Best Practices for Installing LED Strip Lights
Strip lighting (also commonly called tape light) is one of the most popular types of LED lighting. It is ultra-thin, flexible and easy to install in straight, curved and irregular spaces. LED strip lighting gives you limitless design and installation possibilities. Its use of high performance solid state lighting technology creates exceptional color accuracy and brightness. They are dimmable and designed to cast a seamless glow. Strips lights can be used in a wide variety of applications, from creating warm and relaxing environments, to delivering bright task lighting.
Strip lights also have a major advantage of being highly customizable. They can be cut to length according to your individual project requirements. Strip couplers or bare connectors can be used to join strips and add wiring. Finally, simply peel off the 3M Adhesive paper backing from LED tape lighting and tape into place. The LED lights range in density from 6 to 72 LEDs per foot, depending on the brightness level required (low density, standard density, high density, 2x high density). Installing these strip lights is not complicated. Basic wiring skills such as stripping, splicing, extending, and connecting wires are required.
Strip lights operate using low voltage 12V DC power. The 12V DC power sources are sold separately and are available in different wattages. Some are dimmable while others are not dimmable. The power supply that provides 12V DC power to the LED lights operates on 120V AC household current. A voltage drop occurs when using 12 V DC with long wires. Therefore, the shorter (less than 20 feet) the wire lead between the power source and the LED tape lighting, the brighter the lights will be. They can be installed in series or in parallel circuits. Due to voltage drop, the lights farthest away from the source may appear to be dimmer. To avoid such unwanted effects, test your lights before securing their installation at a particular location. Also, attach the power supply to the strip from the center of a run instead of to the beginning. For long runs, supply power every 30 feet.
Best practice: Attach a power supply to the strip light from the center of a run instead of the beginning, especially for long runs. For long runs, supply power every 30 feet.
After choosing a power supply and deciding the location for your strip lights, you need to cut the strip and connect the wires. Cut the tape lights with scissors every 3 to 6 LEDs (depending on density) on the cut line. When solder less LED connectors are used, the strip should be cut directly across the center of the copper pad. You can also cut the strips at the solder joints; however, do not use LED Connectors on these soldered tape light joints.
One way you can connect the wires is by soldering them, which is a fast and an easy way to join wires and make splice connections. The soldered electrical connections are also more reliable. Be sure to tin the wire with solder before trying to solder wire to the contacts on the strip to ensure a better connection. Always maintain polarity when connecting LED tape lighting and low voltage power wires. Be sure to connect the positive wires to positive terminals and negative wires to negative terminals.
Best practice: Tin the wire with solder before trying to solder wire to the contacts on the strip to ensure a stronger connection.
Bare Extender Connectors are used to go around corners, or when cut in half, to create two power leads (jumper cables) for extending the power wires to LED tape lighting in other areas. If you want to increase the length of the wire between two strips, simply splice in the extra wire, taking care to maintain the polarity. 18AWG wires are recommended to be used for this purpose. To avoid voltage fluctuations and have brighter lights, use short and thick wires.
Strip Couplers, on the other hand, are used to join two strips to create a continuous run of LED lighting. Just open the lid of the connector, slide the strip in, making sure that the copper pads on the strip are placed underneath the connector contacts, and put the lid back on. Conduct a power test to ensure that the connection is successful. Then hot glue the wire into the coupler to establish a stronger connection.
Best practice: Hot glue the wire into the coupler after testing to ensure a stronger connection.
With strips lights, you can customize every installation to reflect the requirements and ambience of a particular space. By altering the installation location, mounting angle to adjust the light’s reflection off the walls, you can bring dramatic changes to the overall effect of these lights. One method is to apply a trial and error approach until you get the exact look that you desire. Use painter’s tape or a masking tape to temporarily position the strips to the desired location and then turn on the lights. Reposition them until you get the ideal lighting effect for your home/office. Once you have decided upon a location and mounting angle, peel off the 3M paper backing for the final installation.
Best practice: Before peeling and sticking the LED tape, power it in the install location to ensure the best angle and orientation.
However, there are a few things that you should keep in mind before peeling off and applying the 3M adhesive:
- The mounting surface should be smooth, clean, dry, dust- free and above 60°F prior to installation. Thoroughly clean all the mounting surfaces with a mixture of 50:50 isopropyl alcohol and water. If the surfaces are extremely dirty, clean first with 100% acetone or alcohol. Avoid using rubbing alcohol and housecleaners that leave behind residue.
- When sticking the strip to the underside of a cabinet, lightly sand the surface with a very fine grit sandpaper (150-300 grit) to even out the surface.
- When installing on painted surfaces, make sure that the paint is fully cured.
- Be careful not to peel off the 3M adhesive from LED strip, just remove the tan paper.
- To activate the 3M adhesive, you need to apply pressure. Wrap a clean, dry cloth around your fingers and press down the entire length of the strip, from one end to the other.
- Finally, be sure to support the power lead, especially when mounting under a cabinet as the weight of the hanging wire could bring down tape lighting.
Strip lighting can be easily installed on curved and irregular spaces, but avoid sharp bends or bending on the solder joints as you could damage the LED tape light. If, by accident, an LED light is damaged, the rest of the lights will continue to function normally. Since 3 LED lights are aligned in one series, you can remove the damaged light by simply cutting off that 3-LED light set and spicing a new in.
These remarkable LED strip lights, make it easier than ever to add elegance, pizzazz, color or uniqueness to your home and workplace according to your individual preferences. Click here to look at strip light options and add some flair to your home and/or workplace!