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This Is How to Wire LED Lights to a Switch (12V Battery)

Updated: Oct 2

In this guide you will learn how to wire LED lights to a switch (LED strip lights, LED puck lights, and LED lamps). You will also learn about wiring led lights to a 12v battery. You will even be able to control the strip lights on your phone via bluetooth! By the end you will have a beautifully illuminated campervan. I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for many years, I'm the author of The Van Conversion Newsletter, the van conversion instructor at Udemy, and the proud owner of a beautiful self-build campervan called Beans. So let's jump in and see how to wire LED lights to a switch!

How to Wire a Campervan Switch Panel

Index

 

Note: Before we hop in, you will definitely want to grab yourself a wiring diagram which you can get for free by signing up to The Van Conversion Newsletter (how to wire LED lights to a switch is included in the diagram 🙂 - it gets sent out to you straight away).

 

This is the complete list of supplies mentioned in this guide


What is an LED light?

An LED (light emitting diode) is a semiconductor that emits light when electricity flows through it. Electrons in the semiconductor combine, releasing energy in the form of photons. The color of the light is determined by the energy required for electrons to cross the band gap of the semiconductor.


LEDs have many benefits over traditional incandescent lights, including: lower power consumption, longer lifespan, robustness, smaller size, and faster switching. However, for all their benefits, LEDs are generally restricted to low voltage and DC. This makes them perfect for van conversion lights!


Recap guide: Electricity (including voltages and direct current).


What types of LED lights are used in campervans?

There are three types of LED lights typically used in campervans, those are:

  1. LED strip lights

  2. LED puck lights

  3. LED side lamps

In this article we will look at wiring led lights to a 12v battery for each of the three types above. We will also examine how to wire LED lights to a switch and the 12v light switch wiring diagram.


Wiring LED lights to a 12v battery (Puck lights)

This is an LED puck light👇

12v LED puck light

And we're going to look at wiring led lights to a 12v battery and installing them in the roof of a campervan. So you're campervan can look like this👇

Campervan with puck lights in ceiling

An LED puck light is a DC appliance with two wires extending from it: a positive and a negative.You are going to want to purchase some dimmable LED puck lights as this guide will show you how to wire LED lights to a switch that is dimmable.


Wiring Diagram: Wiring LED puck lights in parallel and series

There are many different ways to wire up LED puck lights, and while there is no one right way, wiring LED puck lights in parallel is generally preferred over wiring them in series.


There are two problems with wiring puck lights in series (daisy chained):

  1. If one LED light breaks, every every LED light after that one will also turn off.

  2. Wiring LED lights in series can cause different lumens to be output from the puck lights. The first LED light will be the brightest and the last light will be the weakest. The effect is amplified as we add more lights.

One nifty device you can use to wire up all lights in parallel is a DC 8-way splitter (if you have 8 puck lights. It connects 8 wires into 1. You can just snip off the heads and wire it up to the lights.

DC 8-way splitter

However, while wiring lights in parallel is preferred, it can cause a lot of extra wiring to be needed. It is generally considered overkill and most people will opt for a mixture parallel and series wiring.


Here is the12v light switch wiring diagram for a system set up in parallel and series.

How to wire LED lights to a switch

In the above wiring diagram, the two puck lights in each set are wired in series. But the sets themselves are wired in Parallel.


For example, if light 1 of the first set blows, the last two sets will still stay ON, but light 2 in the first set will turn OFF.


As we can see from the diagram, we will be installing a switch (dimmable) for the puck lights. We install this after the fuse box. Learn all about fuses and fuse sizing.


How to wire LED lights to a switch (Puck lights)

Step 1: Lay the cabling

Laying wiring is one of the first things you do in a van conversion; before any insulation or carpentry.


Before laying the cable you need to know where in the van you are going to put:

  1. The leisure batteries

  2. The 12v Fuse box

  3. The switch panel

  4. The lights

After you have decided where these things will go, go ahead and lay the wire. 18AWG wiring should do the job just fine. Some people choose to run the wiring through conduit / split looming to keep it neat, others will keep the wires exposed. You can attach the wires to the metal surface of the van with cable ties and cable tie adhesive mounts.

Wiring puck lights to the roof of a campervan

Given the wiring diagram provided before, we will be installing 6 LED puck lights in the roof of the van. We run a Positive (red) and Negative (black) wire out to all the lights.


We will have to use T-tap connectors in two places to wire the pucks lights per the wiring diagram provided. This allows us to wire the first two sets of lights in parallel.

wiring led lights to a 12v battery

You can learn all about how to cut, crimp, and use T-tap connectors in this article on crimping.


Step 2: Attach the puck lights to the wire

We can attach the puck lights to the wire using crimp connectors.

  1. Strip back the wire insulator and inch on both the puck light and the wire

  2. Add a male crimp connector to one wire and a and female blade crimp connector to the other wire

  3. Crimp the connectors down with a crimping tool

  4. Add a heatshrink on top of the connection to insulate the connection (Only do this after you have cladded/panelled your van are ready for the final installation)

Note: In a set of two puck lights in series, the negative of the first puck light runs into the positive of the second puck light.

Installing puck light in roof

Step 3: Wire LED lights to a switch

How to wire LED lights to a switch?

There are two options for wiring LED Lights to a Switch

  1. Wire up a switch panel

  2. Wire up a dimmer switch

Most people will want a dimmer switch (normally the one shown below), so that's what we will look at here.

12v dimmer switch

12v light switch wiring is quite simple: Negative and Positive IN (from the battery) are on the left side of the dimmer switch, the Positive and Negative OUT (to the puck lights) are on the right side of the dimmer.


Again, ensure you have bought dimmable puck lights!


Step 4: Wire LED lights to a 12v battery

From the switch, the Positive and Negative IN will run to the 12v fuse box, which in turn runs to the 12v leisure battery. Here's a guide with everything you need to know about fuse boxes and fuse sizing.


Wiring LED strip lights to a 12v battery

The second type of LED light we can wire in a campervan are LED strip lights. I have two sets of LED strip lights in my campervan, wired to turn on in unison. I also have a bluetooth dongle that allows me to control the color and brightness of the LED strip lights from my phone. So, let's look at how to wire that system up.

LED strip lights

Like the puck lights, we will run positive and negative wiring from our fuse box out to where we expect the strip lights to be.

LED strip light wiring diagram

Step 1: The strip lights will have an adhesive strip along the bottom which allows us to stick them to almost any surface. I chose to install mine under the overhead cabinets.


Step 2: We install a switch (non-dimmable) after the fuse box and then wire up the strip lights in parallel.


Step 3: You will need to cut the LED strip lights to the desired length, which you can do at one of the cut points on the strip.

Where to cut an LED strip light

Step 4: After you have cut the LED strip you will need to add an LED strip connector to the end of it so that we can wire it up. Add this👇 type of connector to the end (running towards the battery)

LED strip connector

Step 5: We will be adding a bluetooth dongle to the end of each LED strip light so that we can control the color and brightness from either a remote control, or from our phone. Plug the bluetooth dongle into the connector we just added at the end of each LED strip.

LED strip light bluetooth connector

Step 7: Snip the end of the bluetooth dongle off and rewire it. Run the Positive end to the switch, and run the negative end back to the fuse box. We can splice our positive together with T-tap connectors, and we can do the same with the negatives; this means the strip lights are wired in parallel.


How to wire LED lamps

I installed two LED lamps in my campervan; one in the kitchen, and one by the bed. These are very straight-forward to wire up.

LED bluetooth lamps

Run wire from the switch panel / fusebox out to where the LED side lamps will be. We are wiring these lights in parallel, so splice the wires together using T-tap connectors near the switch panel.


We can then simply connect each side lamp to the wire using crimp connectors. Be sure to heat shrink the connection afterwards to secure it.


Conclusion

And that's about it! Everything you should know about 12v LED lighting for campervans! Don't forget to subscribe to The Van Conversion Newsletter for everything you need to get started with your own van conversion (I'll send you a free wiring diagram when you sign up which includes the LED wiring).


If you're converting a van but unsure of how to do it, you could also check out the Van Conversion Course on Udemy. In the course, you'll learn directly from me how to convert a van into your dream home - no prior experience needed!


Until next time,

Shane ✌️