LED strip lights can be a great design tool in various projects. They’re flexible and come in different lengths, ideal for adding a dramatic and modern accent to any indoor or outdoor area. They’re perfect for bringing attention to a feature you want to highlight such as the ceiling, steps or patio.
In most cases, LED strip lighting consists of manual individual LED emitters, placed on a flexible and narrow circuit board. You can find various types of fixtures and different colours and brightness levels. Let’s check a few things you need to know before you do your purchase.
How Led Strips Are Built
An LED strip light is 10-12 mm wide and can be up to 5 meters or more long. Led strip lighting can be cut to the exact length you want, by simply using a pair of scissors along the cutlines (they’re located on every 2.5 – 5 cm). Individual LED strips are mounted on the strip, at densities of 18-36 LEDs per 30 cm (60-120 per meter).
The backside of the LED strip has pre-applied double-sided adhesive. So, you just need to peel off the liner and fix the LED strip on any surface. The circuit board is designed to be flexible, allowing LED strips to be mounted on uneven or curved surfaces.
The light output of LED strips is determined in metric lumens. Different LED strips have various levels of efficiency, so a wattage rating is not always quite right in determining actual light output. A quality LED strip provides at least 1500 lumens per meter, which offers about the same amount of light output per meter as a traditional T8 fluorescent lamp.
A LED strip light that has no brightness specification in lumens should be a sign that things aren’t right. Be alerted with low cost LED strips that claim to provide high brightness, as they may overdrive the LEDs to the point of premature failure.
How much an LED strip can illuminate the surrounding space is determined by three factors:
- The light output and efficiency per LED emitter;
- The number of LEDs per meter;
- The power draw of the LED strip per meter.
LED Density and Power Draw
There are various LED emitter names such as 2835, 3528, 5050, 5730. Though, you shouldn’t really worry about these numbers. What matters is the number of LEDs per meter, and the power draw per meter.
LED density is essential in determining the distance between LEDs (pitch) and whether there will be visible hotspots and dark spots between the LED emitters. A higher density of 120 LEDs per meter usually provides the best lighting effect. LED emitters are the priciest component of LED strip manufacturing, so keep in mind the LED density differences when comparing LED strip prices.
Also, don’t forget to consider the LED strip light’s power draw per meter. The power draw shows the amount of power the system will use, so this way you can determine your electricity costs and power supply requirements. A quality LED strip should provide 15 Watts per meter.
LED Strip Colour Options
LED strip lights come in various shades of whites, but you can also find colourful ones for a more vibrant effect. White light is quite practical and popular if you’ll use your lights indoors. Colour temperature CCT and colour index CRI are two metrics that you should remember when looking for various shades of white.
Colour temperature measures how “warm” or “cool” the light’s colour is. The soft light of a traditional incandescent bulb has a low colour temperature (2700K). The bright white of natural daylight has a high colour temperature (6500K).
To accurately measure how colours appear under the light source, you need to use colour rendering measurement. In a low CRI LED strip, the colours might appear kind of washed out, or indistinguishable. High CRI LED products provide light that lets objects appear the way they would under an ideal light (like a halogen lamp, or natural daylight). Look for a light source’s R9 value (it provides further info on how red colours are rendered).
If you need a saturated colour effect, seek coloured LED strips that can offer excellent accent and have some theatrical effects. You can purchase any colour from red infrared, blue, green, amber, violet and ultraviolet. Two primary types of coloured LED strip lights are available – fixed single colour and colour changing. The fixed colour LED strips only emit one colour and operate just like the white LED strips. On the other hand, colour-changing LED strips have several colour channels on one LED strip which you can switch between depending on the mood you want to create.
Input Voltage Power Supply
Most LED strips are configured to operate at 12V or 24V DC. If there is no standard mains supply power source (household wall outlet) at 120/240V AC, the power should be converted to the suitable low voltage DC signal. You can accomplish this by using a DC power supply. Your power supply should have enough power capacity to power the LED strips. Every DC power supply will list its maximum rated current in Amps or Watts.
How to Connect Strip Lights
Connect each LED stripsegment to a DC power supply or another LED strip segment that is connected to a DC power supply (such as a daisy chain). The connection method depends mainly on the type of wires or plugs that come with the LED strip (check if the DC power supply includes a plug). If you are familiar with soldering, this can be the most cost-effective and flexible solution.
If you don’t know or don’t want to deal with soldering, simply use solderless connector accessories to connect the LED strip light segments to power supplies and other LED strip segments.
This information on LED strip lights should ease your buying decision, as well as the process of connecting them in your home or any place you’d want to have these lights. Be sure to seek LED lighting strips from trusted sellers and invest in a more expensive model if you want it to last for a long time.