Fun Stuff

I’m a tinkerer. I love fiddling with stuff, playing with gadgets, and building my own stuff. I’m always scrounging around for interesting little gadgets, widgets and components to messscreen-shot-2017-02-25-at-9-46-26-am with. A while back I picked up a bunch of these LED lighting panels and I’ve been fiddling around with them and I like ’em so much I thought I’d tell you about them.

My office/radio shack is a bit of a black hole when it comes to lighting. The room doesn’t have ceiling lights so we make do with a floor lamp and some desk lamps, but I wanted some under-counter style lighting to make it easier to see the controls on my radios because it was impossible to put a desk lamp near them.

These are 12V LED lighting panels designed to replace dome lights in vehicles. They come in a wide variety of styles and sizes. This particular model comes with a fuse and adaptors to replace the incandescent lights in a car or truck dome light, but it was the LED I was interested in. They’re fairly cheap. I just looked ’em up and they’re going for $8 for a pack of two on Amazon and you might find them cheaper if you look. There are a lot of these out there from various manufacturers and distributors, with prices all over the place. Mine came from a company called Cutequeen Trading (yes, that’s the real name).

For the size they put out an amazing amount of bright, white light. One of them in the recess my TS-990 lives in was more than enough to light up the whole front of the rig plus most of the desk around it. They have a peel and stick adhesive back. Just peel off the protective paper, stick it up, hook up the wires to a 12V source and you’re good to go.

Where do you get 12V from? Well if you’re an amateur radio operator you probably already have a 12V power supply because a lot of amateur radio equipment runs on 12V. In my case I have a big 12V supply that feeds a distribution box with Anderson Power Pole connectors already in place to feed other equipment. I just wired up a plug to fit, added a toggle switch from my junk box to turn it on and off and was ready to go. They only draw about 0.4 amp so the power consumption is fairly modest for the amount of light they produce.

One gotcha was I found if I fed it directly, the thing got real hot real fast. Not to the point of burning my hand if I touched it, but painful. I ended up putting a small resistor in line to drop the voltage a bit (think it was a 480 ohm but not sure now and I’m too lazy to go dig into the wiring behind the desk to look). That kept it from getting hot without reducing the amount of light.

Another issue is that the point where the wired connect to the panel are a bit fragile and won’t tolerate a lot of movement. Avoid putting any stress at all at the point where they connect and they should be okay. I’ve heard from other people fiddling around with LED panels like this that this is a fairly common problem.

I could see these easily being used for interior lighting in an RV or enclosed trailer. It would be very easy to turn several of these into an under-counter lighting system in a house if you have a place to tuck a 12V power supply out of sight. Find a cheap, rechargable battery, some kind of box, mount a few of these on the box and you’d have a fairly inexpensive and pretty bright portable work light or flashlight.

So get out there and fiddle with stuff.

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