LED strip lights are something that you’ll probably find in many places that you would frequently go to. You can find them on cars, trucks, boats, exterior of houses, and even in ceilings of restaurants or hotels. Since they’re so versatile, they can be used pretty much anywhere if you have an eye for design.
However, using LED strip lights isn’t as easy as 1, 2, 3. Before you buy LED strip lights, you need to know (1) the different kinds of LED strip lights that you can buy in the market, (2) how to properly install them, (3) how to determine their quality, (4) how much power they can produce, (5) how to use them as decorations, (6) how to fix them if they’re not working and much more.
Basically, you need to know everything there is to know about LED if you want to fully optimize the usage of your brand new set of LED lights.
Most people think that once you buy LED strip lights, you can just install them and get it working right away. While they are pretty easy to use, LED strip lights are built to be customized. You need to learn how to customize its usage so that you can fully enjoy its benefits.
That’s why we decided that the best way to do that is to compile all of the things we know about LED strip lights under one complete guide. With this guide, you will know the ins and outs of LED strip lights— so much so that you’ll be able to fully use it the way you want to.
Now that we’ve finished the introductions, let’s get started with our complete guide.
Read on to begin learning more about LED strip lights.
The Basics of LED Strip Lights You Need to Know
To kick off our guide, let’s start at the very beginning— the basics of LED strip lights. This part is extremely important, especially if you’re a newbie at using LED strip lights. The first thing to know about would be the structure of the LED strip light.
As the name implies, LED strip lights are made out of small LED light emitters all lined up together in a flexible strip. A strip light is typically around 5 meters in length and around 10 millimeters wide. They are also waterproof and very flexible.
There are areas wherein you can cut the strip into several shorter strips. These cutting areas can also be used for connecting your strip to other strips to form longer ones (we’ll go into details later).
At the back of the strips are double sided adhesives which are extra sticky and can be used to stick on various surfaces. That said, these lights are some of the easiest to install.
Those are a few of the important, basic things to know about LED strip lights. At the very least, you must learn some basic information about LED strip lights such as length, composition, and basic features like materials.
All About Brightness and LED Density
The next thing you need to know about LED strip lights would be the power output or brightness, versus the wattage. This is important because it allows you to determine how strong the LED lights you want to buy while taking energy efficiency into consideration.
Now, brightness or power of lights is usually measured in lumens or light illumination. When measuring the lumens, you don’t usually measure lumens per piece of light found in the strip. You usually measure the lumens per foot or per meter since this is easier to do. To make things simpler, let’s stick with lumens per foot.
Most LED strip lights have a power output of 450 lumens per foot while others may even be brighter. When measuring lumens, you would usually take a look at the lumen output of emitter and the LED density.
You may be asking what is LED density and why is this important. Well, LED density refers to the number of LED emitters present per foot. So, if there are many emitters per foot, your light will have a stronger output while few emitters per foot will produce a weaker output.
In the market, there are three LED densities you can choose from. These are:
- High Density
- Medium Density
- Low Density
For the high-density LEDs, there are 36 LED emitters per foot. For the medium density LEDs, there are 22 LED emitters per foot. Lastly, low density LEDs have 9 emitters per foot.
How to Determine the Energy Efficiency Through Power Draw
One of the biggest reasons that people buy LED lights is that they are extremely energy efficient. If you want to really take advantage of the energy efficiency of this product, you must first break down the power draw.
Now, LED strip lights actually use up less wattage than the traditional fluorescent light. Just to give you an idea, a LED light that can produce 450 lumens of brightness only needs around 4 watts. Fluorescent lights, on the other hand, will need 40 watts to produce the same amount of light.
That said, LED strip lights would usually provide 4 watts of power per foot depending on the LED density. Knowing this can actually save you a lot of money on your energy bill. If you can find a LED light strip brand that can use less energy but provide the same amount of power, then that’s a pretty good sign.
If you want to go even deeper, you can get the wattage of each individual emitter. You do this by simply dividing the indicated wattage per foot by the density per foot. From there, you can get the wattage per emitter.
4/36 (high density LED) = 0.11 watts per emitter.
How to Analyze the Input Voltage and Power Supply
Related to this, you must also take note of the input voltage and the power supply so that you will know which LED light works best for your power outlet.
As a general rule, LED strips make use of a voltage of 12v up to 24v DC or direct current. With that, you need to make sure that your outlet, which is your power supply, is compatible with the DC signal of the LED strip.
Usually, the required voltage will be listed on the package anyway, so you can check with that. Just to give you an idea, the voltage is related to the total power draw of the LED strip light in watts or, in some cases, amps.
For most LED strip lights though, 24v would be the best choice. However, 12v is also not too bad for a second choice.
How to Choose the Best Quality LED Strip Light
Now that you know some important facts about LED strip lights, let’s get to something very important – determining quality.
In the market, you’ll find a whole range of LED strip light products to choose from. A whole lot of them are high-quality products, but there are also a bunch of them that are low quality goods that do not perform the way they’re supposed to or burn out without warning. As a consumer, you have to know how to spot the good from the bad.
As per our experience, there are three main things that you can look out for in order to know if the product is good or not. We’ll go through these three factors and explain them one by one:
First of all, you need to look at the light output in lumens, which we have discussed in the earlier parts of the guidebook. While it is true that the higher the lumen count the stronger the light, you must also consider the lumens per number of LED emitters.
You see, there are some low-quality brands that would claim a higher power but would have only a few LED light emitters present. This means that each emitter will be working extra hard to keep up with the marketed power level. In the long run, durability will be an issue because the emitters won’t be able to take the strain.
So, you should stick to a realistic lumen to LED count ratio. Follow our tips from the Brightness and LED Density section to do that.
Next, you need to take a look at the quality of the circuit board. For LED strip lights to work, high level electricity will be traveling through the circuit board. With that kind of power traveling through the circuit board, it has to be made out of high-quality parts to take the power. One of the most important parts that you have to put extra focus on would be the copper material since electricity travels through these parts.
That said, the circuit board needs to have the right number of copper material to ensure that the electricity travels smoothly. Without it, you will experience what is known as voltage drop, which will result in less efficiency and power. At the very least, you’ll need 2 ounces of copper material per LED strip light circuit board. If you can find one with 4 ounces of copper material, even better.
Last, you need to take note of the surface coating. More often than not, the LED strip lights’ surfaces would be painted with an extra layer to help reflect light. This would help make the light stronger. However, this little feature can only be found on high-quality LED strip lights of known brands.
Low end brands won’t have this feature and it could affect the overall brightness of the light. That’s why you need to look for this extra white coating when looking for LED strip lights.
LED Strip Light Color Customization
One of the most enjoyable parts of buying LED strip lights would be mixing and matching the colors. Before that, you must first know about the different color options that you have and the various color features available. This way, you’ll have more knowledge, allowing you to choose the best option.
First, let’s start with the most common LED light color – white.
So far, white, is the most common and popular since it is the one widely used for practical lighting. The thing about the color white is that there are a number of shades that you have to note. You will choose one of these shades so might as well choose the best one.
You can determine the shades of white through the color temperature and color rendering index. Color temperature is further determined by how warm or cool the color is. Low color temperature would be 2700K and is described as a dark type of white. This is often found in incandescent bulbs. The 6500K color temperature is the warmer type which can be found in most LED lights.
Next would be the CRI metric.
For low CRI LED strip lights, the color may be a bit deformed and hard to distinguish. High CRI LED lights though, look natural and clear. Hence, for most of the part, it’s best to get higher CRI LED lights if you want something that will really accentuate your interior and exterior designs.
Aside from white light, there is a whole spectrum of colors to choose from and a lot of color effects as well. Typically, you get to choose among blue, green, red, violet, yellow, infrared, and ultraviolet.
Now, the colors are usually categorized as either fixed or color changing lights.
- Fixed color LEDs are those one-color LEDs. These ones have a fixed color that can’t change.
- The second is the color changing type wherein the color can change from time to time. This one is more for decorative purposes and gives more variety with regard to aesthetics.
Quick LED Strip Light Installation Guide
Now that you have learned the most important facts of LED strip lights, what’s next? Well, you now have to learn how to install those LED strip lights. If you haven’t done installations yet, we’ve provided you the steps on how to do that.
They’re rather easy to install since they have adhesive on the back, but we’ll break it down anyway:
- Choose an area that is close to a power supply
- Measure the area that you want to install the LED strip lights on
- Cut the lights into smaller strips to fit the area
- Plug in the power then test the lights
- Peel off the adhesive from the back of the strips and paste them on the area you want
- Turn it on and enjoy
Pretty simple, right?
How to Install the Dimmer
What if you think that the lights seem too bright after you’ve tested the lights? Is there a way to somehow lower the brightness level to a more comfortable level?
Fortunately, there is if you install a dimmer. The good news is that LED lights are dimmable, so you if you connect them to a dimmer, you can control the brightness however you want.
Here are some tips on how to install the dimmer:
- Attach solderless connectors on to the strips
- Run the black wire into the (-) port and the red wire to the (+) port
- Install the two wires into the housing that says In
- Use a Cerro wire to connect the other end to the bottom housing that says Out
- Secure the connection with a screwdriver
- Test the dimmer
How to Connect LED Strip Lights
We mentioned earlier that you need to install the lights where the outlet is.
- What if the outlet is too far from where you want to install the lights? If that’s the case, then you can make the LED strip lights longer by simply connecting it with another set. That way, you can make it extend nearer to the outlet.
In order to do that, you may rewire them with some wire nuts. You need to expose their bare wires, wrap the positive and negative cables of both ends of the strips with each other, and clip some wire nuts to keep them secured in place.
- Another method would be to use strip-to-strip connectors. They’re pretty easy to use. All you have to do is peel off a part of one end from each strip. After that, attach one connector per strip end.
- If you don’t like wires, there’s also the option to use a wireless strip to strip connector. You install them the same way you do with regular strip to strip connectors. They should be able to work by then.
So, the method in which you connect two different LED strip lights will really depend on you. Some people prefer classic rewiring as this method is more likely to work. Other people prefer convenience; thus, they use the connectors instead.
Troubleshooting Problematic LED Strip Lights
If ever you have problems with your LED strip lights, there are several ways for you to check what the problem is. It is always best to get to the root problem of your lights so that you won’t have more problems in the future. You see, most of the issues that happen with LED strip lights would lie in the parts like the converter, wires, bulbs, etc.
So, if you want to fix the problem, you need to pinpoint which part is affected. We’ll go through some of the best ways to do that below:
Troubleshoot the wires
The easiest part to troubleshoot would be the wires, so you can start with that first. Start off by turning off the light and check if any wires came loose. This is usually the main problem for dimming or flickering lights. If you see that any of the wires are loose simply tighten them. If they have been exposed and damaged, replace them immediately.
Troubleshoot the Bulbs
If the light does not want to turn on, then you may want to check out the bulbs. This will play especially true if ever one of the bulbs can’t work while the others do. You can actually replace the bulb but we won’t really recommend that if you’re not experienced with handling LED strip lights. In that case, just either cut out the parts that don’t work or buy a new strip.
Troubleshoot the Converter
Another possibility that may cause problems would be trouble with the converter. If your converter is already overloaded, then your LED strip light will definitely encounter some problems. You need to check the wattage to see if it is overloaded.
Most of the LED strip lights can only take up to 60 watts. Anything beyond that is problematic. One of the best ways to handle this problem is to buy another converter and split the wattage between the two.
Troubleshoot the Accessories
Sometimes, the accessories connected to the LED strip lights can cause problems for the lights. If you can’t turn the lights on, then you may want to try taking out the dimmers and controllers for the time being.
If you can get the lights to work without the dimmer or the controller, then that means the accessories are either not connected to the light strips properly or that they don’t work at all. You can try to rewire them again and see if they work. If not, you can either buy a new set of accessories or just junk them.
Of course, when all else fails, the last resort would be to call a professional to help you. The problem could be something even deeper than just the surface parts which you might not be able to handle by yourself.
And that concludes our complete, easy-to-read guidebook. If you want to know everything there is to know about LED strip lights, then this handy guidebook will be here to help you out. If you have any comments or questions that you may still have about the topics that we’ve discussed in this book, feel free to leave a comment below.
You can also suggest some other topics that you’d like us to cover that we didn’t include in the guide.