First off, you need to decide what color temperature you'd like. Fluorescent bulbs cast a greenish (4300K) light. Not all that flattering. Believe me...I see myself in the vanity mirror in the morning and anything I can do to make it more pleasant is a great boon! You could use Daylight, bluish (~5600K) versions or go with the Warm White (~3200K) style. I prefer these as it most closely replicates regular incandescent bulbs.
I also purchased a bunch of same size, same style rocker switches to match the ones already installed by the factory in the stock light fixtures. I used simple "on/off" versions, but I could have saved some work cutting and fitting the switches in by replacing the existing switch with a 3 way version but these switches were much harder to find and were more expensive.
You'll need some 20-22 AWG stranded wire, I used black and red to keep the connections more obvious. A 25 watt (or so) soldering iron, some solder (DUH.), a few 1/4" female spade connectors and some heat shrink tubing in the right size. Too big won't shrink enough, obviously. Too small and when you are forcing it on the crimped blade connectors will pull off. Yes...I did this. Twice.
|Make the Strips a Bit Longer Than the Bulbs|
|Two Switches, One for Fluorescent One for LED|
Carefully remove the fixture and let it dangle on the wires. Now, wouldn't it be much easier to cut the wires to the ceiling then replace them later? Sure, but why do things the easy way? At this point we can cut the rectangular hole for the switch. There are a few ways to do this, but the plastic is quite soft and it's simple to drill a few pilot holes and then use a file to get the correct size and shape. I located it opposite the existing switch so it looks factory installed. Then I cut a hole in the plastic "wall" next to the switch to run the positive wires.
|See the Hole, + and - Leads?|
Take some wire (I used BLACK for negative) and measure how long it needs to be to get from each side of the strip to the center of the fixture where we will tap into the negative wire that's already there. Cut them. Now do the same for the positive (RED) wires. I went from each strip through a hole I drilled and connected it to the switch for the LEDs
|LED Strips with Soldered Wire Leads Attached|
[**TIP - When the wire is hot enough and the solder touches it, it will get "sucked" up into the wire like magic.]
Now heat up both the strip's pad and the short wire end. When they are hot enough they will join and be permanently attached. Make sure the solder melts thoroughly on both or the joint will be weak. When I did the first fixture I tried to do this while it was hanging and it was impossible to get the soldering done properly. Put a piece of heat shrink tubing over each assembly and shrink to fit.
Now find the ground wire in the center of the fixture (or from the coach) and tap into it. You could use various crimp on connectors or simply scrape off some of the insulation and twist the negative wires to the existing ground wire. Since they are already covered in solder, you can just heat it up until a solid connection made and cover with tape. Once done, tuck all the wires into the center and replace the center cover. Lastly, measure another piece of positive (RED) wire from the other spade connector on the new switch to the positive wire from the coach. I tapped into it at the hot side of the existing switch. Cut and crimp on a 1/4" female spade. Slide on a piece of heat shrink tubing and shrink to fit. Run the wire along-side the fixture and up to the power source. It's a good idea to use a piece of tape on the side of the fixture to stop the wire from "flopping" around. It will make it easier to re-install the light!
|Finished Fixture With Lens In Place|
The cost to do this was minimal. Figure less than $20 per fixture. The LED's will last far longer than the fluorescent bulbs, use less power and look better. AND if you use this install method you get to keep the use of the fluorescent bulbs.
Be Seeing You...Down The Road...
Rich "The Wanderman"