Top 10 Ways To Light Your RV: The Ultimate RV Lighting Guide
RVs and motorhomes have become increasingly popular in recent years, with more people opting to travel and live on the road. RVs offer the freedom to explore new destinations while still enjoying the comfort of a home on wheels. However, one of the most critical aspects of an RV that is often overlooked is lighting. Proper RV lighting enhances safety, improves visibility, creates a warm and inviting atmosphere, and allows you to personalize your space.
Top Ways to Light Your RV
1. 12V Strip Lights
Install 12V strip lights in your RV to make custom decorative interior lighting. These lights are commonly installed as under-cabinet, under-counter, and toe-kick lighting in RV kitchens, living areas, and bedrooms. Strip lights come with 3M™ adhesive backing for easy installation, so there are endless possibilities for how you use them. You can also install waterproof or IP67 strip lights around your camper’s awning or pull-out section to improve the feel of your outdoor space. Strip lights come with single-color, RGB, RGBW, CCT, RGB+CCT, dimming, and control options so you can customize the look of your RV’s lighting design. Program your strip light with a white color for task lighting, and quickly switch the color-changing mode using your remote or smart app for a fun decorative feel.
2. RV Light Bulbs
RV light bulbs are one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways you can upgrade your interior and exterior camper lighting. LEDs can be used to replace interior incandescent bulbs in RV refrigerators, stove lights, range hoods, and other existing fixtures. On your camper’s exterior, you can replace outdated headlights and turn signal lights with LEDs. LED RV light bulbs install directly into your existing fixtures, so installation is quick and painless. Make sure to match the base type of the current bulbs and the voltage of your RV’s electrical system.
3. String Lights
Patio string lights can be hung around your camper’s awning to create a peaceful and comfortable outdoor ambiance. Adding string lights illuminates your exterior RV space for nights spent lounging outside. You can easily hang and remove these lights when you extend and push in your awning in between stops. Be sure to remove any string lights attached to your awning before hitting the road.
String lights can also be hung inside your RV for a cozy, homey feel over your bed or sitting areas. If you install RV string lights inside your vehicle, be sure to securely install them against your walls or ceiling so they don’t jostle around while traveling on the road.
4. Courtesy Lights
RV courtesy lights can be used for a variety of interior and exterior purposes. Inside, courtesy lights provide accessibility lighting for late nights on the road or at the campsite. These lights are bright, yet compact enough as to not draw too much attention to the lighting fixture. Interior courtesy LEDs can be installed around RV steps, hallways, and in the main living area. Outside, install license plate courtesy lights to light up your license plate or vehicle entrances.
5. Dome Light Fixtures
RV dome lights are designed to provide general illumination in the RV's living area, bedroom, bathroom, or cabin. Mount dome light to the ceiling or wall and control using the built-in switch or On/Off button. These fixtures come in a variety of shapes, styles, and light aiming options. Choose RV dome lights with an adjustable aim to function as a reading light or map light in your RV cabin or seating areas.
6. Surface, Puck, and Stick-Up Lights
Surface, puck, and stick-up lights are great options for interior RV lighting. Use these lights for low-profile accent, task, and decorative lighting. Stick-up lights provide are great for temporary lighting solutions and install easily with a back-mounted hook, screw holes, or 3M double-sided tape. For more permanent lighting, use surface-mounted puck lights or downlights. Recessed downlights are available in a variety of finishes so you can match your light fixtures to your RV’s interior. Select fixtures with dimming options that provide adjustable lighting for every occasion.
7. Under Cabinet Lights
Linear light bar fixtures provide bright task lighting for under-cabinet illumination. Waterproof options make these lights ideal for lighting near sinks or showers. Or, choose low-profile designs that ensure the fixture stays out of sight. Many fixtures are available in different lengths so you can easily find the best-sized light to fit under your cabinet. LED strip lights are also popular choices for under-cabinet lighting because they can be cut or fused together to match the length needed. Similar to linear light bars, LED strip lights are low-profile so they will seamlessly fit under your cabinets.
8. Porch and Awning Lights
RV porch and awning lights provide both practical and decorative illumination outside of your motorhome. Use area porch lights near the vehicle entrance to increase visibility and security lighting. For a more decorative approach to exterior lighting, install strip lights around your camper’s awning. These lights are essential for outdoor living and entertaining, as they provide a safe and comfortable atmosphere for socializing or enjoying the outdoors.
9. Pivoting Rail Lights
Pivoting rail lights for RVs can be used for a variety of indoor applications. Install rail lights in your RV’s cabin, storage area, and kitchen. Their versatile design makes these lights perfect for undercabinet lighting, overhead lighting, and more. Rotate the rail light body 180 degrees to aim your light wherever you need it. Choose between heavy-duty and low-profile designs based on your needs.
10. RV Tail Lights
Installing bright tail lights to your RV ensures that your vehicle is visible to other cars on the road. Many tail lights can also be used as stop or turn lights, and upgrading to LED tail lights also helps modernize the look of older RVs. Choose between a round or rectangular design.
Can You Use Regular Lights In Your RV?
Using regular lights in your RV will depend on the voltage of your motorhome. Most RVs run on 12V DC power when they are not connected to an external power source. Therefore, the light fixtures in your RV must also be 12V otherwise you run the risk of overheating your lights and your electrical system failing.
Campsites that have hookups will typically provide 30-50 amp and 120V hookups. When you connect your RV to the shore power, you will be able to run your larger appliances like stoves, microwaves, and washers/dryers. If you have light fixtures that have a higher voltage than your RV, such as 120V, you will be able to use those lights when your RV is plugged in.
How Can You Upgrade Your RV Lights?
There are two main ways to upgrade your RV lighting: retrofit and custom lights. Retrofit RV LED bulbs install directly into your existing light fixtures and are an easy way to improve the efficiency of your RV’s lighting system. Custom lighting is lights that are added to new spaces in your RV. They can be added to areas lacking light, such as under cabinets or around your camper's awning.
Practical vs Decorative RV Lighting: Design Choices to Consider
There are endless ways you can customize your RV’s interior and exterior lights to meet your specific design needs. Practical lights, like tail lights or interior cabin lights, can be upgraded with LED retrofits to provide bright and reliable lighting while you are on the road. On the other hand, adding decorative lighting to your RV can help create a comfortable and relaxing environment. Decorative lights also allow you to make your interior RV space unique and liven up your camping experience. Add your own personal touch to your RV by installing LED strip lights, custom recessed lights, rail lights, and brass downlights.
The correlated color temperature, or CCT, of your interior RV lights can greatly impact the feel of your space. Lights with a warm white CCT of around 3000K help create a calming ambiance, which is ideal for bedrooms or lounge areas. For a natural white light look, use lights with a CCT of 4000K. Cool white lights with a CCT of around 5000K are better suited for areas that require task lighting, such as your kitchen or cabin. If you want the flexibility to change between color temperature options, choose LED fixtures with selectable CCT that will give you the freedom to change your RV’s color temperature to match whatever mood you need to create.
Smart Bulb Options
Smart bulb options allow you to control the color, brightness, CCT, and mode of your LEDs. Most smart bulbs are controlled through compatible apps or via Bluetooth. To make sure you have the ability to control your smart lighting systems while in remote areas or on the road, choose Bluetooth options that will pair with your RV’s system. If your RV and smartphone are connected to satellite internet through services like Starlink, you can control your lights through the compatible app on your phone.
RV tail lights, marker lights, clearance lights, and headlights installed on the exterior of your RV must be durable and built to withstand various weather conditions. Check to make sure your exterior RV lights have a rating of IP65 and above to make sure they will last against water and debris.