LEDs are becoming more popular for home lighting. I’m sure you have heard the argument for LEDs over incandescent and even halogen bulbs: they are more efficient, brighter, longer lasting, they don’t produce much heat, they are easily controlled and programmed…the list goes on and on. LEDs come in extremely compact packages that are durable and resistant to shock, making it so they can be used in a variety of ways. One increasingly popular way is in strip lighting. Linear (strip) lighting has become very popular and is becoming an affordable option for home lighting. Buying LED strip lights might seem relatively straight forward, but there are actually many things you need to take into account to make sure you get the right type of light for your needs. Follow us through this post as we walk through the important factors for LED strip lighting and run through our full line of LED strips.
Types of LED Strips
Our LED Strips category is a broad category that includes all different types of LED lights that come in strips. Depending on how you plan on using the LED strips, you may actually need one type over the other. For example, our LED flex strips are better suited for outdoor and wet areas as they have a protective covering that make them waterproof. Below is just a brief description of each kind of LED Strip Light we carry, we will go into more detail on them later in this post as we do have multiple types of strips in some of these categories.
- DC LED Flex Strips – Easily run off 12VDC, these flexible strips come with a silicone covering to waterproof and a 3M adhesive backing for easy installation.
- AC LED Flex Strips – Flexible strips that run straight from your outlet. Just plug in and they are ready to go.
- LED Rope Light – Encased, omni-directional LEDs in the standard rope light packaging.
- High Power LED Strips – High Power LEDs from Cree, Luxeon and Nichia mounted to rigid strips with on board drivers and circuitry.
When buying LED strips it is important to not only look at the length of the strip, but also the amount of LEDs in the length. Ideally, you should look for the strip lights that have the highest amount of LEDs per foot (meter, yard, etc). If LEDs are spaced too far apart across the strips they could produce spotty lighting instead of a clean line of light. It can be confusing as manufacturers use different units of measurement in order to advertise this. My recommendation would be to stick to a certain measurement and then convert all other measurements to see what strips have the most LEDs per set unit of measurement. Below is a breakdown of LEDs/foot for our strips. Take note that this is not the only factor in determining brightness and light quality. Our LED Rope Light, for instance, has more LEDs per foot than our DC LED Flex Strips but they are dim LEDs and are much spottier than the Flex Strips, so always check on brightness of the LEDs as well which we go over in the next section.
LED Strip Brightness
As LED technology improves the small diodes light output continues to get brighter. This doesn’t mean all strips will be super bright, however, as in some cases you may not even want the light to be so bright. Brightness of LEDs is measured in lumens. Depending on how you are using the LED strips, you will probably want a certain level of lumens. For accent lighting you will probably not want anything brighter than 200 Lumens per foot but for other applications where you want more light it just depends on your personal preference of how bright you want them. So make sure you take note of the Lumens/length along with the LEDs/length as this will have a strong effect on light quality and the type of light the strip gives off.
LED Strip Colors
Our LED strips come in a wide range of single colors as well as multi-color strips (RGB). The most basic LED strip lights are our single colors that only emit one fixed light color. They cost less and are generally easier to install. We offer them in: Warm White, Neutral White, Cool White, Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow.
The color changing strips are called RGB strips. These LED lights can display any Red-Green-Blue combination color. These strips can be controlled to change colors in flashes or stay on one selected solid color using our 3 Channel RGB Controller. Take a look below to see how these strips work and look.
Color temperature is very different than the color of LED light. Color temperature is how we differentiate the various white colors that an LED can produce. Temperature indicates how ‘warm’ or ‘cool’ the light appears. Temperature is measured in Kelvin with higher temps representing cool colors (blueish hue) and lower temps representing warmer colors (yellowish light you would expect from a bulb). See below for a more visual explanation.
Installation of LED Strip Lights
When buying strip lights for an application you should always have an idea of how you will mount them and set them up. For some strips like the DC LED Flex Strips, it is as easy as exposing the adhesive backing and sticking them onto a clean surface, but for some installations it can be much more difficult for mounting, cutting and wiring strips together. Here are some factors you should always keep in mind, we will get more specific farther on in this post when we talk about each individual strip:
- Know the length of strip needed/number of separate strips needed
- Know your strips power and voltage requirements
- Flexibility of the LED strip lights
- Durability of the LED strips
- Decide whether other components such as connectors or extra wire are needed
- Decide how you will dim, control, or program the strips you set up
LED Strip Wattage
Another key factor in setting up your LED strips is knowing the wattage. First you need to find out the wattage of the system you want to set up. Here at LEDSupply we provide you with the wattage per length of strip so it is easy to find what your total wattage will be once you know how many linear feet of strips you have. Finding total wattage will not only help you find an adequate power supply but will also let you know how much electricity you will be using with your new setup.
Once you know total wattage you just need to find a power supply. You will need a power supply for all of our strips other than the AC Flex Strips and LED Rope Light, which are plug and go so they do not need a power supply, just a standard wall outlet to plug into. First thing when looking for a power supply is knowing what input voltage your LED Strips require. Some require AC/DC, 12V/24V…just make sure you know what your strip needs and get a power supply with that output. Then make sure the wattage of the power supply is at least 10% higher than the wattage your LED strips will consume. If there is no wattage listed on the power supply (there always will be on our site) it’s a good thing to note that: Output Voltage x Amperage = Wattage of your power supply.
Buying LED Strips at LEDSupply
Now that we have gone over some of the basics of buying LED strip lighting, it’s time to take a look at the specific strips we carry. In the rest of the post I will go over each strip to hopefully help you decide what strip is best for your application. This is the most important section of this post as it will help you find the strips best for you and will have all the info you need to set them up and get your project going.
DC LED Flex Strips
We’ve got two types of these strips, Standard Density and High Density. The density basically means the LEDs per length. Standard density gives a softer, more dim accent light where the high density doubles that for those applications that need brighter light. If you’re still debating on which one is for you, read below for a full description of both.
Our best selling strip is great for accent lighting both indoors and outdoors as it has a clear layer of silicone over the LEDs and components to waterproof the strip. This flexible LED strip comes with 3M double sided adhesive backing for easy installation in tight places as it is just 10mm wide and 3mm tall. We sell these strips in 3 ft. increments up to 16.4 feet but they can actually be cut every 4 inches along the cut lines for more custom and accurate measurements.
These strips have nine 5050 SMD LEDs per foot (30/meter) that come in warm white, neutral white, cool white, red, yellow, green, blue and RGB. Their lumen outputs are as follows:
- Whites: 180 Lumens/foot (540/meter)
- Red: 34 Lumens/foot (112/meter)
- Yellow: 27 Lumens/foot (88/meter)
- Green: 67 Lumens/foot (221/meter)
- Blue: 18 Lumens/foot (59/meter)
As you can see from the pictures below, these whites give off great light for accent and cove lighting whereas the colors are great for adding a cool color effect to your space. The colors aren’t meant for bright lights but more for bars or game rooms to add a small amount of colored light to really add to the ambiance of the room.
These strips DO NOT require a driver as they have built in resistors so that is sure to save you some money. All they need in order to run is a 12VDC power supply. We have many switching power supplies on our site in a variety of sizes for projects both big and small. In order to calculate the total wattage you would be using know that these strips run at 2.2 Watts/foot (7.2/meter). Take note that for these strips there is a voltage drop so you cannot run these strips in series (daisy chained together) longer than 32 feet. If you have longer lengths you will have to either add another power supply or run a length of wires back to the power supply so you run the extra length in parallel.
The standard density flex strips are for you if you are working in tight spaces and would like some indirect or accent lighting. They are not as bright as the High Density Strips so they are perfect for applications where you might not want a really bright light. They are great for ceiling coves, bookshelf lighting, under the dash lighting for your vehicle and many other applications. The easy installation, great price point and low wattage are key advantages these have over our other strips as you can build a pretty low cost system that doesn’t use much electricity and gives off a great quality light. If you need more light from them, or want to use these as a main source of light for a space you will want to look below at our High Density Strips.
The High Density LED Flex Strip has all the same qualities as the standard density: a waterproof silicone layer, 3M adhesive backing, 10mm wide by 3mm tall and they are available in 3 foot increments. They actually can be cut to even more precise measurements once you get them as they have cut lines every 2 inches compared to the standard density which can only be cut every 4 inches. We do not offer the high density strip in as many colors but still provide our warm white, neutral white, cool white, red, blue and RGB options. The biggest difference, however, is the number of LEDs on the strip which in turn affects wattage, voltage drop and the technical specifications of the strip.
The high density strips have double the amount of LEDs, 18 per foot (60/meter). Remember how we talked earlier about how the higher LEDs per foot means a more steady, high quality light? That is what the high density strip gives you over the standard, tighter LED spacing. This will not only make for a steadier light but also a much brighter light. These strips provide a 45% increase in lumen output as they give off 360 Lumens/foot (1080/meter). That is a pretty significant increase for those projects that need more light.
These strips run off of 12VDC as well but the increase in LEDs makes the wattage increase over the standard density. These strips run about 3.7 watts per foot (12/meter), so you will have to account for that when picking a power supply to run them. The voltage drop is also greater among these strips so unlike the standard density strips where you can run about 32 feet in series, for these high density you can only run 16.4 feet (1 reel) in series. This just means you will have to plan out where you want to put your power supply or how you will run lengths back to the power supply if you go over the 16.4 feet. You’ll find sometimes it helps to place the power supply in the middle of your application so that you can run lengths in two different directions.
These strips are a significant upgrade from the standard density if you are looking for more light output. They are double the price but you will definitely get your moneys worth for the quality of light. These are mainly for those applications that have higher ceiling coves and you need more light or if you are actually trying to use these as a main source of light in a specific area. I’m pretty sure you will have no problem with the light output and will probably even want one of the dimmers below in case they are too bright.
DC LED Flex Strip Accessories
These are some useful accessories that can be used with our standard and high density flex strips. They are crucial in running these strips for many applications. See if they could help you with yours!
As we have discussed, these strips are extremely easy to install. The toughest part of installing them is when you have a gap in your application and need to cut them and then connect them together. What we do here and what you can definitely do at home with basic soldering knowledge is to get some of our 24 gauge wire and solder the wire in between the strips. Another option are our new gapless connectors for these strips (2 pin connectors for single color & 4 pin connectors for RGB). These also come with a jumper to jumper option that has 6 inches of wire in between the connectors for when you are running this around tight corners or just need a break in the chain. All you need to do is scrape off the thin silicone layer and make sure these connectors have solid connections to the solder pads. Using these connectors is a great idea for those that don’t want to solder, but some caution is required when using them. We go over how to connect 2-pin and 4-pin connectors to your strips in this post.
As I touched on earlier you will probably want a dimmer, whether you have a standard or high density strip. This will allow you to control the light no matter what the situation. If you are not buying one of the dimmers below and go elsewhere for a dimmer please make sure you buy a PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) Dimmer, as these are the only kind that will work with these flex strips. For applications where you want to control from a wall switch you can use our PWM Wall Mounted dimmer complete with slider and on/off switch. This dimmer needs to be wired between your power supply and strips and will mount right into the wall to dim or brighten the strips easily with the vertical slider. This dimmer is only capable of controlling 72 Watts so if your strips run over that then you will need our PWM amplifier (see below).
We also have a couple remote control dimmers for these strips. This first remote dimmer comes with a control box to put in between your power supply and strips along with a small remote that controls the light with the click of a button. This works with our single color flex strips and is capable of controlling up to 96 Watts.
The second single color remote control dimmer we offer is pretty cool (pictured right – video below). It is actually capable of 144 Watts and the controller ‘box’ is much more discrete than the dimmer above. The dimmer can control brightness, shut off your strips, or set them to blink/strobe. This is a great dimmer for your strips; extremely easy to use with a professional look to it.
The above two dimmers are for single color flex strips, so if you have an RGB strip, the dimmer/controller you will want is the 3 Channel RGB Remote Controller (also available in a 288 Watt version). This controller is set up the same as the controller above with a control box in between your power and your strips and then a hand held remote for easy control. This remote allows you to switch the strip to all the different color options available from RGB and also set the remote on four different modes: flash, strobe, fade in/out, and smooth transitions. This remote can handle up to 72 watts. As a side note we do have a complete RGB LED Flex Strip Kit that comes with a 16.4 foot reel of the standard density flex strip, a 12VDC power supply and this RGB controller. This does cut down on your cost if this is something that would work for your application.
This product doesn’t look like much but is a must for large scale flex strip projects. You will notice from above that all our dimmers have wattage limitations. Before this became available you would have to buy more than one dimmer for larger projects. That would be pretty annoying to have a big room full of strips that you have to control using 3 different dimmers wouldn’t it? That’s why we made it a priority of ours to find a way to make it so you could power a lot of these strips off of just one dimmer. This repeater solves the problem and makes it so you can connect one of our dimmers to it and it will be able to control up to 210 Watts of strips! That is triple what you could power without it! The PWM Repeater Amplifier has 3 different outputs so you can have 3 different channels running off of it. This is a must have for large scale projects!
12VDC Power Supplies
These strips run off 12VDC so you will need a switching power supply if you are powering right from the wall outlet like most of these strip applications do. Just check out our power supply options and look for a 12VDC output power supply with enough wattage to run your system. Calculate your system wattage by knowing your linear feet and knowing the wattage per foot (listed above).
12V LED Strip Power Supply offering TRIAC dimming
Magnitude lighting converters are the premium 12 volt source for your LED strip lights. What makes these power supplies so special is that they make it possible to dim your LED flex strips with your standard household dimmer. As we discussed above, these light strips usually need an in-line, PWM dimmer, but these power supplies cut out the need for a separate dimmer and give you the option of wiring them right into your current setup! See how it all works here with their UL listed and recognized models. These power supplies will make the LED strip set up so much easier.
AC LED Flex Strips
Our AC 3528 LED Flex Strips are another great linear LED option for indirect or accent lighting. They are very similar to the DC Flex Strips in terms of flex and looks. They are a strong flexible strip approximately 3/8” wide and 1/4” tall with 3528 LEDs spaced every .65” on top of the strip. Unlike the DC Flex Strips there is no adhesive backing on these but they do come with clips for every foot you order or we have 4 foot plastic tracking available for them to easily be slid into for easy mounting and a clean, professional look. They are covered in a plastic material that keeps them waterproof and strong enough to withstand the outdoors and wet conditions.
What really makes these strips so great is that they run off of 120VAC meaning you can just plug them straight into your wall outlet and they are good to go. You can run a typical wall switch or a standard incandescent dimmer to the outlet in order to control them. This really makes the buying process easy as you don’t need any extra supplies to make the strips run.
The AC LED Flex Strips are available in warm white, cool white, red, green and blue. We sell them in the following lengths which run at the corresponding wattage: 3.3 foot (4W), 6 foot (8W), 12 foot (15W), 19 foot (22W), 31 foot (37W) and 45 foot (55W). As you can see, these strips come in much longer lengths than the DC Flex Strips and can actually connect up to 106 feet long! In order to connect the strips all you need are the jumper extensions. These come in 3 foot, 6 foot and 15 foot lengths as we realize sometimes you need a longer gap in between your lights.
The strips have 9 LEDs per foot (30/meter) and give off 80 lumens/foot for cool white and 72 lumens/foot for warm white. They are not as bright as the DC Flex Strips but they are a great quality light that is perfect for long lengths of indirect/accent lighting. They have a rated lifetime of 35,000 hours and like said before, even with a long length of these all you would need to buy extra is the jumper extensions if you want to run more than one strip together. Just plug these babies in and enjoy!
We also carry another AC option in the 5050 SMD LED Strip Lights. They are slightly wider than the 3528 AC strips as they are 9/16″ wide and 1/4″ tall. Don’t worry about the minimal size increase as these pack a lot of light, doubling the LEDs (20 per foot) and giving off 180 Lumens per foot. That’s more than a 100% increase than the original 3528 strips!
The other big advantage of the 5050 style is that they can run in continuous lengths up to 150 feet and can be cut every 18 inches! This makes it so you can run longer lengths without any breaks and can even cut down the strip if you need to fit it into a certain length! Mounting is similar with clips for every 3-feet of strip included in the box or there is a 3-foot plastic track to mount with as another option.
If you are running longer lengths (75′ and up) it will be a good idea to consider AC LED strips. These strips run much better over distance and there won’t be the need to purchase multiple power supplies and dimmers as they can run straight from 110-120AC line voltage.
Alright, we have moved past flex strips now and are into a slightly different type of linear LED, LED rope light. Unlike the flat, ribbon like flex strips, this LED Rope light is encased in a 1/2” diameter round rubbery plastic. The encasing makes for a waterproof rope light that can bend in all directions and has omni-directional LEDs. This means that unlike the LED Flex Strips that emit out the top, these LED Rope Lights emit all around the whole rope, there is no backside or area where you cannot see the light. The Rope Light is not nearly as bright but works great for dim accent lighting or just a nice added touch to your outside deck, patio, garden, etc.
This LED Rope Light is like the AC LED Flex Strips in the sense that it can plug straight into a standard wall outlet and run from 120VAC. They give off no heat and run off of very little power as they are only .77 watts per foot. The LED Rope Light is offered in warm white, cool white and blue.
The rope holds 12 LEDs per foot with an inch in between each. The lumen output is extremely lower than our other linear options at 6.3 lumens/foot for cool white and 5.5 lumens per foot for warm white. We offer the Rope Light in custom cut lengths of 3, 9, 15, 30, 75, 105 and 150 feet. Like the AC LED Flex Strips the Rope Light can be connected with jumpers but can go all the way up to 150 feet in length. With every 3 feet of rope light purchased, we include a clip for mounting them wherever you’d like. These ropes look like a typical rope light in the sense that you can tell where each LED is placed, it is not meant to be a steady, smooth light all the way through. The light that comes off is great for accenting certain areas but is not enough to be the stand alone lighting for a room.This Rope Light is a great value and has a rated lifetime of 60,000 hours for whites and 100,000 hours for colors. They are extremely durable and add a nice touch to your spot. Use them in places where you don’t want a bright light or just need something to draw attention to a part of your house or outside area. Take a look at the pictures to see how they are typically used.
High Power LED Strips
The last two strips that we offer are High Power LED Strips. Unlike the flex strips and rope light above, these strips have high power surface mount LEDs on a more rigid strip. These strips produce a much brighter light and come in a variety of options.
This high brightness, low profile strip is manufactured right here in the United States. If you want to make your own LED linear fixture this is your light engine to start with. This 12” x .45” strip has 9 quality high power Nichia LEDs on a rigid strip with on board circuitry and drivers. The low profile LEDs only sit about .15” high on the strip but give off a 120 degree viewing angle so you can pack this strip in tight locations and it will still provide flood illumination.
These strips are sold in 1 foot sections but you are able to connect 10 together at a time for a 10 foot strip. The nice part about these strips and connecting them is they already come with connectors on the end so all you have to do is plug them together. Additionally you can also cut the strips in half at 6” if you need them to fit in a certain spot, note you can only cut them in half, if you cut them elsewhere the strip will not work. This gives you a lot of control in building a custom length high brightness strip.
The ElaraStrip can be purchased in warm white, neutral white, cool white, red, blue and green. The 9 Nichia LEDs are high quality and give off a bright light at 200 Lumens/foot. These strips are great for linear applications where you want a brighter light. They can be used in coves and for accent lighting, general illumination, under cabinet lighting and are great as a wall wash light. They are actually used in this under cabinet fixture that we sell, called the LVL2 (pictured to the left). For cove and accent type lighting they may be too bright but no worries as they are 0-10V dimming and totally compatible with our 0-10V wall dimmer. If you want dimming you will need the ElaraStrip wiring harness that plugs right into the 4 pin connection at the start of the strip and then has two sets of wire leads for your input power and your dimmer.
The Elara Strip is easy to power as it takes 12-25VDC and runs at 4.5 watts per foot. You can easily connect power using the wiring harness from above or we have another option in the ElaraStrip Power connector that plugs right into the 4 pins on the end of the strip and has a 2.5mm female barrel plug on the other end where a desktop power supply could be plugged right into. For a high power LED strip this is extremely easy to power in order to get a great quality, bright light.
This strip is ideal for when space is limited but you need a lot of light. It is extremely low profile and has built in drivers so you have no need for any bulky drivers in the application. This strip also comes with its own thermal control so when the LEDs are too hot it will compensate for this and cool down, making it so you don’t need a bulky heat sink if you’re working in a tight space. Take note that this does take away from the brightness as it dims the LEDs a bit so if you want the brightest light you can get then put this on aluminum flat bar or a small heat sink material in order to control the heat so that the automatic thermal control doesn’t kick in, taking away from the strips efficacy.
This strip is like the ElaraStrip on steroids, and one of the best parts is that it can be totally customized to what you want. This 12” x .95” strip can hold 6 LEDs of your choice. Choose from the Luxeon Rebel and Cree XLamp options along with the colors and optics you’d like as well. This makes it so you can customize these strips for general lighting, outdoor lighting, light bars for vehicles, or grow lights and reef tank lights with the different colors that are available.
The LuxStrip is sold in 1 foot pieces that can be connected up to 12 feet long. They come with connections on both ends for easy connecting like the LuxStrip but if you are connecting strips and need a gap in your application you can use the Luxstrip wiring harness and a custom harness in order to connect the two together. They can also be cut every 2” for more specific lengths, make sure not to cut the strip down any smaller than 4” or it will not work correctly.
The 6 LEDs on the strip are capable of being run at 350mA, 500mA and 700mA which is chosen at checkout. This means the wattage per foot will be 7-15 Watts depending on the driving current you choose. These are the highest quality LEDs and if you run them at the max for this strip (700mA) they will be giving off 1000 Lumens per foot! The on board driver circuitry includes 0-10V dimming so you can dim that brightness down with our low voltage dimmer if necessary. At 700mA the LuxStrip will run pretty hot so you will need a heat sink to dissipate the heat so as not to burn out the LEDs and on board circuitry. We recommend using aluminum flat bar for a backing as this keeps it low profile and takes care of the excess heat.
An industry standard 24VDC power supply is ideal for use with the LuxStrip and can easily be connected via the LuxStrip Wiring harness or the LuxStrip Power connector which comes with a barrel jack and dimming/non-dimming options. Power and dimming control voltage is connected from strip to strip via a low profile board-to-board connector at the end of the strip, and utilizes a unique polarized connection for fool proof assembly.
So basically, if you are looking for the brightest strip then this is the one for you. This can be extremely bright and can light up any area you need. Under cabinets, behind a frosted lens, high ceiling coves, whatever the linear area might be, this strip is sure to give you some high brightness and is pretty easy to set up. Another plus is that it is the only strip that can be used with optics to control your light if you need the strip to focus on a specific area. This US manufactured strip comes with the best LED options available with industry leading Cree and Luxeon LEDs. So have fun with this strip and tailor it to how you’d like, the choices are yours after all.
The Ultimate Guide Wrap Up
That about does it for our run through of LED strip lighting. Buying LED strip lights does not have to be a difficult process as long as you know what to look for. The key for you when buying LED strips is to make sure you know your application and area restrictions and then understand your options for installation, power demands, and colors. With our range of strips and options you will find what you need for your lighting project. Remember we are always here to support you along the way via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and phone (802-728-6031). As always feel free to share what you’ve done with our strips on our social media pages, we love seeing what is done with our LEDs and it helps provide inspiration for those unsure of the power and greatness of LEDs.
Also feel free to use this post to comment all your questions that may not have been answered in this post.