nothing more than a 1/4" phono plug - you know the size a pair of headphones uses, only mono not stereo.  I got them at Radio Shack, part #  274-252B less than $2.00 for the package of 2.

 

 

 

P0001757.jpg (74174 bytes)I started the project by removing the stock light fixture.  Coleman lights are held in place by 4 rivets (one in each corner).  In the photo to the left you can see the two rivets on the right hand side in the corners. Before yo begin any work, remove the power to this light fixture by either pulling the fuse, or disconnecting the battery, assuming that the converter is not plugged in.  Using a drill bit slightly larger than the hole in the middle of the rivet SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY drill up into the rivet. When the drill reaches the level of the flight fixture the head of the rivet should come off

 

P0001759.jpg (45237 bytes)Here is the area of the ceiling where the fixture has been removed.  Note the four shafts sticking out of the roof.  The is the remains of the 4 rivets which held the old fixture.  I cut these off as close to the inside of the roof as I could and then just pushed the remains up into the ceiling.  You may want to use a small thin rod to probe into this opening to check the distance between the inner and outer roof skins.  Also note the 2 wires, if you didn't disconnect the power like I advised above you have probably blown a fuse at this point.  

 

P0001762.jpg (182761 bytes)To install the new fixture, hold it up against the ceiling in the location of the old one.  You will note that the mounting holes for the new fixture do not match the holes where the old fixture was - go figure.  Take into consideration any other things mounted to the roof in this area.  To the left you will see that my "Vanity Mate" comes within one inch of the fixture, but does not interfere.  Check for interference before you drill.  You will need to drill 4 small pilot holes in the roof.  I caution you to use a short drill bit and short screws. If you probed the roof like I suggested in the previous box, you should have a good idea of the length screw you can use.  Nothing would ruin your day more than having a screw sticking out of the roof of your pop up. 
 

So now, for less than $40 I have a new fluorescent fixture which consumes 1/3 of the power of the original fixture. To my untrained eye, and not using a light meter I would say it is about equal in brightness to the stock Coleman light. It does give off a white
light while the stock light now appears a little "yellow" in comparison.

 

Tools needed drill/drill bits, 4 screws, screwdriver, electrical tape.

 

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  Revised: May 08, 2007

 

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