Some of the best moments of the RVing lifestyle take place after the sun goes down. Illuminating the exterior of your unit can be a great way to make the most of your camping experience. Not only does it increase the functionality of your extended living space, but it also allows you to enjoy the great outdoors longer! Don’t let darkness disrupt the party. Learn how to install awning lights and keep the good times going long after the sun has set!
LED Light Strips
LEDs are popular for their energy efficiency and durability. This relatively inexpensive product can be found with color-changing capabilities, remote control operation, and a waterproof design. While the installation of LED light strips are a bit more complex than hanging standard string lights, the long-term advantages make this product an ideal option for illuminating the exterior of your RV.
Planning & Placement
You will most likely want to install the light strip underneath your awning rail. Doing so will help to protect the light strip from the elements while also allowing you to still use the lights even when your awning is not extended. You want to make sure you have an AC outlet within reach and that the power supply is in a dry place. To figure out how to best position your strip, determine whether you intend to hard wire the lights into the interior of your unit or if you will be connecting to a power source along the exterior.
Cutting to Size
Another benefit of LED light strips is that they can be cut to fit the unique size of your awning. You can only make your cut at certain points along the strip or else you will compromise its conductivity. Look for the copper pads spaced along the strip to identify cut lines. These pads will typically be labeled with the letters RGB. You’ll want to cut BETWEEN the copper dots on the pad using a sharp pair of scissors.
Installing the Lights
Most light strips come with an adhesive backing, but many people question the long-term integrity of the adhesive. To reinforce the stickiness, you can use outdoor mounting tape, or for a more permanent bond, you can even try a silicone glue. To begin your install, clean the area under your awning rail with an alcohol wipe and let it dry. Run your adhesive along the area beneath the awning and firmly press your light strip onto it.
Wiring Your Lights
Follow the instructions included with your LED light strip kit to determine exactly how to wire your lights. This will typically involve connecting the cords to the controller and matching up the wires to the correct terminals in your connector (i.e. red to red, green to green, positive to positive, etc). If you are working with a waterproof light strip, you may need to scrape away some of the rubber overcoat to expose more of the copper pad before making your connections.
Interior Hardwired Connection
There are many different ways to set up your lights when connecting to a power source. Hard wiring them into the interior is one of the more functional, permanent, and aesthetically pleasing options, but because it often requires you to drill a hole in your RV, many people are scared off by this method. If you opt to hard wire your lights through the interior, consult with an RV professional when determining the best location for the drill hole to ensure that you won’t be doing any damage to other components in the process. Drill a 1/2”-diameter hole and run your cords through. Then seal up your hole with a good dose of silicone caulk. Cover the exposed wires at the end of the light strip with shrink wrap. Route the cord to your interior 12V source and plug it in. You can also try running your cords through the hole where the awning wiring comes out. Use a straightened coat hanger to determine where the wiring comes out at in the interior. You can even tie a string to the end of the coat hanger to help fish your wires through the hole.
Exterior Power Connection
For a simpler connection, you can also connect your LED lights to a power source on the exterior of your unit. While this method eliminates the need for you to drill a hole in the side of your RV, a move that you understandably may not want to do, it does add a few extra steps to the set-up and take-down process. You’ll need to keep unplugging and plugging in your lights when prepping for travel. For this method, you can buy an extension cable and run it down the vertical awning track to reach an exterior 12V power source. You can also utilize an existing plastic conduit to tuck in the wires for added protection and aesthetics. For a more functional exterior set-up, you can even wire your light strip into one of your patio or porch lights so that they will work with the patio light switch inside of your RV.
Outdoor String Lights
Outdoor sting lights are a simpler solution to brighten up your RV awning. In addition to being more decorative than LED light strips, string lights don’t require you to make any modifications to your unit. These lights do however, require you to hang them up and take them down each time you wish to extend and retract your awning. In the event of a storm, you may need to retract your awning in a hurry, so ensuring that your string lights can come down easily and quickly is a priority. Using badge clips or binder clips to hang lights can be a great solution, as all you need to do is unclip them to quickly take down the lights.
Installing lights on your RV awning will help you make the most of your future RVing adventures. Whether you are hoping to install lovely LED light strips or opting for the simpler outdoor string lights, illuminating the exterior of your RV will dramatically improve the functionality of your outdoor living space!