LED strip or LED tape is a versatile lighting solution that provides endless possibilities. Let me start by explaining what it actually is:
LED lighting strip in its essence, is a continuous row of LEDs that have been soldered together with resistors to form a circuit. When powered by a power supply or driver, the LEDs produce a seamless light, similar to a fluorescent. LEDs are low voltage and require a DC (direct current supply) which is usually 12 or 24 volt DC. When connecting the strips to a mains voltage power source, the use of a power supply of LED driver must be used. The power of the driver is determined by the wattage and the length of the strip.
There are three main types of LED strips; the first is none waterproof. This version is the most basic and fragile as the LEDs are placed on a piece of card or plastic without any cover to protect them. The second type silicone coated, this is waterproof and rated at IP65. This version is made up of a similar row of LEDs but is covered by a clear, thin silicone layer. The silicone version is not self adhesive, when sticking this to a surface, double sided tape or an adhesive must be used. The third version, which in my opinion is the best, is the epoxy coated LED strip. This version provides greater protection as the LEDs are sealed and set into the epoxy resin. This version is waterproof, rated at IP65 and self adhesive. The epoxy version infuses the best assets of the other LED strips.
These variants are only the construction of the lighting strips. Within the strips there are many types of LED chips that could be used, ranging from smaller dimmer chips to larger brighter chips. When larger chips are used, the strip needs to be wider to house them. The LED chips that are used in strip lights are called SMD which stands for surface mount device.
LED strip has been used in commercial applications for many years but until recently was deemed too expensive and complicated for household use. As the price of LEDs gradually decreases due to higher demand and mass production, LED strip is now more accessible. Easy to order, plug and play kits allow consumers to fit it themselves and many people are realising the full potential that LED strip has to offer.
One of the fastest growing areas that LED strip is used is under kitchen cabinet use. The benefits of using the lighting strips here is that they can be cut to almost the exact lengths that are required (within 50mm). Basic installations can be done in a matter of minutes as the strips can be stuck directly to the cabinets using the self adhesive backing. Then plug the power supply straight into a standard wall socket and the job is done.
Some commercial projects can get quite complicated, when multiple colour changing strips are used and they all need to be controlled from one main device. This is when a DMX (digital multiplexer) controller must be used as the DMX converts a basic digital signal into a PWM (plus-width modulation) signal. When the strips have been converted into a PWM signal they can then be controlled by computer based software that allows anything from colour changing to scene setting.
For new users to LED strips, the options can seem daunting but most companies have now realised that there is no need to stock every type of strip available when one type will cover most applications. The most universal strip is the epoxy coated with SMD 5050 LEDs. This version is available with 30 LEDs per metre or the super bright 60 LEDs per metre. Even when you have selected your type of strip, different variations exist as they are manufactured in different factories which have different quality control procedures.
Controlling the strip can be done by using a basic on/off switch, a remote control or by using computer based software via a DMX decoder. The most advanced way is to control the lights from an Iphone or smart phone, this allows you to dim or change the colour of the strip in your kitchen from anywhere in the world! This is a great way to frighten the rest of the household when on holiday or working away.
LED strips can be supplied in very short runs ranging from just 50mm up to 100’s of metres. The use of hard wired, heavy duty power supplies must be used on longer runs. Hard wired installations should be done by a qualified electrician but shorter runs (around 10 metres) can be done by almost anyone as no tools or electrical knowledge is required.