Project Warm Light: Warming the Cool LEDs

by Sydney Ryanczak

One of the great things about newer Airstreams is that they are equipped with energy efficient LED lights.  They are recessed, they are task lights, and they are reading lights.  They are in the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom, the shower, and the closet.  They are everywhere and they are bright as hell.  I’m talking sterile, white, dentist chair bright.  Maybe it’s because I was born in the ’70s but I prefer my lights to be warm and inviting.  Promoting rest and relaxation.  Like a lounge.   Not like I am about to perform surgery.

Scott searched online at Airstream Supply Company for new warmer LED light bulb replacements.  They range in price from $15-$20 depending on which type you need.  There are a ton of lights in our 25’ Flying Cloud…like 27.  Do the math…that’s $405 – $540!!!  No can do.  

I started searching online for how to warm LED lighting cheaply and came across this blog post about using photography gels to warm up IKEA furniture lighting.  Ding Ding Ding!  After more searches on the Air Forums to confirm this was a doable experiment, I decided to embark on a DIY adventure.  I’m warming my own LED lights!

The Project

The photography Ikea dude recommended either a 1/4 CTO or the 1/2 CTO strength gels based on your preference.  The higher the fraction the “warmer” your lights will be.  I went with the Rosco un 1/2 CTO 20X24 Amber – Rosco RS340811 as mentioned in his article and I went with the higher strength because I just had a feeling it would be “the one”.  I wasn’t really sure what I was in for.

Scott and I counted and measured every light.  The recessed lighting in the ceiling were 1 7/8” circles.  The reading lights above the bed and dinette were 2” circles.  The task lights were rectangles measuring about 2” x 3”. 

The three types of lights we converted

Scott was very excited to use the Cricut cutter (not sponsored, but it could be…DM me! 😉) to cut all these circles and rectangles out of the gel.  He gathered our measurements and numbers and started laying out what we needed in the software. 

Scott cutting the gel to fit onto the Cricut cutting board
The Cricut doing its magic

Voila! We had what all the shapes cut out.

I will note that you absolutely do not need a Cricut to cut the shapes out.  Simple scissors or an X-acto knife will work.  However, the Cricut is much faster and reduces wastes as it maximizes the space on the material.  Scott only used about half of the 20” x 24” gel.

Installing the gel shapes was relatively easy once we knew how to get the covers off all the lights.  The recessed lights in the ceiling have an inner ring that pops out. 

We laid the circle piece of photography gel on the inside of the glass and popped the rings back in place.

Recessed light covers with and without the gel inserted.

The reading lights have an aluminum cap at the front that twists and pulls off.  We placed the circle gel inside the caps.  To put the caps back on, we lined up the metal tab inside each of the caps with the track on the light itself.  Then we pushed and twisted the caps back on.

Reading light with gel inserted

The task lighting took a little more work to secure the gel.  After popping the plastic cover off, we used simple Scotch tape to secure the gel to the light fixture itself and completely covered the LED board. 

The gel secured with Scotch tape

Before and Afters

Ok, so everyone loves a good before and after shot. These following two photos have one light with the gel and one without so you can really tell the difference:

Left light has the gel insert. The right is the original.
Left light has the gel insert. The right is the original.

Full room before and afters were a little harder to capture. The iPhone camera likes to color correct and do white balancing automatically so the following photos are kind of hard to tell the difference. The key is to look at whites in the photo….it’s a smidge warmer but in real life, it is quite noticeable.

Left image the original, right has the gel inserted. Look at the paper towel roll.
Left image the original, right has the gel inserted. You can see the different on the aluminum above the shelf
Left image the original, right has the gel inserted.
Before and after with the lights turned off.

We didn’t do the shower and you can REALLY tell the difference. Compared to the rest of the camper it looks like an interrogation room.

The interrogation room….er shower

We converted almost every light except the shower, closet and range light.  They remain the cool white but everything else is an amazing warm light.  The way it should be!  Now our camper has a relaxing vibe that doesn’t blow out our retinas.  The best part?  It cost $17.99.

You may also like

Leave a Comment