Our 2018 Airstream Sport 22 came with great bright-white LED lighting that makes it feel sunny inside the camper even when it’s a bit cloudy outside. However, when it’s evening time and we’re trying to settle down, those lights are way too bright, and we found we were using battery operated lights and candles instead. That’s why I installed a dimmable light in the bathroom before our big trip.
Honestly, I would love to install dimmable lights in many more locations in the camper. However, the bathroom was one of the few places where there was a wood wall that had room for a light and switch. In other places in the camper I’d need to cut holes in the interior aluminum skin to add lights, and I’m not ready to do that!
Picking a light fixture
I spent a lot of time looking online for non-ugly, small dimmable warm-white 12v LED light fixtures, and really couldn’t find any. Then I realized that landscape lighting is 12v, which opened up more options.
Since landscape lighting doesn’t need to be dimmable, I didn’t know if dimming was going to work… so I just had to buy one and give it a try.
I ended up going with a 12v LED step light from Home Depot for $15.
I also needed a dimmer switch. I found a switch on amazon that matched the existing switches in our Airstream for $35: American Technology Components 12 Volt DC Dimmer Switch, White
Testing the dimmer & light
Before installing the light and switch, I wanted to test out the dimming capability. I hooked up the light and switch to a 12v power supply and switched the switch on– the light came on! Then slid the dimmer control down… and the light didn’t get any dimmer. Doh!
I almost returned the light then and there.. but then I decided I ought to open the light up and see if there was anything I could do to fix the dimmability. After all, it seemed odd that it didn’t dim at all– usually the problem with non-dimmable lights is that they flicker or turn off rather than dimming.
Lo and behold, inside the LED light fixture I found a capacitor. The capacitor is there since landscape lighting runs on AC (alternating current), and without a capacitor to smooth out the oscillating voltage the light would flicker. I removed the capacitor and tried the dimmer again, and it worked!
(I forgot to take a picture of the insides of the light, sorry!)
Installing the light and switch
I wasn’t sure what was inside the bathroom wall (there’s a hollow cavity about 3″ deep between the wall and the neighboring closet), so I pulled out the existing light switch so that I could peer inside. Fortunately, the spot where I wanted to install the light switch was clear of other wires.
I drilled a pilot hole, and then used a small hand saw to complete the cutout.
The wires came out the side of the switch rather than the back, so I ended up having to cut out a little notch to make space for the wires.
Next, I drilled a hole on the top of the wall for the wire that comes off the back of the light fixture, as well as two small holes for the screws to secure the light. I was able to fish the wire down through the wall and reach in and grab it through the cutout for the light switch.
Next, I wired up the light switch and installed it in the cutout.
And that was that! We love our dimmable light– it uses virtually no power so we leave it on all night on the lowest brightness in-case the girls need to use the bathroom.