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Monday, February 18, 2013

Let your light shine before men – with less power

Boondockers--those who by definition "camp in the boonies," away from utility hookups – have to be careful of their precious resources. One of the biggest pains is "running out of power." Lighting up the inside of the rig can consume a lot of juice in a short period of time. Take a minute and add up how much power you use:

A typical incandescent bulb light fixture, sometimes called a "pillow light" by its shape commonly uses an "1141" bulb. Each 1141 bulb consumes 1.5 amps per hour, and produces a pitifully small amount of illumination. At least that's what our aging eyes tell us. So we turn on another one or two, and pretty soon, we're happily munching away at the "house" battery.

In comparison, the typical "double tube" fluorescent lamp produces gobs of light for just two amps per hour. Wow! What a difference technology makes. Now compare the "latest technology" light fixtures that produce light with light emitting diodes. Super-efficient, they produce almost no heat (hence no waste), and use power measured in "milli-amps," or thousandths of an amp.

We use all three types of lighting technology in our rig. Turning on an incandescent light to fish something out of a dark corner doesn't take much power because we keep the use short. Fluorescent lighting is our "mainstay" giving us plenty of light to keep us working and safe at night. The pricier to install LED technology is perfect for a reading light. The latter may take you some time to get used to, as the "color" of the light is different, and it's best used as a highly directional light, but when your power comes from solar panels or precious gas-fired generators, you surely want to keep your power consumption way down.


  1. We have switched all of our lights to led. The color is different but when power is so important we do not mind. It was very cheep to switch.

  2. I also switched all my lighting to led. I purchased a 36 led pad the hooked directly into my pillow light right where the 1141 bulb hooked up. Then attached them with hot glue gun. They've been in for several years now and still produce good light. That one change alone allows me do a 4day 3 night boondocking weekend on my one battery. sweet!!!

  3. One of my pet peeves - folks who don't use electrical units properly. There is no such thing as "amps per hour". The term "amp" is the rate of flow of electricity and includes the "per time" designation - one coulomb (quantity) per second. Similar to gallons per minute in liquid flow. Maybe confused with amp-hour which is one amp of current flowing for one hour (times hour, not per hour), which is the total quantity of electricity used when one amp flows for one hour. Similar to gallons per minute times minutes of flow give you total gallons.

    A light bulb (or any load) that draws one amp uses one amp-hour of electricity for each hour it's on. The 1141 bulb draws 1.5 amps of current and consumes 1.5 amp-hours of electricity for every hour it is on.

    LEDs draw current measured in milliamps and therefore use only milliamp-hours of electricity every hour they are on.

    Battery capacities are rated in amp-hours so the fewer amps you draw from them the longer they will supply power before needing recharging.

    If you are going to purport to write a technical electrical posting, please use the technical terms correctly.