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Flexible LED lights for interior van lighting
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climberjohn
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:34 am    Post subject: Flexible LED lights for interior van lighting Reply with quote

Samba friends,

Disclaimer #1: I have yet to install this in my van, as I am already knee deep in various electrical projects, but I feel it has great promise and will keep you posted as soon as they are in.

Disclaimer #2: I have no connection to this company at all, just yelling from the rooftops about this product.

Now, onward . . .

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


A few days ago in my local FLAPS I came across what may prove to be a terrific option for interior van lighting. These are 12 volt flexible LED strips made by a company called Alpena; I think it’s a Canadian company.

The package I got had two 12” strips of white LEDs, 24” total, Autozone part number 77423B. Search Autozone for Alpena LED. These lights are not sold at Amazon. Autozone seems to have a good selection and offers web ordering with delivery to a local store. The lights also come in various lengths and colors.

Cost was $19.95.

- There are 18 LED lights on each 12” strip. The lights are tiny squares about 1/8” on a side. Specs from the Autozone website say the LEDs are “3528 type LEDs”, which means nothing to me, but might to some of you.
- On the back is 3M foam tape, for mounting the lights. No mounting, no drilling, just peel and stick.
- Over the surface of the LEDs is a layer clear plastic-like stuff that looks and feels like clear silicone caulk. While thin, it appears to be pretty sturdy and seems designed so protect the bulbs and wiring.
- Each of the strips is already wired with about 2 feet of tiny gauge wire, ready to connect to a 12 volt power source and a ground.
- Super thin, about ¼ “, half the thickness of a pencil!

The first thing that grabbed me was the packaging. There’s a small button on the top that says “Try Me”, so of course I did, and was momentarily blinded by the blast of light from this little puppy. (Yes, there is a small 12 volt battery pack inside for in-store testing). This was in a fully lit car parts store, next to a large window, middle of the afternoon. Damn, this thing is BRIGHT!

So, that evening I took it out to the van after dark for further testing. Last year I replaced the inadequate stock single incandescent light with two fluorescent lights that until today I thought were doing the job pretty well. These lights are $55 each at GoWesty or $34 at Northern AZ Wind and Sun, guess where I bought mine.

http://store.solar-electric.com/tl-151.html

my present lights:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Well, these LED strips are FAR brighter than the fluorescent lights I have! Granted I was testing two strips at a time, but it appears that even a single 12 inch strip would surpass the light output of the fluorescent presently in place. The light pattern from the LED strip is very wide, which IMO is good for van lighting.

You can cut the strips into smaller bits if you want to, but I can’t see why I’d do that.

I am pondering possible mounting spots. Maybe in the far back of the van directly above the rear hatch for evening reading. As the lights are so thin, maybe even in the pop top so my daughter can read at night as she likes to sleep with her head to the rear. If I did not already have $$$ invested in the over the cabinet and stove lights, I would do these first thing.

(If I had a boat with a cabin, I would be slapping these lights up all over, they seem perfect for a boat.)

Pros:
- BRIGHT
- Super thin
- Inexpensive
- Lightweight; you could mount these on a visor if you wanted to
- Flexible, can mount almost anywhere
- Easy to mount with supplied 3M tape
- Comes in various colors, for sexy mood lighting, night light or red for stargazing / retaining your night vision
- Looks fairly sturdy, but can’t really comment on that yet
- Very low current draw, amperage appears to be about 0.4, compared to 1.4 amps of my fluorescent bulbs
- No hacking together a lighting system from superbrightleds.com wondering if the bulbs will fit your OEM sockets. This is prewired and ready to go. (You still need some tiny gauge wire, some solder or connectors and a small switch to actually hook it up.)

Cons:
- That ”cool” LED look, not the “warmer” light of an incandescent
- Not the most aesthetic mounting strip, but I can live with that. If you are crafty I bet you could cover up the strip part by maybe gluing on some with some van matching fabric to make them look little nicer. I may try this.

Overall, I am very impressed with this setup and have high hopes. For the records, I am sort of a lighting nut, and have high-end headlamps and flashlights for outdoor sports and adventuring.

LED technology just keeps getting better all the time: better quality light, brighter, cheaper, easier to install . . . Surely something snazzier will displace these sometime soon, but until then, this might be the ticket. Check it out, and tell us what you think.

Some photos:

A general look:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Did I mention thin? Half the width of a pencil.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Did I mention flexible? I even tied it in a knot, just for fun.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


-CJ
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syncroluvr
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2010 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

They do look great and I am thinking about buying a set. My local Wally Word carries then in their auto department though.
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ashafer
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2010 8:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mount em' up and lets see what they look like.
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78BayDriver
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have them on the front of my van, and they look like Audi lights. You can also cut them to lenght. I too had the isea of putting them along my AC duct to give a little better light in the van. They through off a ton of light on the front, I almost can drive with them, albeight not very safe, tried, and could still see the road with the interior dash lights turned down. Maybe a few more sets, and I actually could see a deer or something...

Michael
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canasync
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Those look cool. I like the fact that they are flexible.
78baydriver do you have any pics of the lights lit up in your van?


Just to share what I use.

A year and a half ago when I decided to redo my vans lighting I found a solution at Ikea. The great thing is that these lights run on 12 volts so you can wire them right into each light strip and they plug into each other so that you can add more lights at anytime.

http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/20119418
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climberjohn
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2010 5:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

canasync wrote:


Just to share what I use.

A year and a half ago when I decided to redo my vans lighting I found a solution at Ikea. The great thing is that these lights run on 12 volts so you can wire them right into each light strip and they plug into each other so that you can add more lights at anytime.

http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/20119418


Wowzer, that Ikea setup looks like a pretty sweet system as well! They might even be the same type of LED flex strip as what the Alpena uses. I may have to check those out.

I will post a photo of the lights in action in a day or so. It's hard to take a decent photo that really gives a sense of what the light output actually is, but I will give it a go.

-CJ
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78BayDriver
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2010 6:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

canasync wrote:
Those look cool. I like the fact that they are flexible.
78baydriver do you have any pics of the lights lit up in your van?


Just to share what I use.

A year and a half ago when I decided to redo my vans lighting I found a solution at Ikea. The great thing is that these lights run on 12 volts so you can wire them right into each light strip and they plug into each other so that you can add more lights at anytime.

http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/20119418


Here ya go:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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thatvwbusguy
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2010 7:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have one of the Alpena strips mounted above the glovebox on my '87 Wolfsburg to give a more reasonable amount of light when rummaging around in there at night. I soldered the wires to the switch for the small dashboard light.

I installed the other one from the 2-pk on the rail above the sink in my '85 Westy and attached it to the switch for the front door. They put out lots of bright white light and use very little power.

I can grab some pics if anyone wants to see the results.
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Classicvibe
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2010 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Superbright sells 39" strips of lighting that you can cut down to your desired length. This weekend, I wired in foot-well lighting and a switch to turn it on, off or to ground it to the door ground. The lights have rubbery clips you can use to secure to whatever surface. Mine are out of site and light up very well, and aside from the color being a little "cool" (I chose the warm white butit is still a little bright) it looks totally stock and sweet. lights up when the door opens or when I hit the toggle switch.

I will install the rest under the bench in the cabin tonight. One strip was like $25 and it more than covers the footwells and bench area. Simple to wire and bright and carefree. I bought two strips just in case so I am looking for other places. Oh, it is also water proof, encased in silicone.

**EDIT**

I wanted to speak to the stock look you are seeking. You can drop those lights behind your stock lenses (the galley light) so you keep it stock looking. I was not a fan of those lights being exposed so I hid them. It is easy to do the same in your circumstance. IMHO, that is the best use for these lights, dropping them in stock locations in place of incandesents. You may be able to warm them up with a little thin filter (read "plastic") film. I will monkey with mine tonight to replace that stock fluorescent.
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markz2004
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2010 2:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

78Bay ~ what is the difference between the two photos? one seems "low" and the other seems "high"...?

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78BayDriver
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2010 2:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One is with the Flash on my camera ON, the other is No flash...
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BillM
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2010 2:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I ran a strip on the small metal edge below the poptop latch for lighting up the van at night. I also have two small blue ones in each corner you can't see unless on that we use at nite lights for the kids. No heat and such a low draw on power. They work great. I want to get a couple singles to light up the foot area in the front now.

B
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78BayDriver
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2010 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I saw these lights today at the Maryland Sheriffs convention in Ocean City.
http://www.ledlights.com/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=S212

The patterns can be changed, and they had it on solid both sides. I think they would make great driving lights, and they are BRIGHT! Better than some am driving lights, but the price is a little high...
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2010 5:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+1 on the superbrightleds.com strips. they are just like this product, but you can get more and you can get it in more colors.

if you want the most bang for your buck the 3 chip non-waterproof flexible strips offer the best output. but that may only be available in the 16 foot lenght, which isn't cheap.

the waterproofed ones definitely lose some light output. i have a 14 foot strip of that on my RV awning for outside lighting and it's not nearly as bright as my 3-chip non-waterproofed ones. i replaced all my lighting with a ton of these and they are great.

if u guys are doing LED fixtures, i can highly recommend this LED dimmer...

http://www.creativelightings.com/LED-Dimmer-12v-Rotary-PWM-Dimmer-Click-On-Off-p/cl-kr6-dim.htm

works on automotive 12v and works great, can handle 6amps which is way more than you can throw at it for vanagon lighting. i have one dimmer running about 15 feet of 3 chip LEDs and it's nowhere near 6 amps. depending on the LEDs you're using sometimes it doesn't dim as low as you might want at times, but still it's great to have.
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climberjohn
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 11, 2010 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Update:

After browsing more here and the interweb, I found the great website of Oznium.com. They have a wide range of strip type LED light, some in a "warm white" color that may be easier on the eyes then the cool white LEDs.

Other Samba folks have found this site before I did, just passing it along.

Check it out!

-CJ
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 11, 2010 9:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool site. Thanks climberjohn.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 11, 2010 9:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I saw these at the PDX get together. They're very small, put out a nice bit of light and are a nice addition to our options.

Thanks John!
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2010 6:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

climberjohn wrote:
Update:

After browsing more here and the interweb, I found the great website of Oznium.com. They have a wide range of strip type LED light, some in a "warm white" color that may be easier on the eyes then the cool white LEDs.

Other Samba folks have found this site before I did, just passing it along.

Check it out!

-CJ


Check out the cold cathode lights on that site too. They are pretty cool. they work well, and the 4" ones can fit in alot of places.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2010 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Look at this stuff
http://www.ledlightsworld.com/smd-3528-flexible-led-light-strips-18-leds-p-132.html

6 bucks a foot and a .69 cents for an end plug. Add a switch and all done.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 10:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just ordered 1x3' and 1x2' of the warm white LED strips, as well as one of these:
http://www.ledlightsworld.com/led-dimmer-p-118.html

I want to mount the 3' section above my rear bench seat with the dimmer mounted in the cabinet. The 2' section I want to mount above my slider door, just need to find a good switch for that one.

Hopefully the stuff is decent!
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