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Gadgets: Your RV’s Own Aurora Borealis

| Updated Feb 12, 2017

Your RV exterior at night can be the Black Hole of Calcutta or Times Square on New Years Eve. There are two reasons to think about night lighting: decorative entertainment and safety.

The possibilities for outdoor lighting entertainment must have occurred to everybody who has seen Niagara Falls at night. The first time Roger saw it he wondered how they turned on the yellow water, then red water, then blue water. (He was an impressionable 6-year old.) Last night at Florida's Gamble Rogers State Park we were parked next to Class A slab-sided Albatross. Its owner opened door after door and began taking out electrical stuff. That night we were treated to one of the best Decorative Entertainment light shows we have witnessed.  Unfortunately, we didn't get a photo.

Gamble Rogers Neighbors 2
Our neighbors display on our side was subdued – especially during daytime.

First, the bushes behind the Class A were washed by broad flood lights, orange for 15 feet, blue for 15 feet. A glowing purple globe 15 inches in diameter atop a folding pedestal was fitted with Mickey Mouse ears. A long string of rope lights were arranged on the ground in Hogarth's Curve of Beauty. Tiny firefly lights glinted everywhere on artificial trees with plug-in branches. On our side of the Albatross there were 4 miniature trees draped with purple and white flickering lights. A flamingo offset by solar patio path lights graced a street sign.  Not much to look at during the day, but at night, Wow!  A spectacle to behold.

In the morning Roger asked the owner where he got the idea for such entertaining lighting. “Putting up Christmas lights on our house was the start of it,” he said. “We had the prettiest house on our block, and over the years, probably the prettiest in town.” Because of the wind, he said, he did not put up the electric palm trees. I saw those and their associated power cords in two of the RV bays.  Google on lighted palm trees to see the many options.

Our first awareness of entertainment lighting was one Christmas season at Alabama's Gulf Shores State Park. Roger observed the blue rope lights were not only rare, but eerily moody. So he ordered a string of blue lights (after six years, free to the highest bidder). We both noticed the many LED strip lights for sale in auto parts stores. The ground effect lights are truly spectacular, especially the color change ones. Imagine your own RV floating gracefully on a sea of ever-changing violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red. Phantasmagora…an apparition of specular brilliance!!!

RV lights
Porch light

Safety time. We needed a porch light. The one in the catalog looked OK, so we ordered it. It looked as ugly in the box as a flock of flamingos and we could not justify drilling into our RV metal side to mount it. Then we found 12 VDC LED strip lights in outdoor and indoor coverings. We put a strip of cool white outdoor strip lights to the underside of our folded awning. Egad!! Niagara Falls in WHITE LIGHT at night as the lighting illuminated the dazzling side of our camper.

“You're disturbing all your neighbors and hurting their eyes.” The campground host was not entertained.

Dimmer and Power Connectors
Porch light dimmer

Amazon offered a dimmer, so we bought it and some electrical plug sockets. We made up two extension cords, one to reach the outside strip lights against the side of the RV, and one to reach out 7 feet when the awning was cranked out full. The side door closes on the extension cords. Now we can dim the outside strip lights to a peace-keeping glow, or crank 'em up and blind the busybodies!

Lighted Step 2
LED string lights illuminate step

Our next safety lighting project was to put LED strip lights on the side door landing. Those are controlled by an auto door switch. When the door opens the lights turn on illuminating the step and part of the ground outside. Closed, the lights are off. We did put a hidden SPDP toggle switch in the circuit for times when we want to keep the side door open but not light the step.

As a final note, we have seen outdoor electric trees that create a beautiful 4th of July fireworks multi-color chrysanthemum burst. Just think of what you could do with a 400 watt amplifier and a sub-woofer loudspeaker synchronized with that baby!

Mike Wendland

Published on 2017-02-12

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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