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Table of Contents
- What is Voltage?
- LED Strip Lights 12v vs 24v
- What is a Voltage Drop?
- How Long Can a 12V LED Light Strip Be?
- Is a 24V LED Light Strip Brighter Than a 12V?
If you’re trying to decide whether to use 12v or 24v LED strip lights, it may seem like there are no real differences between the two options, but both have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. Here’s what you need to know about each type of LED strip light before making your decision about which kind to buy for your project.
What is Voltage?
When people think of electric power, they often associate it with voltage. This is because voltage is a measure of how much pressure is provided by an electrical source to make electrons move.
The term voltage refers to how much potential energy there is in a circuit. The more potential energy, or pressure, there is in a circuit, the more current will flow through that circuit. Voltage is measured in volts (V). One volt (1V) of power equals one joule per coulomb of charge that passes through a circuit per second.
In order for an electric current to pass through an electrical device, it must have enough voltage. If you have a device with too little voltage (or too little pressure), then it won’t work properly. This is why many electronic devices are rated in volts – so that you can make sure your power source has enough juice to run them.
How Voltage Works with an LED Light Strip
LED strip lights use a different kind of voltage, called direct current (DC), than other light bulbs. When you flip on a regular light bulb, it’s turning on an electric current that comes from your wall socket, which is 120 volts or 240 volts. Regular bulbs need to be powered by alternating current (AC).
Your standard plug-in LED lights run off of 110/120 volts AC or 220/240 volts AC. For these reasons, each of your strands will come with its own converter box that takes in whatever voltage you have at home and converts it to DC power for your lights.
LED Strip Lights 12v vs 24v
When to Use a 12-Volt LED Light Strip
A 12-volt system should be used when a very simple setup is all that’s needed. Because it doesn’t require a separate driver or power supply, it saves on cost and is perfect for setups that don’t need constant adjustments.
They are great for running across short distances. To give you some ideas, you can run them along shelves, under counters, around the floor of your car, etc. As long as there’s an electrical outlet nearby, they’ll work just fine.
As with anything, there are pros and cons to choosing a 12-volt LED light strip. The main advantage of a 12-volt LED light strip is that it can be easily run by most automobile accessory power cables (cigarette lighter plug) due to its low voltage.
However, if you choose to use an automobile accessory plug to supply power for your lights, you will have less control over your lighting patterns since you cannot dim or vary the wattage like one would with a 24-volt power supply.
When to Use a 24-Volt LED Light Strip
Although these strips are similar to 12V LED light strips in that they have a low-voltage power input, they are much better for lighting consistently across long distances.
For example, if you were using them along your entire ceiling or at an event, it would be ideal to use a 24V LED light strip because it would illuminate the area more evenly than a 12V strip would. This is because it uses less energy per foot and has less voltage drop over longer lengths.
You will notice they are a bit more expensive than their counterparts, but they have become increasingly popular over time. The beauty of them is that they will run a little cooler, which means you won’t need as much wattage on your transformer and they’re less likely to overheat. This can be nice if you are using them in an RV or boat because it means less power consumption as well as less heat, so your lights will last longer.
The downside of these is that you’ll typically need to get a separate power supply just for these kinds of lights.
What is a Voltage Drop?
Even if you’re still shopping for your first set of LED strip lights, you’ve probably heard people talking about voltage drop – and probably in a disgruntled tone. You also may have heard that it’s something to be avoided at all costs.
After all, if you bought an expensive, high-performance LED light strip and found out that half its light output was being wasted due to voltage drop, wouldn’t you be annoyed?
Voltage drop occurs when power isn’t distributed evenly along a wire. It’s caused by current traveling through a conductor, in our case a wire, more quickly at some points than others.
Voltage drop is measured in volts and represents how much potential energy is lost as electrons flow along an electric circuit. Voltage drop is why some LED strip lights might flicker or dim over longer distances than others. Also, when in doubt, it’s always best to pick a higher voltage so as not to leave too many watts untapped.
How Long Can a 12V LED Light Strip Be?
The length of a strip is usually limited by its power source. A 12-volt supply will run up to 16 feet while a 24-volt supply can run as much as 32 feet. Note that when you’re working with LED strip lights in these ranges, however, you’ll have to watch how many LEDs are on each foot.
For example, if you put more than six or seven LEDs per foot on a 12-volt system, it could overload your circuit. For 24 volts, it’s about four or five per foot. You may also need to use multiple power supplies for longer runs – just double check and make sure they’re compatible!
Is a 24V LED Light Strip Brighter Than a 12V?
Not necessarily. The brightness of a strip light is determined by lumens per foot, not voltage. A 24-volt strip light will have fewer lumens per foot than a 12-volt strip light because it has more LEDs in series to achieve that voltage level.
In other words, a 24-volt strip light will be dimmer than a 12-volt strip light of equal length and wattage rating. However, it is still possible to have a brighter 24-volt strip light than a 12-volt strip light. This is because you can use more LEDs in parallel on a 24-volt circuit to achieve higher lumen output per foot.
We hope this article helped you understand the difference between 12-volt and 24-volt LED light strips, and when you should buy or use one over the other. To recap, some of the most important things to keep in mind when choosing the voltage of your LED strip lights are: the length or distance you’ll want to cover with your lights, your available power supply, the brightness level you wish to achieve, and – of course – avoiding pesky voltage drop issues.