So many places benefit from some extra lighting: underneath kitchen cabinets, your study, bathroom mirrors… The list goes on. A really easy way to add a little extra illumination is to install some LED lighting, so here’s a short guide for those who want to give fitting it a go. Be aware, however, that those unfamiliar with dealing with high voltage power connections should probably leave it to the professionals.

Equipment List

To install LED lighting you’re going to need:

  • LED light strips
  • Power adapter
  • 3 prong AC power cable
  • Wire stripper
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Heat shrink wire tubing
  • Lighter
  • SPST toggle switch
  • 2-pin strip connecting wires
  • Scissors or a knife for cutting the power cable

Step #1: Prep the Power Cable

As you’re going to need access to the wires, the first thing to do is cut off the end of the cable. Leave as much usable cable as possible on the end with the plug. With the wire stripper, cut through the outer molding of the wire. Ensure that you uncover enough to work with, but not too much as it will need to be covered up again later. Around 2½ inches will usually suffice. Pull the outer casing of the cable to slide it off the wires inside. Don’t pull too hard as this will shorten the cable. The wires will be twisted around each other, so take the time to untangle and separate them. Finally, use the wire stripper to cut around half an inch off the casing of each wire.

Step #2: Place Tubing

You’ll need to use the shrink tubing as an insulator between each individual wire. You’ll need around half of a small tube on the live and neutral lines, a medium one on the cable coming from the power adapter and a large one on the full AC cable. Slide the large tubing over all the wires and part way down the cable to get it out of the way. Then slide the shorter, smaller pieces of tubing over the live and neutral wires. Finally, place the medium tubing over the wires and down the cable until that too is out of the way.

Step #3: Solder

Solder together each of the three pairs of wires. Try to ensure that you perform as clean a job as possible so that there is no resistance in the wire. This will ensure that the cable is safe to use.

Step #4: Shrink the Tubing

Slide the small tubing pieces over the solder joints and use the lighter to shrink the tubing as small as it will go. All of the wires must be covered to avoid a short.

Then move onto the medium tubing. Slide it until it covers the exposed wires extending from the power supply cable. This ought to cover the outer casing of the cable through to the small shrink tubing. The medium tubing will provide the first layer of insulation around the ground wire, which is not covered by the small tubing. This medium wire should also be shrunk using the lighter.

Finally, slip the large piece of tubing over the casing on the AC cable and the medium tubing you placed. This should provide a full cover across all of the wires. As before, shrink the tubing using the lighter and ensure that no wires are exposed.

Step #5: Prep the DC Connection

This step will require you to use the switch and a cable designed to plug into the LED strips. As you’re going to wire your switch directly to the plug you’re going to need to cut one end off of the 2 pin wires, then strip the casing off so that it’s ready to be soldered. Use another small piece of tubing to protect the circuit from shorting, and slide it over the wire that you’re going to solder to the ground connection of the power adapter.

Step #6: Solder the Ground Wire

Solder the ground wires from the power adapter and the LED light strip plug, making certain that the wire you solder on the LED light strip side is the side that will correctly connect to the negative connection on the LED strip.

Step #7: Some More Shrink Tubing

Slide the shrink tubing over the solder joint and use the lighter to shrink this down to size.

Step #8: Solder the Switch

Use the positive wire from the power supply and the positive wire from the LED strips and solder each of them to the contacts on the reverse of the switch. This should make your switch fully functional.

Step #9: Connect the LED Strips

Plug the connector attached to the switch into the power plug on the LED light strip, then use the short jumper wires to connect the LED strips together in a chain.

Step #10: Test Your LEDs

Plug the AC cable into the wall outlet, turn the DC switch to on and see if your lights are working. If they don’t work, check to make sure that the positive and negative polarities are properly connected on your LED strips and power supply.

Step #11: Mount the Power Adapter, Switch and LED Light Strips

Put two strips of mounting tape down the underside of the adapter and use it to mount the power adapter. Remove the protective strips from the tape and press it firmly into place. Use more of the mounting tape to position the switch and LED lights and you’re done!

About the Author: Chris Horridge