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The Do It Yourself LED Lamp

How to make your own LED light bulb for 120 volt or 12 Volt RV sockets
Step by step instructions

By The Do It Yourself World


www.TheDIYworld.com

Introduction
Lights in our home account for over 30% of our electric bill. Standard incandescent light bulbs are only about 10% efficient
and lose the rest in heat. This waste heat, of course, heats up your home. In winter this can be a positive thing, but in summer,
it can really add up.
CCFL (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps) are more efficient than standard incandescent lamps, but are still not as efficient as
LED lighting. While CCFLs still cost a lot more than standard lamps, they are still cheaper than retail LED lighting.
Using LED light bulbs will reduce your energy bill as well as waste heat. This has the further benefit that in the summer, your
AC bill will be lower, thereby increasing your overall energy savings.
Making your own LED light bulbs can save you both energy and money. The LED light bulbs shown in this booklet only cost
about $3 each. The circuit board costs about $2 for two of them. The LEDs cost about a dollar per 100 online. Add a few
cents for some rectifier diodes and you are still around the $3 price range for this project. The lamp socket can be recycled
from a standard incandescent lamp that has burnt out.
LED lighting is a very important addition to your home, especially if your are running on solar power, wind energy or self
generated energy such as pedal powered generators.
Solar and wind energy are expensive to install, so we usually cannot afford huge systems. Therefore, to save energy and
keep costs low, LED lighting plays an important role in our home lighting systems.
One other important note:
Most over the counter LED light bulbs have some kind of resistor to reduce the power going to your LEDs. Resistors or extra
circuitry wastes energy as heat, reducing your savings. We show you how to set up your own LED lamp with no wasted
energy.
LEDs have various voltage and current requirements based on their color and make. Generally, colored LEDs are rated at
about 2 2.4 volt and about 20 mA. White LEDs are normally rated at 3.0 to 3.4 volt and about 20 24 mA.

Below is a typical LED color and power chart. These may vary from your own LEDs, so please consult the manufacturers
spec sheets.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that the LED brightness varies with an increase in current or voltage. But the life
expectancy of the LED will decrease accordingly. An average LED can last up to about 100,000 hours. By increasing its
voltage, you will increase its visible light output, but at the same time, reduce its life.
This is how many retail manufacturers can offer high output LEDs, but at the same time, the expected life is about 26,000
hours on average.
Also, when you increase a LEDs voltage, it gets hot. An LED running with a higher current will require some sort of heat
sink or cooling to increase its life.
Keep this in mind for later on, when you decide how many LEDs to use when making your light bulb.

LEDs, Voltage and Current


Now, we need to cover voltage and power supplies for a 120 Volt LED light bulb.
The normal household line voltage is rated at about 117 volts AC. If you use a diode bridge rectifier to convert it to DC, one
would expect to get about 117 volts DC. But that is not actually true. A diode bridge puts out a little bit higher voltage DC. If
you add a filter capacitor, you get even more voltage out.
So, using the normal household voltage of 117 volts AC, converted to DC, and using a filter capacitor, you will get roughly 150
volts DC output. We will use 150 volts to calculate how many LEDs to use for optimum light output and bulb life expectancy.
To get the most light with no loss in the system, we will connect the LEDs in series, plus to minus, until the total LED voltage
is equal to 150 volts.
If the total voltage of all the LEDs combined equals the total voltage of the power supply, we do not need any resistors or
voltage regulators. Remember earlier we mentioned how we will save energy by cutting out the energy wasting resistors.
Looking back at the LED color chart, you can see that the average white LED requires about 3.4 volts DC.
Divide 150 volts by 3.4 volts and you get about 44 LEDs.
The example used in The DIY World website used older LEDs that were rated for 2.4 volts, so we used 60 LEDs for the
light bulb.
Depending on your own LEDs, you will use either 40 or 60 LEDs to make an LED light bulb.

Parts Needed for 120 Volt LED Light


This is a very simple design using 60 LEDs and 4 rectifier diodes set up as a bridge rectifier.
Parts list for homemade LED lamp:
1 - Pre-drilled bread board with solder contacts.
4 - Rectifier Diodes. 1n4001 or 1n4007 are ok.
60 - Ultra bright LEDs. 5,000 mcd or better.
1 - Halogen to medium base lamp socket adapter.

The light bulb socket can also be obtained by carefully wrapping a standard incandescent light bulb in a cloth or paper towel
and hitting it gently with a hammer until it explodes. Then very carefully knock out all glass from the socket. Now you can
solder leads into your new light bulb base.
Be VERY CAREFUL if you do this to avoid cutting yourself.

Make an LED Light Bulb


Now, to get started. First, lets identify the LED terminals. The longer terminal is positive and the shorter one is negative.

Now, identify the rectifier diode. The band on the diode is the negative terminal of the diode.

White LEDs have an average voltage rating of about 3.2 volts and a current rating of 24 mA. Using 120 volts AC and
splitting it through a bridge rectifier gives us a little over 2 volts per LED, which will be a very safe current, but will not be as
bright as possible.
Option:
Remember, you may use 40 LEDs instead of the suggested 60 to increase overall brightness of your LED light bulb. Doing so
my reduce the total life span of the LEDs, but you will get much more light per bulb.
Again, check with your manufacturer's specification sheet to find the best voltage for your LEDs. Then divide 150 volts by
your LEDs voltage to find how many LEDs you will be using to make your light bulb.

Begin The Construction


Connect all the LEDs together from + to _ to + to _ as shown in the picture below.

Below you can see the LEDs mounted on the breadboard.

Continue soldering all of your LEDs together. In this example, we had to use two breadboards because they were a bit too
small to hold 60 LEDs total. If you need to, simply continue soldering plus to minus and use a wire to connect the minus from
the first board to the plus of the second and keep going. See second image on the next page.
Now add the bridge rectifier. Connect the diodes together as shown in the first diagram on the next page. Connect the
positive terminal to the positive wire of the first LED in the series (the long leg) and connect the negative terminal to the short
leg of the last LED in the series. Refer to the third diagram on the next page.

As you solder the LEDs to the breadboard, cut the legs close to the board to prevent any future shorts in the light bulb.
Now, using the diagrams above as a guide, strip the leads of your socket adapter, or recycled light bulb socket, and solder
them to the neutral (marked in ~ ) terminals of your rectifier bridge.
You may want to use plastic screws and nuts to hold your two circuit boards together (if you use two) and keep the solder
points from shorting out. You can also get creative and hide your new LED bulb under a lamp shade.

In order to allow the easy insertion and removal of your new LED light bulb, you may want to pour some epoxy into your light
bulb socket. Or you can fill it up with hot glue. Anything to give you a better grip when inserting and removing the bulb from a
lamp. This will also protect the leads you soldered into the light bulb socket.
Screw your new LED lamp into any normal lamp socket and enjoy energy savings from now on. (Unplug the lamp first to
prevent electric shock.) The life of your new homemade LED lamp should be about 100,000 hours. (Unless you decide for
brighter light over life).

Update: Add a capacitor


You may add a 330 volt, 80uf photo flash capacitor from a discarded single use camera to the circuit. This increases the
brightness of the LED lamp considerably, while still not heating up the LEDs at all. Simply connect the minus side of the cap
to the minus output of the bridge rectifier and the positive to the plus side. The minus side of the cap is noted with a long
stripe all the way down the side of the case.
Adding a capacitor will filter the pulsed DC signal that is coming out of the diode bridge rectifier while at the same time
increasing the output DC voltage. This will have the effect of giving off more light in your bulb.
If you constructed the LED bulb with 40 LEDs instead of using 60, watch for excessive heating in your lamp. If the individual
LEDs get hot to touch, you may consider removing the capacitor or adding some sort of cooling to the LEDs. For 60 LED
lamps, this will not be a concern.

How To Make A 12 V LED Bulb

Step by step instructions how to make your own LED light bulb for about $3.
To make your own LED light bulb, you will need a soldering iron and some solder, some LEDs and a pre-drilled circuit board.
You will also need an old, burnt out incandescent light bulb. To make a LED light bulb for about three dollars, look online for
bulk LEDs. You can find them out of China now for about a dollar with free shipping for a hundred LEDs.

The circuit board can be found for about $2. These are pre-drilled with the copper rings on the soldering side. You will also
need two pieces of scrap wire about three inches long.

White LEDs require about 3.2 to 3.4 volts each. Your RV or car battery runs between 12 volts to 14 volts. Normally it runs
around 12.5 volts to 13 volts on average. To save money, we will not be using a voltage regulator or current limiter for the
LED light bulb. Instead, we will use enough LEDs in series to allow them to limit their own current.
If you string 4 LEDs together, plus to minus and plus to minus, then you will have a total voltage of between 12.8 volts and
13.6 volts across the LEDs. By calculating 3.2 volts x 4 LEDs, we get 12.8 volts total. On the high range, 3.4 volts x 4 LEDs
gives us 13.6 volts total. Using these calculations, the vehicle or RV average 12.5 volts to 13 volts is perfectly in the range of
our LEDs, so no limiting resistor will be needed. Even if the battery does go over 14 volts for a short time, it should not harm
the LEDs. They may get a bit warm, but should be fine.

Assemble Your Homemade LED Light Bulb


Using the image below as a guide, start solding your LEDs together in rows of 4 starting with the Plus lead and connecting to
the next LEDs Minus lead, then Plus, Minus, Plus, Minus. The long leg of an LED is the positive lead.

Refer to the following images for the next steps. In the first photo, you see one row of LEDs is soldered in place. You will
probably need to skip a hole in between each LED in case they do not fit well.
Look at the second photo to see how to bend the LED legs over to make contact with each other. Cut the legs short and then
fold one over to touch the one next to it. This will ensure a good electrical contact. In the third image, you can see that a row
of holes was skipped in between rows of LEDs. Also you can see that the rows were staggered a bit to allow room in
between LEDs. This also spreads the light pattern a bit when the LED light bulb is finished.

First Row Done

Bend The Legs To Make Connections

Staggered Rows Of LEDs

Your LEDs should be positioned on the board as seen in the following diagram. Each row should have four LEDs connected
together in series from + to - to + to - and so on.

Refer to the following photo for the next step. As you reach the end of each row, leave the outside LED leg long. Bend it
over to reach across to the LED next to it. Zoom in on the photo to see how the LED legs on the outside rows are soldered
together along the edges. On the left side will be the positive lead. On the right side is the negative lead.

To prevent any problems later and to make sure that the homemade light bulb is coming along well, connect the circuit board
to a 12 volt power source (or battery) periodically to test the circuit. This will ensure that all the leads are soldered together
well and there are no shorts or bad solder joints. If you wait until the whole lamp is finished to test it, then it will be harder to
find the trouble spot.

In the photo below, the voltage is only set to 10 volts and the few LEDs on the board are already putting out a nice amount of
light. These are cheaper LEDs, so the light output is a little bit blue tinted. But who cares, at that price.

Keep soldering and adding rows to your LED light bulb until the perfboard is full. The one in our example has 8 rows of 4
LEDs for a total of 32 LEDs.
Test your new DIY LED bulb again on the bench to make sure all the solder connections are good. In the second photo
following, you can see that the LED lamp is giving off enough energy to light up even the work surface below the LEDs.
That is a lot of light.

Finished LED Board

BE VERY CAREFUL when following the next steps. Now you will recycle an old, burned out incandescent light bulb (Fig 1)
to use its socket for your new LED light bulb. Wrap the old light bulb in a rag, layers of paper or, better yet, an old bubble
wrap lined mailing envelope. Gently hit the glass with a small hammer to break the bulb. Now, carefully knock out all of the
glass from inside the light bulb. Wear heavy protective gloves when working on this step. You may want to pry out some of
the glass with a small screw driver. Gently hold the light bulb socket in a pair of plyers during this step.
Now you should have something that looks like the (Fig 2). If you broke the original wires, do not worry. You can solder in
new ones if needed. Now attach a piece of wire from the positive terminal of your new LED circuit board and run it to the
center wire of the light bulb socket. The one that goes to the little lead end on the bottom of the light bulb socket. Then
connect the negative terminal of your LED bulb to the other wire of the bulb socket, the one that connects to the outside of
the socket.
Your new LED light bulb should look like the one in (Fig 3).
Fill the socket with epoxy or hot glue to secure the wires and be sure they never break due to vibration or stress. To mount
the new LED bulb, simply press the bulb into the light socket and twist it as you would a normal incandescent light. Then
secure the circuit board with a bit of double sided tape to keep it in place in your lamp. Replace the light cover and enjoy
energy efficient light.

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

These LEDs are rated at 20,000 MCD each. This gives us a total of 640,000 millicandela of light. This is equal to roughly 100
Lumens, which is the equivalent of the output of your standard 15 Watt incandescent light bulb found in most autos, RVs and
campers (Fig 1).
The big difference comes in the energy savings. Your new homemade LED light bulb only burns about 200 mA, which equals
about 2.4 Watts. That is a sixth of the power consumption of your standard incandescent light bulb. And your new LED bulb
will outlast any incandescent bulb by many years. After a couple years you will see a financial savings as well.
Compare your new homemade LED light bulb to retail versions shown in the following photos. The biggest difference is
price. You can make your own LED light bulbs for a fraction of the price as the retail versions and they can be tailored to
your own needs. Another advantage is if an LED fails on your homemade lamp, you can replace it. If you spend lots of
money on retail lights and they fail, then you are out that money.

Retail LED RV Light

Retail RV LED Light Adapters


LED light bulbs are great for autos, RVs or campers because they last longer than incansescent lamps and they are not
fragile. LEDs are not susceptible to vibration or shock, so they outlast standard light bulbs in harsh environments such as
traveling in a vehicle or trailer.
Now you can enjoy many years of affordable, energy efficient light.

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