How to Choose LED Strip Lights
LED strip lights serve to illuminate a continuous stretch of space in a quick and easy manner. They are usually available in reels to facilitate use. The strip itself has a self-adhesive surface on one side and LEDs placed at standard intervals on the other, and is usually cut to the required length based on the dimensions of the space that needs lighting. This simple, versatile, and effective LED lighting solution is quite handy irrespective of the intended purpose. LED strips, in fact, are used as decorative, ambient, accent, or task lights in work or commercial environments or in residential spaces. Strip lights prove equally efficient both indoors and outdoors. However, there are a few basic factors that need attention when selecting an LED strip light.
The location of the LED strip is key in helping determine the strip’s ingress protection (IP) rating. The rating is indicative of how well the strip is protected from dust, moisture, and lightweight objects or small pieces of debris.
The first digit following IP is a measure of the light’s resistance to small particles and objects and the second one indicates resistance to moisture/water. The first number ideally ranges from 0-6 while the second runs from 0-8. For example, LED strips with IP68 are best protected from dust and water.
LED strips with an IP rating of IP33 are standard versions most suited for dust- and moisture-free indoor settings, while those with higher ratings such as IP65 and IP67 are ideal for outdoor lighting, as well as bathrooms, kitchens and other spaces exposed to moisture. Higher rated strips, though waterproofed with silicone gel, are prone to damage when immersed in water for long. LED strips for outdoor use also need to be mounted snugly to weather’s natural elements.
The purpose of LED lighting helps decide on the colour, size, and number of LEDs on the strip.
Warm white or yellow colour helps mimic the visual effect of halogen lamps, while cool white or bluish white colour is more ideal for task lighting. Decorative lighting is best achieved by using an arrangement of red, amber, blue, or green (single colour) LED strips, or remote-controlled RGB LED strips that generate different colour combinations. Decorative strips mounted using clips or fasteners may also be preserved and re-used when needed, making them quite cost-effective.
The size of LEDs on the strip also depends on where and for what the lights are used. The light pattern and brightness depend on the size of the LED. Small LEDs are more suitable for indoor lighting in residential spaces and come in handy for task as well as ambience lighting of interiors. LED strips bordering mirrors and art pieces also help create focal points in closed spaces. Larger LEDs are commonly used for decorations, signage, and ambient lighting in commercial and retail spaces.
Brightness of light (lumens) definitely tends to vary based on how and where the LED strips are used. The brightness is influenced by the number of LEDs on the strip. The more the number of LEDs, more closely they are arranged on the strip, creating a continuous thin panel of light that washes over the entire space. Strips ideally may contain 30, 60, 120, or 240 LEDs per metre.
Outdoor lights generally need to be far more powerful than those used indoors. Again, different parts of indoor spaces such as work tables, counters, corridors, and stairways may need better lighting.
The purpose, therefore, is also an important factor that determines the choice of LED strips.
The length of the LED strips needed to illuminate a given area depends on the purpose and also the dimensions of the spaces requiring lighting. Short stretches of closely packed large LEDs tend to generate bright light often needed to highlight select spots, while lengthier LED strips with small LEDs placed further apart do quite well to set the tone of the space.
That said, the span will help arrive at the number of reels of flexible LED strips needed to achieve the necessary lighting effects. LED strips usually are available in reels of five meters, which can be cut along marked points to create multiple strips of specific lengths.
How exactly one intends to power the LED strips is yet another factor that needs careful thought. The input voltage of the LED strip must first be ascertained before selecting the right power supply. Most LED strips function on a constant voltage of (AC/DC) 12 or 24V, in which case a suitable constant voltage driver is required to ensure voltage requirements are taken care of.
It is possible to connect more than one LED strip to the same power source; however, the wattage of the supply must be at least 10 percent over than the combined wattage of LED strips being powered in order to avoid being shorted out.
For example, if an LED strip wattage is marked as 2W/meter, and five strips that are each one meter in length are connected to a power source, the source wattage must be at least 11W.
In case the wattage rating is not explicitly marked, simply multiply the amps and volts indicated on the strip to infer wattage.
While self-adhesive LED strips may simply be glued on to any clean and dust-free indoor surface and plugged into a power supply, external installations usually are best left to electricians. Controlled RGB strips, however, need a professional hand to ensure the lights are securely fixed and programmed to emit custom colours.
It is also important to note how the LED strips are operated, controlled, monitored, and dimmed to get familiar with the usage.
Do note that though LEDs make efficient use of power, they do tend to consume energy when multiple LED strips are in use in different parts of the residential and commercial structures. The length of the reel used and output power can have a significant impact on energy bills when continuously used. Making a conscious and well-informed choice of LED strips is, therefore, a must, even though LEDs have a significant advantage over conventional lighting options.