Length of Strip LED strip lights
It is best to outline your whole project to see how many feet of strip you will be using total. This gives you an idea of what to buy and the cost to do so. The LED strip lights are available in 3ft. increments all the way up to a full reel (16.4 ft.). It is important to find out if you want to purchase reel lengths and cut them down to size, or if it would be beneficial to have smaller lengths already cut for you.
At this stage, draw out your project. Plan where the strip lights are needed, how they will be connected, and if they will all come back to the same power supply or have separate power supplies. This step helps greatly as you progress through the next few steps.
LED Strip Wattage and Powering
What type of power do the LED strips need? The LED strips always need 12/24 volt DC input.
That is the easy part, the next step is finding the wattage. With the below chart, this should not be too terrible if you have already chosen your strip density and your total length.
LED Power Supply Options:
- Plug-in Adapter – Plug straight into your wall to power your LED strip lights.
- Hardwire Power Supplies – Directly wire in between your line voltage wiring and your LED Strips.
- Dimmable Power Supply – Want to dim from a common residential dimmer like a Lutron or Leviton? This is the power option for you!
- Batteries – Find a 12V battery pack or use an 8 cell battery holder.
Wiring and Connecting LED Strips
This is where the sketch from before will come in handy to start considering where you will be running all the strips. Was the plan to run all the strips together in a long run? If your total length needed is over the maximum run length of the strip (32.8 ft. for SD and 16.4 ft. for HD) then you will need to run parallel wires from your power source to the separate strips.
Dimming LED Strip Lights
LED strip lights are typically dimmed with in-line pulse width modulation dimmers. These dimmers go on the 12 volt side of the system and wire in between the strips like shown.
PWM dimmers are popular as they can work with any transformer or battery source, they do not need a power supply that is listed as dimmable. PWM dimming offers smooth control from the dimmest to brightest settings. They are affordable and easy to set up, making them the top option for dimming LED strip lights.
These simple dimmers are available in both WiFi and Remote Control options. The WiFi compatible dimmers work straight from a smartphone app and can be voice controlled with Google Home or Amazon Echo (Alexa) devices.
Some homeowners already have a central dimming system for their areas. In these cases, the owner wants to control the lights with the AC dimmers they already have in place. If you want to use an AC dimmer like this then you will need a dimmable power supply as described here.
3 Channel LED Controller
RGB Controllers (WiFi / Remote) – If you have a color changing RGB LED strip then you NEED a 3-channel RGB controller. These controllers control the Red, Green and Blue channels to mix colors and create the color changing effects of the strip. Without this unit, your RGB LED strips will not operate correctly so always remember to purchase one if you are using the Multicolor LED strips.
The adhesive on the LED strip lights is very helpful in mounting but sometimes there is more to be desired. As with most adhesives, it does not bond well with some surfaces and may need to be reinforced over time. In these situations, use one of the following:
- Extra Adhesive Tape – 3M tape that you put on the surface before the strip to double the bond.
- LED Strip Mounting clips – Mounting brackets for strips
Mounting track is another great option for those that want a professional finish. These aluminum extrusions house your light strips and have everything you need to mount. The LED strips adhere to the bottom of the track with a UV protected lens that slides over the top to diffuse the light.
Follow this guide to mount your LED strips properly!
Looking Where to Begin?
This is a lot of information for sure. If you are brand new to LED strips than your head is likely swirling with information and you are left with more questions. If this is the case ask yourself these simple starting questions which should help you work through the above guide to find the best LED strip lights and parts for you!
What will you be lighting?
Where will they be installed?
Do you want to dim your lights?
With a remote?
With a wall switch?
What overall look do you want to achieve?
What color is preferred?
What materials am I lighting?
What other lights are in the area and what color are they?