LED tape lighting also known as LED strip lights can be manufactured in a variety of ways using various LED chips also known as SMDs (surface mounted diodes). Today we are going to explain the difference and compare the most commonly used LEDs throughout the LED tape market – that’s 3528 and 5050 LED strip lights.
Quite simply the name given to each LED chip is actually the size of the LED. For example the 3528 SMD is actually 3.5mm x 2.8mm, while the size of a 5050 LED strip SMD is 5mm x 5mm.
3528 SMD Explained
The 3528 LED is a smaller SMD chip than those used on the 5050 LED strip SMD, its dimensions are 3.5mm x 2.8mm. The 3528 LED chip is mostly used in a LED tape of 60 LEDs per metre pulling 4.8w and at 12v (commonly known as 4.8w p/m or 5w p/m LED tape). At this quantity per metre of this SMD you will get a smooth, bright effect once shined onto a surface with a lumen output of around 330-360 lumens per metre (halogen 40w equivalent) depending on the colour. The colours available in the 3528 SMD are warm and cool white (all different Kelvins requirements can be made), red, green, blue, and amber. The most common type of applications for the 60 LED 3528 SMD LED tape is as feature lighting – such as plinth lighting, cove lighting, in homes, bars, restaurants and hotels etc.
Another LED tape using the 3528 SMD is the LED tape with 120 of these LEDs per metre pulling 9.6w (commonly known as 9.6w p/m or 10w p/m LED tape). It is available in the same colours although this is nowhere near as popular as the ‘standard’ 60 LED per metre type LED tape. The output would be exactly double as it is using double the amount of LEDs so around 660-720 lumens per metre depending on the colour. The applications for this LED tape would still be feature lighting but where there is more ambient light so a higher power than the 4.8w p/m is required.
Both of these LED tapes are available in an IP67 version. The cut points for the LED tapes would be 50mm for the 60 LED per metre type and 25mm for the 120 LED per metre type.
Used at either 60 or 120 LEDs per metre, 3528 SMDs do not give off a lot of heat (you can easily touch them with your hands). They require a minimum of an 8mm-wide PCB board, and for the 120 LEDs per metre version a 2-ounce thick PCB board. As long as the LED tape you’re using meets these specs, you can simply fit it anywhere as it will already have enough of a heat sink not to require an aluminium extrusion.
There are many brands of the 3528 SMDs. The high-quality branded Epistar SMD will give you the highest bright 3528 SMD’s on the market, as well as excellent colour consistency and reliability with 70% output at 50,000 hours. If you choose one of the cheaper alternatives you will get less brightness, as well as unreliability and colour inconsistencies within the reel and also between reels.
Double power 3528 SMD Explained
There is also a double power 3528 SMD. This LED chip is the same size as the standard power and is available in the same colours. The only difference is the power.
As the name makes clear, a double power 3528 SMD draws double the amount of power compared to a standard 3528 SMD and gives off double the amount of output. LED tapes made using this SMD have 120 LEDs per metre, and pull 19.2w per metre (typically known as 19.2w p/m or 20w p/m). This LED tape needs a 10mm wide 2-ounce PCB in order to disperse the heat enough to avoid the need for an extra heat sink when installed.
This LED tape is only available in a 24v version, because this can carry the higher current more efficiently. The lumen output of this LED tape is around 1320-1440 lumens per metre (depending on the colour). Due to its high brightness, this tape is ideal for use as general lighting or for replacing fluorescent tubes etc.
5050 SMD Explained
The 5050 LED strip uses a larger SMD chip than the 3528 SMD, and is 5.0mm x 5.0mm. The 5050 LED chip is most commonly used on LED tapes with 60 LEDs per metre, pulling 14.4w and at 24v (known as 14.4w p/m or 15w p/m LED Tape). 60 of these LEDs p/m will produce a Lumen output of around 990-1080 (depending on the colour), giving a smooth, bright effect when shining onto a surface.
Available colours for the 5050 LED strip SMD include warm or cool white (all different Kelvins requirements can be made), red, green, blue or amber. There is also an RGB (red, green and blue), as the LED chip is actually a ‘tri’ chip – that’s to say it has three chips in one.
The most common applications for a 60 SMDs p/m 5050 LED strip are as general lighting, such as corridor lighting, replacing fluorescent tube lighting, in homes, bars, restaurants and hotels etc.
5050 SMDs used on an RGB LED Strip
The 5050 LED strip SMD is actually a ‘tri’ chip – meaning it has three smaller chips in each LED chip. So a white SMD actually has 3 white chips inside. What else? Well… this also means that you can have 5050 RGB (colour-changing) functionality in a single chip, with red, green and blue all inside one SMD. As soon as your 5050 LED strip lights are linked to a controller, you’ll be able to select any colour you choose as the LEDs mix to the shades they require.
InStyle’s RGB 5050 LED strip is available in two versions. Our 30 LEDs per metre light tape (also known as 7.2w p/m or 7.5w p/m LED tape) is ideal for feature lighting such as covings, plinths in homes, hotels, restaurants and bars, with an output of up to 500 lumens per metres. Or you can choose our 60 LEDs per metre tape (also known as 14.4w p/m or 15w p/m LED tape), which is ideal for colour-washing applications such as bar frontages, back bars in restaurants, clubs, home. The 60 LED RGB 5050 SMD outputs up to 1000 lumens per metre.
All of these LED tapes are available in IP67 versions. The cut points for these LED tapes are spaced at 100mm intervals for the 30 LED per metre type, and 100mm for the 60 LED per metre type.
Several manufacturers make 5050 LED strip SMDs. High quality Epistar-branded SMDs will provide you with the brightest 5050 LED strip lights on the market – in addition to exceptional colour consistency and reliability with 70% output at 50,000 hours. Cheaper alternatives will give you less brightness and lower reliability, as well as colour inconsistencies within the reel and between reels.
So what does all this mean?
At the end of the day, the size of the LED SMD you choose doesn’t matter – as long as it can do the job for your requirement. I would always advise that you choose branded Epistar LEDs for the reasons discussed above, relating to brightness, reliability and consistent colour batching.
White LED Tape
5w: Feature lighting
10w: Feature lighting (where there is a lot of ambient light)
15w: General lighting or replacing fluorescent tubes etc
20w: General lighting or replacing fluorescent tubes etc
RGB LED Tape
7.5w: Feature lighting
15w: ‘Washing’ areas
Before purchasing LED tape, you should always ask yourselves these questions
- Do you want feature lighting, task lighting, colour changing, waterproof, etc?
- Dimmable or non-dimmable?
- What colour do you want?
- How bright do you need the LED tape?