Replacing Your RV Lighting With 120-Volt Fixtures: A Comprehensive Guide


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Are you tired of the dim and outdated lighting in your RV? One solution is to replace the lights with newer, brighter fixtures. But what if you want to use a 120-volt fixture? Can it be done safely and effectively in an RV? 

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of RV lighting and explore the pros and cons of using 120-volt fixtures. From understanding the different types of RV lighting to safety considerations and compatibility issues, we’ll cover everything you need to know before making the switch. 

So, whether you’re a full-time RV’er or a weekend warrior, read on to discover the best way to upgrade your RV’s lighting and create a more comfortable and inviting space.

Understanding RV Lighting 

Before you consider upgrading your RV lighting, it is essential to understand the numerous types of lighting options available. 


Incandescent Lighting 

Incandescent lighting is the traditional type of light bulb used in RVs for many years. They produce light by heating the filament present inside the bulb. Although they are relatively inexpensive and easy to find, they are not as energy efficient as other types of lighting. Also, they have a shorter lifespan as compared to other lighting options. This means that you will have to replace them more frequently, and they will consume more power. 

Fluorescent Lighting 

Fluorescent lighting is another option that has been used in RVs. These lights work by passing an electric current through a gas, which in turn produces ultraviolet light. This ultraviolet light then stimulates a phosphor coating on the inside of the bulb, producing visible light. Fluorescent lights are more energy-efficient than incandescent lights and have a longer lifespan, but they can be more expensive and may contain harmful chemicals. 

LED Lighting 

LED lighting has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its energy efficiency, long lifespan, and ability to produce bright light. LED stands for light-emitting diode, and they work by passing an electric current through a semiconductor material. This causes the material to emit light. LED lights are highly efficient and can last for up to 50,000 hours. They are also durable and resistant to vibration and shock, which makes them a good choice for RVs.

Voltage Requirements for Each Light

The typical voltage for incandescent lighting in RVs is 12 volts DC (direct current). This is because RVs typically have a 12-volt electrical system. This system is powered by a combination of the RV’s battery and a converter that converts AC (alternating current) power from a shoreline or generator to DC power. Using a 12-volt incandescent light bulb in an RV’s electrical system is a good match. This is because it can be powered by the RV’s battery and doesn’t require additional voltage conversion. 

Correspondingly, fluorescent lights typically use a higher voltage than incandescent lights, usually around 110-120 volts AC. This is because fluorescent lights require a special electronic ballast to regulate the current and start the lamp. Since RVs have a 12-volt electrical system, a separate power converter or inverter is needed. Consequently, it converts the 12-volt DC power to the 110-120 volts of AC power needed to run the fluorescent lights. 

Lastly, LED lights typically operate on 12 to 24 volts DC, which makes them a suitable match for the RV’s electrical system. They don’t require a ballast and are highly energy-efficient, so they draw less power from the RV’s battery. LEDs can be wired directly to the RV’s electrical system and don’t require additional voltage conversion like fluorescent lights. 

However, the voltage rating of LED lights should be checked before purchasing to ensure it is compatible with the RV’s electrical system. In short, the different voltages used for each type of light are mainly because of the way they are constructed, the technology they use, and their compatibility with the RV’s electrical system.

Pros and Cons of Using 120-Volt Fixtures in RVs 

Here are some benefits and drawbacks of using 120-volt fixtures in RVs.


Increased Brightness

One of the main benefits of using 120-volt fixtures in RVs is increased brightness. 120-volt fixtures are typically more powerful than 12-volt fixtures and can produce significantly more light. This can make a big difference in the overall feel of the RV, especially in darker areas like the bathroom or the bedroom. 

Improved Energy Efficiency

Another benefit of 120-volt fixtures is that they are more energy-efficient than traditional 12-volt fixtures. This means they will use less power from the RV’s battery and can help extend the battery life. 

Added Versatility

120-volt fixtures are also more versatile than 12-volt fixtures. They come in a wider variety of styles and designs, making it easier to find one that matches your RV’s interior.


Safety Risk

A major drawback of using 120-volt fixtures in RVs is the potential safety risk. 120-volt fixtures use a higher voltage than traditional 12-volt fixtures. As a result, they can be more dangerous if they are not installed or wired correctly. 

Requires An Additional Power Source

Another drawback is that 120-volt fixtures require a separate power converter or inverter. It is mandatory as it converts the 12-volt DC power to the 120-volt AC power needed to run the fixture. Ultimately, it can add extra cost and complexity to the installation process. 

Lower Compatibility

Compatibility is also a concern when using 120-volt fixtures in RVs, as some RVs may not be wired or equipped to handle the higher voltage.

Safety Considerations 


  • One of the main safety risks associated with using 120-volt fixtures in RVs is the potential for electrical fires. 120-volt fixtures use a higher voltage, and an improper installation or wiring can cause a short circuit.
  • Another risk is the possibility of electrical shock. If a 120-volt fixture is not properly grounded or the wiring is damaged, there is a risk of electrical shock upon contact.
  • The electrical system can also be overloaded if too many 120-volt fixtures are added to the RV’s electrical system. This can cause damage to the system and pose a fire hazard. 

Proper Installation and Wiring 

  • To minimise the risk of electrical fires and other hazards, it’s essential to install and wire a 120-volt fixture properly. This includes ensuring that the fixture is properly grounded and that the wiring is in good condition. 
  • Following the manufacturer’s instructions for installation is also recommended since it will include information on the proper wiring and grounding techniques. 
  • If you are unsure how to install and wire a 120-volt fixture properly, it’s best to consult a professional electrician. 

Consulting a Professional Electrician 

  • Before making any changes to the RV’s electrical system, it is better to consult a professional electrician. They can check the RV’s electrical system and wiring to ensure it can handle the added load of the 120-volt fixtures. 
  • It will help with the installation and wiring of the fixtures. Besides, an electrician can advise you on the best and safest ways to improve your RV’s lighting. 
  • Be mindful that, depending on the laws and regulations of your area, you might require a professional electrician to perform any electrical work on your RV.

Compatibility of 120-Volt Fixtures

The compatibility of 120-volt fixtures plays an important role in the entire upgradation process of your RV lighting. Hence, it is advisable to contemplate the various aspects involved. These are

Compatibility with Different Types of RVs 

The compatibility of 120-volt fixtures with different types of RVs can vary depending on the RV’s electrical system and wiring. Some RVs may be equipped to handle the higher voltage of a 120-volt fixture, while others may not. Thus, it’s best to consult a professional electrician to determine the compatibility of your RV’s electrical system and wiring with 120-volt fixtures. 

Some older RVs may not have been built to accommodate the higher voltage of 120-volt fixtures and may not be compatible with them. In these cases, upgrading the RV’s electrical system to use 120-volt fixtures safely may be necessary. 

Determining the Type of Lighting and Voltage Used in your RV 

To determine the type of lighting and voltage used in your RV, consulting the RV’s owner’s manual is recommended. The manual will have statistics on the electrical system and recommended types of lighting. You can also look at the existing light fixtures in your RV. If they are 12-volt fixtures, then your RV’s electrical system is likely designed to work with 12-volt fixtures. 

Steps to Take if Your RV is Not Compatible With a 120-Volt Fixture 

If your RV’s electrical system and wiring are not compatible with a 120-volt fixture, there are a few steps you can take. One option is to upgrade the RV’s electrical system. This may involve rewiring the RV or installing a new electrical panel. 

Another option is installing a separate power converter to run the fixture. If the RV is old and upgrading the electrical system is not possible, the best option would be to stick with 12-volt fixtures. Or you can consider other alternatives, such as LED lights that operate on 12-volt DC.


Upgrading your RV’s lighting can be a great way to improve the overall look and feel of your space. However, it’s important to contemplate the type of light fixtures you’re using. While a 120-volt fixture may offer brighter and more energy-efficient options, understanding the potential safety risks and compatibility issues is key. 

We hope this article has provided you with a comprehensive understanding of RV lighting and the considerations to make when choosing the right fixtures for your RV. Remember, if you’re unsure whether a 120-volt fixture is right for your RV, it’s always best to consult a professional electrician for expert advice. 

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