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LED Strip Lighting 101

The LED technology we use today is safer, brighter, and more energy efficient than any of the traditionally available options. Light Emitting Diodes – or LEDs – are about 80% more energy efficient than traditional incandescent, halogen, and fluorescent light sources, and last about three times longer than fluorescent, and ten times longer than incandescent or halogen lamps. Additionally, because they operate on a low voltage (12VDC or 24VDC) they are the safest option for your project.

Among all the available applications of LEDs, one of the most popular applications is in the form of LED Strip Lights. Where traditional lights usually illuminate from a single point, bulb, or fixture, LED strip lights offer designers and homeowners more flexibility and opportunities for creativity. With hundreds of LED chips running along the length of tape-backed strip, you’re now able to design with lines of light versus a single point or series of dots. And while they’re incredibly attractive and flexible lighting solutions, they can be a little daunting at first.

So before jumping right in, let's explore the details and information you need to know before deciding on the type of strip lights and accessories required for your project.


1. What’s your application?

The first step in choosing your LED strip lights is identifying your application. This decision will determine the type of strip light that works best. Before considering the products, first consider your lighting goals and preferred aesthetic. Strip lighting is commonly used for accent lighting, and task lighting, and is now being used as a general area lighting option. Common areas of applications include kitchens, bathrooms, living spaces, and outdoor spaces. Keep in mind that certain applications and locations might drive a need for waterproof strip lights. If you think that might be you, learn more about IP ratings in this article.


Need some inspiration to get started? Consider these common strip lighting applications.


Toe Kick Lighting with Strip Lights

Toe kick lighting involves installing lights under the base cabinets in a kitchen or bathroom vanity, typically positioned 2-4 inches off the ground and facing down toward the floor. This type of lighting adds both functionality and aesthetic appeal to these spaces. Toe kick lighting is a relatively new trend in renovations and is steadily gaining popularity. It helps define the cabinets and illuminate pathways, serving as an excellent accent to general lighting. Using LED lights for toe kick lighting offers several benefits, including energy efficiency, long lifespan, and the ability to create a variety of lighting effects to enhance the overall ambiance.


Stair Lighting with Strip Lights

Adding LED lighting to your staircase offers numerous benefits, enhancing both aesthetics and safety. Careful consideration of factors such as the type of stairs, strip light placement, color temperature, and safety concerns is crucial. Our comprehensive guide provides valuable insights and practical tips to transform your staircase into a stunning focal point. Whether you're illuminating indoor or outdoor stairs, straight or spiral, you'll discover recommended types of strip lights for various applications, explore the benefits of installing strip lights under the bullnose, and learn how to calculate the total length of strip light required for your project. From installation tips to lighting design options and safety precautions, we've got you covered every step of the way.


Shower Niche Lighting with Strip Lights

Shower niche lighting, typically done with LED strip lights, illuminates the recessed shelves or niches in your shower area. This type of lighting not only enhances your bathroom's aesthetics by highlighting the niche as a design element but also provides functional illumination, making it easier to see and access your shower essentials. Shower niche lighting can create a spa-like ambiance, adding a touch of luxury to your daily routine. Given the wet environment of a shower, special considerations such as waterproofing, proper wire placement, and safety measures are essential to ensure a safe and successful installation.




2. What LED light color do you want for your strip lighting project?

Choosing the ideal strip lights for your project involves various considerations. Light color is one very important aspect. Options such as Single Color, Adjustable White, RGB, and RGBW offer diverse possibilities for your design and function. However, it is essential to consider the specific application of the lights, as certain color temperatures may be better suited for different environments and purposes. This ensures that the chosen lighting solution meets aesthetic preferences and fulfills practical requirements.


Understanding the complexities of light color is fundamental in LED lighting selection. Light perception involves a spectrum of electromagnetic radiation with varying wavelengths, each contributing to the rich variety of colors perceived in the world. The mix of these wavelengths not only affects the ambiance created but also influences the practical applications of LED lights. From warm, inviting colors to crisp, neutral tones, the choice of light color can significantly impact the mood and functionality of a space. Additionally, considerations such as color rendering accuracy, measured by the Color Rendering Index (CRI), further underscore the importance of selecting the right lighting solution.


3. How do you want to control your lights?

When it comes to fully customizable and flexible lighting solutions, strip lights are a great option. However, in order to take full advantage of their capabilities, you will need a controller. These controllers offer a range of functionalities, such as color-tuning, dimming, and turning your lights on and off. Choosing the right type of controller for your needs will depend on your preferences and the specific applications you have in mind. While some controllers offer basic customization options, others like DMX systems provide more advanced capabilities, allowing you to control the movement and sequences of your lights, enabling endless possibilities for lighting design. The primary function of in-wall dimmer switches is to adjust the brightness and turn your LED lights on and off. Our handheld remotes provide a wide range of capabilities, such as changing LED light colors, controlling multiple zones, and activating preset scenes. With app-based controllers, you can easily adjust light colors and dimming levels, manage multiple zones, activate preset scenes, utilize timer functions, and configure presets.




4. How do you calculate the dimensions of your project and decide on the power source for your lights?

Now that you're familiar with your application needs and controllers, you can begin planning the placement of strip lights and the necessary accessories. LED strip lights are cuttable, meaning they can be adjusted to fit specific lengths. However, it's important to note that there is a maximum run length for strip lights. This refers to the maximum distance that a strip light can be laid out with just one connection to a power supply or controller. In the lighting industry, the common maximum run length for strip lights is 16.4 feet. This standard was established to guarantee both safety and optimal product functionality. Considering the maximum run length is important when planning the placement of your strip lights during installation.


LED CONTROLLER POWER SUPPLY

Power supplies ensure the efficient and dependable functioning of LED strip lights. These components, also referred to as drivers or transformers, are available in a range of wattages and voltage outputs. This versatility enables power supplies to accommodate various loads and configurations, offering flexibility for installations of any scale.


When determining the appropriate power supply for your LED strip lighting setup, the following simple equation can be used.


Watts per foot x how many feet of strip light being installed = Y
Y x 1.25 = Minimum size of power supply required

If you were installing a full reel (16.4 feet) of N-Series Ultra-Bright Strip Lights the equation to determine the power supply needed would look like this.

2.92 watts per foot x 16.4 feet = 47.88

47.88 x 1.25 = 59.86 watts minimum

In this example a 60-watt power supply is required. It's recommended to plan lighting systems to operate at 80% of the maximum operating output of the power supplies to allow for electrical surges and/or spikes. 


5. What additional accessories do you need for your project for mounting, waterproofing, etc?
“Completing Your System”

  • Mounting LED Strip Lights: To mount strip lights in a channel, you'll require channel sections, silicon adhesive, and mounting straps.

  • Accessories: You may need strip light connectors, wire, waterproofing materials, and end caps.

  • Amplifiers: For larger-scale projects requiring run lengths exceeding 16.4 feet, amplifiers—also called boosters—can enhance the capacity of controllers and light fixtures to handle higher wattages.

  • Mounting Channel OptionsWaterproof Strip Lights Mounting StrapsWire


6. How to install strip lights:

Plug-in adaptor system POWER SUPPLY120VAC12V or 24VV-V+LED STRIP LIGHTS LED STRIP LIGHTSDimmer switch + dimmable power supply system - single color strip lights only! POWER SUPPLY12V or 24V120VAC120VACV-V+GNDIMMER SWITCHGLLED STRIP LIGHTS LED STRIP LIGHTS POWER SUPPLY12V or 24V120VAC120VACV-V+GNNON/OFF SWITCHGLOn/off system LED CONTROLLERPOWER INPUTSIGNAL OUTPUTV+CH1: (red) V-: V-:::CH2: (green) V-: V-:::CH3: (blue) V-: V-:::CH4: (white) V-: V-:::V+V- POWER SUPPLY12V-24V Dimmable/Controller System

V- from strip can connect to any channel. If using multiple strips you can split them between all the channels if needed.


LED CONTROLLERCCT STRIP LIGHTSPOWER INPUTSIGNAL OUTPUTV+CH1: (red) V-: V-:::CH2: (green) V-: V-:::CH3: (blue) V-: V-:::CH4: (white) V-: V-:::V+V- POWER SUPPLY

Warm white = Red Channel (Ch 1) or Blue Channel (Ch 3). Cool White = Green Channel (Ch 2 ) or White Channel (Ch 4). If using Casambi controller, only use Ch 1 and Ch 2.


LED CONTROLLERRGBWSTRIP LIGHTSPOWER INPUTSIGNAL OUTPUTV+CH1: (red) V-: V-:::CH2: (green) V-: V-:::CH3: (blue) V-: V-:::CH4: (white) V-: V-:::V+V- POWER SUPPLY

Here are our top tips for installing strip lights:


  1. Planning System Design When installing strip lights, careful consideration during the planning stage of your system design is important for a successful installation. You must contemplate several factors, including the positioning of power supplies, controllers, and strip lights. Additionally, it's essential to strategize how you'll route your wires and bridge any needed connections in the installation.

  2. Try to avoid bending or twisting the strip lights at odd angles. This can damage the wiring and circuitry of the strip lights.

  3. Cut strip lights to your desired length and add connectors or solder sections together as needed. When soldering use lead-free 18-20 gauge copper wire between the solder pad along the strip light.

  4. Connect the power supply to the strip lights by matching the positive (+) and negative (-) wires from the strip lights to the corresponding terminals on the power supply. Check polarity before powering on the system to avoid damage to your products.

  5. Before mounting your fixture, thoroughly clean and dry the desired area. Then, install the strip light using either the adhesive backing (available on non-waterproof and water-resistant strips only) or Aluminum Mounting Channel. For waterproof strip lights adhesive silicone or Silicone Mounting Straps can be utilized.

  6. Test your installation and troubleshoot if needed. If anything is wrong with the product our Customer Service team can assist you with any additional tips or tricks.

  7. Finally adjust your strip lights to the color and brightness to your liking and enjoy your lights!


7. Troubleshooting

LED strip lights offer an innovative lighting solution capable of transforming spaces with a rainbow of colors. However, like any other electronic device, they may encounter issues that impede their performance. Fortunately, various troubleshooting methods can be used to address such problems. Before beginning to troubleshoot strip lights, ensure to prioritize safety and double check connections, and remember to seek professional assistance when needed.


Troubleshooting LED Strip Lights: 

If... Then...
Shift in brightness and/or temperature Make sure you did not exceed the maximum strip light series run limit. This will cause excess voltage drop, resulting in decreased brightness and/or increased temperature as the run is extended.
Some lights are not functional Ensure all connections have been attached properly. Make sure that the strips have not been bent excessively, which may cause components and solder to detach from the circuit board.
Lights are flickering First, check for loose connections and that the strip light connectors are attached correctly. Strips vary in width, so it is important that compatible models are used and consistent polarity is maintained.
Secondly, check that a compatible driver is installed. Ensure controller is not on dynamic mode. Verify that +/- connections of DMX systems are not reversed.
Lights are turning on/off repeatedly Ensure the driver is not overloaded. An overloaded driver will trip the internal auto-reset repeatedly, turning the system on/off.
Installation trips main breaker Check wiring for a short circuit. If breaker continues to trip, there might be a short in your circuit. Call us at (888) 503-1317 or email us at support@aspectled.com. for a new driver.