Your Ultimate Guide on Buying LED Strip Lights

LED Strip lights are becoming more and more popular for home lighting. More than likely 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 LED strip lighting. Linear (strip) lighting has become very popular and is becoming an affordable option for both commercial and residential lighting applications. Buying LED strip lights might seem relatively straight forward, but there are many things you need to consider in making sure you get the right type of light for your needs. Follow through this post as we walk through the important factors for LED strip lighting and run through our full line of LED light strips.

Types of LED Strips

The LED Strips category is a broad category that includes all different types of LED strip lights. Depending on how you plan to use the LED strips, you may need one type over the other. For example, IP65 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, this guide will go into more detail on them later as there are multiple types of strips in some of these categories.

  • DC LED Flex Strips – Powered from 12VDC, these flexible strip lights have an adhesive backing for easy mounting and can be cut ever two inches. They are offered in waterproof options and come in 30 LEDs/M or 60 LEDs/M.
  • AC LED Flex Strips – Flexible strip lights 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.

LEDs/length

When buying LED strip lights, it is important to look at the number of LEDs per length. For brighter output and higher light quality you should look for the strip lights that have the highest number 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, constant line of light. It can be confusing as manufacturers use different units of measurement 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. 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.

LED Strip Brightness

As LED technology continues to improve, LED strips continue to reach brighter capabilities. This does not mean all strips will be super bright, in some cases you may not even want the light to be super bright. An example of this would be accent lighting within a shelf.

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 strip lights 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. 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 require a controller to change colors in flashes or stay on one selected solid color. Take a look below to see how these strip lights work and look.

Color Temperature

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 light strips 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. Other installations 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 total length of LED strips needed
  • Know how many breaks will be in the lights or how many separate strips you need
  • Know your strips power and voltage requirements
  • Flexibility of the LED strip lights
  • Durability of the LED strips: Need Waterproofing?
  • 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 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 are ready to find a power supply. You will need a power supply for all our strips other than the Plug & Play options (AC5050 Strips and LED Rope Light). Plug and play strips have a power cord built onto them with a switching transformer in line so there is no need for an added power supply.

First thing when looking for a power supply is knowing what input voltage your LED Strips require. The strips found at LEDSupply can be either plug-in, 12V or 24VDC powered…just make sure you know what your strip needs and find a power supply with that output. Secondly, 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 is 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 lights, it is time to look at the specific strips we carry. In the rest of the post I will go over each strip in hopes to 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 your needs and will have all the info you need to set them up and complete your project.

DC LED Flex StripsDC LED Flex Strips

These 12-volt flexible LED strip lights are the most popular product for in-home lighting DIY projects and renovations. Thousands of customers and contractors just like you find these lights extremely helpful for both task and accent lighting around the home. There are a lot of complimentary accessories offered as well to make these strips very user friendly.

What makes them so easy to use?

The strips are made with 3M double sided adhesive backing for easy installation. Secondly, they sit at an extremely low profile: 10mm wide and 3mm tall! They produce little heat so are perfect for tightly spaced applications. The strips are offered in 3 foot increments up to a full reel which is 16.4 ft (5 Meters) but they have cut lines along the strip for you to cut to more precise measurements.

12VDC Powered

The strips need an input of 12VDC. The low voltage lighting makes it safe to setup for novices. Not only does it make the wiring and connections safer than straight AC line voltage but it also makes it so you can power them from batteries! When powering in the home just make sure you use a power supply or transformer that will give off 12VDC and sufficient wattage for your strip length.

Waterproof Strips…or not

These flex strips are offered in two different styles of strip. The IP65 Waterproof LED strips are fantastic for both indoors and out. With a thin silicone layer on top of the flexible strip, these LEDs can withstand the elements. Waterproof strips are recommended for outdoor lighting, pool/patio lighting, bathroom lighting and under cabinet lighting where moisture or dust can collect.

The flex strips also come in an IP20 style that is basically the IP65 strip minus the protective silicone layer. These strips are great for areas where you don’t need to worry about any water or dust ruining the strip and components.

Standard 30 LEDs/M or High Density 60 LEDs/M

The DC flex strips have two different density options. The standard density strips have 30 LEDs/M and their brighter upgrade, the High-Density strips, have double the LEDs, 60 per Meter! Obviously, those looking for the brightest light should migrate to the high-density strips but be careful to look at the differences between the options in the table below.

Density # of LEDs Lumens Wattage Cuttable Max Run
M Reel Ft M M Reel
Standard (SD) 30 150 180 540 7.2W 27W 4″ 2 Reels
High (HD) 60 300 360 1080 14.4W 40W 2″ 1 Reel

Standard Density flex strips are great for use in tight spaces or when used for indirect, accent lighting. They are clearly not as intense as the higher density so they are better for the applications where less light is more. Examples of this are shelf lighting, backlighting and other soft accent lighting.

The one big advantage of the 30 LEDs/M Strip is they can be connected end to end up to 32 ft…DOUBLE that of the high density. This is a definite benefit to the lights, helping those decide that need longer lengths and don’t care as much about the brightness.

Remember how we talked about light quality earlier and how it depends on brightness of the LEDs as well as LED density (LEDs/M)? Well the high-density strip uses the same exact diode on the strips but double the amount,, therefore delivering a quality light much more powerful than the standard density strips.

The high-density strips are a significant upgrade from the standard density if you are looking for more light output. These are mainly for those applications that have higher ceiling coves and you need more light or if you are using them as a main source of light in a specific area. The light output is fantastic for task lighting of all kinds and you will probably even want a dimmer to adjust down when needed.

12 volt LED flex strips are super simple to use. There are many options, however, that can make the task seem overwhelming to some. If this LED strip interests you and you would like to learn more about setting this up yourself then follow our Guide to Installing 12V LED Strip Lights. This guide is specific to DC Flex Strips and goes over all the information and helpful accessories you will need to set up your lights!

AC LED Flex StripsAC LED Flex Strips

We also carry an AC option in the 5050 SMD LED Strip Lights. They are slightly wider than the DC strips as they are 9/16″ wide and 1/4″ tall. Don’t worry about the size increase as these pack a lot of light with 20 LEDs per foot giving off 180 Lumens in that span. The best part? These are plug and play strips, just buy the length you want, plug in, and these babies are ready to go!.

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! If you have a gap in your application you an easily choose a strip-to-strip jumper to fit the gap and keep your light going seamlessly.

The mounting isn’t quite as easy as the DC flex strips as they do not come with adhesive backing. Luckily they come with mounting clips (1 per 3 feet) to mount to the surface. For those not wanting to deal with clips or want the LED strip in a very tight, straight application the 3 foot mounting tracks would be a good choice to set the LED strips up.

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. Take a look at our AC5050 Review which goes into further detail on using these strip lights.

LED Rope LightLED Rope Light

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.LED Rope Light ApplicationsThis 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

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.

ElaraStrip

This high brightness, low profile strip is manufactured right here in the United States. If you want to ElaraStripmake 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 LVL2lighting, 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.

LuxStripLuxStrip

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 (sales@www.ledsupply.com) 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.



4 thoughts on “Your Ultimate Guide on Buying LED Strip Lights

  1. Pingback: Ultimate Guide on Buying LED Strip Lights - LED...

  2. Greg Rehms

    Hello. I’m looking for battery powered LED strips. I’d like to use them to illuminate my rolling cart contains my toolbag. I would fasten them under the shelf above my tool bag, on my cart. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Taylor Scully Post author

      Hey Greg,

      Our Flex strips are actually able to be battery powered, you would just need a 12V source. 8 AA batteries in series would do the trick or there are other battery packs that can be found that give off 12V as well.

      Reply
  3. Pingback: LED Drivers: Constant Current vs. Constant Voltage - LEDSupply Blog

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