Flexible LED Strip/Tape Lights - What Do I Need?

While most people are familiar with similar products like rope lights and string lights, flexible LED strip lights offer more light, less power consumption, more mounting options, and smaller physical size. It’s the clear choice, but there are some considerations to take into account while planning your installation.

Voltage - 12VDC or 24VDC

First, you’ll need to know what voltage you already have in your application. Most people are installing it in their house (which, in the US, runs on 120VAC). That means you’ll need a power supply to transform your line voltage down to low voltage. 12VDC or 24VDC are much easier to work with, and that’s what our flexible strip lights run on. When you have the choice, we usually recommend 24VDC. Be sure to size your power supply according to the length of your run and your strip light choice by using our flexible strip light power supply calculator. Need more help on choosing a power supply and dimming? Check out our article here.

However, not everyone is installing it in their house. One benefit of LEDs is you can often get the same light output whether you’re in a 120VAC or 12VDC environment. If you’re in an automotive, RV, or marine environment, chances are you’re running on a 12VDC or 24VDC system. You’re in luck – as long as it’s steady and regulated, you can connect matching voltage strip lights directly to your electrical system with no need to purchase a power supply.

Single Color Or Color Changing (RGB, RGB+W)

The next thing you’ll need to decide is what type of strip lights you’re going to install. These fall into 2 major categories – single color or color changing.

  • Single color is just LEDs which are made to output one color only – whether that’s Warm White, Cool White, Red, Orange, Green, or any of our other options. There is no adjustment or tuning for single color products other than dimming. They come with less color flexibility, but you also save some money and get an easier installation because you do not need a controller.
  • Color changing encompasses a wider range of products. Adjustable White, RGB color changing, RGB+White, RGB+Amber are all included here. They have slight differences (like the number of channels – or wires – they use for input), but the common theme is that unlike single color strip lights, they will all require a method of control. We carry controllers for all of our products.

That’s all that’s necessary to run your flexible strip lights – and as discussed, your application determines whether you need anything at all.

So what’s everything else for?

  • Connectors, wires, and terminal boxes. These make the logistics of your installation easier. Whether you’re looking to join two reels together, turn a corner, or connect wire to your bare strip to go around an obstacle, they are a big help and eliminate the need for any soldering.
  • Mounting channel. Instantly transform your strip lights to have a beautiful finish while also providing a degree of protection. Mounting channel enables the use of screws to hold flexible strip lights in place. The aluminum finish also provides an optimal, clean surface for the flexible LED strip lights’ 3M adhesive backing to adhere to. Channel with frosted lens acts to diffuse the LED light output so individual diodes aren’t visible. That makes it ideal for under cabinet lights with glossy countertops.
  • Mounting straps. Our non-waterproof and water resistant strip lights come with 3M adhesive backing. our IP68 submersible waterproof strip is completely encased in silicone on the front and back, which means there is no adhesive backing. Mounting straps can be used as an alternative.
  • Amplifiers. These are typically used with long runs of flexible strip light to overcome wattage limitations on controllers and DMX systems.