Patio Awning light failures:
During the winter I was asked by another RVer to look at his L.E.D. strip in his awning. I met him at his coach and quickly saw what he was wondering about. As you can see from the photo, the light when it was turned on, had many L.E.D. lights that did not come on with the remainder. He explained that this was the third strip which had been installed under warranty and he wanted some independent advice as to why this was occurring each time soon after the strip was installed or replaced.
What was interesting to me was that the power to the L.E.D. strip was run from the light switch area inside near the center entrance door up to the awning. It was apparently routed in the wall assembly to the ceiling area, then exited through a hole that was sealed with caulking in the upper wall to roof moulding. The wire was not covered with any special insulation or protection other than the insulation on the actual conductors. A large loop about 0.3 M (12 inches) was left to blow in the wind then the wire was inserted into the binding at the edge of the awning that is used to provide a finished edge at each side of the awning. The wire exited at the roller where the light strip was attached to the roller assembly. There was a small indented section machined into the roller tube when it was formed, that the light strip was supposed to be mounted in however it was obvious that the strip was too wide for the narrow groove, so the strip was half in and half out of the track groove.
I looked at the installation and listened carefully to the RVer’s story, then after thinking about the best approach I concluded that there were two reasons for these failures. The first is that the quality of the L.E.D. light strip was not very high, making it prone to failure. and the second was that where the strip is mounted, the full tension of the awning spring is pressing on the light strip as the awning is retracted and the awning material presses directly on the light strip. These L.E.D. strips are assembled from small, approximately 6 cm (2.5 inch) sections soldered together. Light strips that are designed to be used in the outdoors are often coated with silicone to provide some weather resistance. However, the basic strip is not designed for the tension the awning provides and over time the connections between sections can fail or the individual L.E.D. ‘bulbs’ break from the circuit board and will no longer function. With one ‘bulb’ out the remainder still receive power and thus the majority continue to light.
An Array of Solutions:
After looking at the awning light and discussing options, it seemed that there were three routes to deal with this issue.
The first was to go back to the dealer and replace the strip one more time. That solution really re-creates the problem going forward. It would be futile to expect anything different without both a change in the light strip and a new way to mount and protect the light strip.
The second obvious alternative is to leave the light strip alone since there is lots of light in the patio area under the awning. Isn’t it funny how we can pick out the light units that are off when the vast majority are on? That situation would drive some people crazy, when in reality, it is one way to deal with the issue.
The third alternative is to remove this strip one more time and no longer mount a strip on the awning roller. Mounting a suitable light strip in another location in the area would deal with the continual damage to the strip and lead to a consistent source of light. When one takes a step back and looks at virtually all newer motorhomes, the light strip has been moved from the roller to the exterior cover on many awnings. Some of the awnings are mounted on the rooftop, some high up on the body and some are mounted on the passenger side slide out cover.
The benefit to this approach is that the awning does not need to be fully extended to allow the light to shine in the patio area and it eliminates the ‘roll up stress’ on the light strip which should extend its life.
Another benefit is that the light can be turned on with the awning retracted or just slightly extended, thereby providing light in patio area on RVs that have a slideout that is under the awning. We follow this approach on RVs that do not have awning covers, by mounting the strip on the body below the retracted awning. On coaches which there is no simple way to light the patio area, often because of a wide slide out with a slide topper on it and the awning is above on the body, then locating the new light strip on the slideout body just below the cover provides optimum light. By placing a light strip on the slideout, under the slide topper there are no concerns about light in the patio area, whether the slide out is extended or retracted.
This RVer agreed that the latter solution was the best however he decided to stick with the existing light strip and talk with the dealer when he returned to his home.
Note: RV Parts Plus has the lighting strips, dimmers, installation kit and instructions to make the addition of a new or replacement light strip on your RV. Contact us for details.