All about LED strips
LED strips (sometimes called LED tapes) are a versatile light source that can be installed almost anywhere. They are made up of a flexible base layer – a printed circuit board, or PCB – that’s backed with self-adhesive tape, and studded with a row of light-emitting diodes. The LEDs are positioned at regular intervals – typically 60 or 120 diodes per metre – to give a smooth effect when they are illuminated.
Extremely narrow (as little as 8mm wide and 3mm high), LED strips are ideal for installation in tight areas where other forms of lighting would be impractical. They are energy efficient, using very little power (as low as 4.8 watts per metre), and yet they’re able to produce enough light to replace fluorescent tubes (up to 1440 lumens per metre). LED strips are available in a wide range of colours, including a choice of whites – as well as colour-changing RGB/RGBW strips, which will let you mix any shade of any colour when connected to an LED controller.
LED strips can be supplied in standard or waterproof versions – for use externally, or in locations where resistance to moisture is required. Whichever type you install, LED strips will offer brilliant eye-catching illumination, and will enhance any environment – residential or commercial, interior or exterior. Very simple to install, they’re inexpensive and can revive and transform the look of your home or business.
Where can I use LED tapes?
LED strips open up a world of creative possibilities. Extremely versatile, you can fit LED strips in almost any location – and take advantage of a huge range of brightness levels, colours and programmed lighting scheme options. Here are some examples of typical applications:
- Ceiling LED lights and colour-wash walls
- Cabinet lighting – over and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets
- Skirting, coving, panelling and plinth lighting
- Doors, windows , floors and stairs
- Signage and shop-window displays
- Bar areas, clubs and restaurants
- Feature lighting for cupboards, display cases and countertops
- Exteriors – gardens, patios, driveways
- Christmas lights, weddings and other special occasions
- General working light replacing fluorescent tubes
What’s the difference between LED tape, LED strips/striplights and LED ribbons?
Some manufacturers call their LED products by different names. There is no difference between LED tape, LED strips/striplights and LED ribbons – they’re all the same thing.
LED strips – the basics
LED strips can run on either 12 volts or 24 volts, powered by a constant-voltage transformer or driver. More than one LED strip can be powered by a single transformer, as long as their total wattage is less than the transformer’s output wattage.
InStyle’s LED strips are typically supplied on standard-length 5 metre reels. You can arrange for your strips to be cut to length before they’re dispatched when you place your order, or you can cut them yourself. Each LED tape is marked with special cut-points – typically spaced at 25mm, 50mm or 100mm intervals, depending on the type. Longer lengths can be created by soldering as required (again, you can order your strips pre-soldered from us, if you wish).
White and single-colour LED strips can be dimmed with an transformer, receiver and dimmer-switch combination. Similarly, RGB and RGBW (colour-changing) LED strips can be managed with a suitable transformer, receiver and controller.
5 things you need to consider when buying LED strips
Where do you want your LED strip?
Will it be primary lighting, feature lighting, or ambient lighting? Are the textures and reflectiveness of surrounding surfaces suitable?
Top tip – the goal is to see the lighting effect but not the actual light source; otherwise you will see the individual LEDs as ‘dots’ of light, rather than a smooth wash effect. If the the LED strip is going to be in view (ceiling LED lights, for example), then you can use one of our LED extrusion profiles to diffuse the individual LEDs and create a smooth, even light-bar.
How bright / intense do you want the light emitted to be?
Different effects and light-levels can be produced by different types, numbers and colours of LEDs on a strip, and by the use of extrusions or profiles.
(To test your chosen position, you can temporarily install an LED strip with masking tape, and then fix the strip using its self-adhesive only when you’re happy with the final effect.)
Is the surface on which you will position the LED strip clean, dry and even?
Is there moisture in the location?
Standard LED strips have an IP rating of IP33 – but for use in damp, splash-prone or wet areas, or in exterior locations, you can choose moisture-resistant (IP65) or waterproof (IP67) strips instead.
How will your LED strip be switched on and off?
Do you want to control several zones or areas independently from a single dimmer or controller?
All of our high-quality LED strips are made to commercial-grade standards and tested to ensure they produce consistent colour quality. We advise that LED strips should be installed by a qualified electrician.
How big is an LED?
The physical dimensions of an LED strip’s diodes significantly affect its light output (measured in lumens). InStyle LED offer strips with two different LED sizes. One size is not better than the other – the right choice depends on the application you intend to use them for.
- 3528– With LEDs measuring 3.5mm X 2.8mm, these strips are most suitable for domestic lighting where they will be seen up close. Feature lighting in ceiling covings, plinths, under cabinets, on stair treads and window surrounds.
- 5050 –With LEDs measuring 5.0mm X 5.0mm, these diodes are 40% larger than 3528 LEDs. They are approximately 3x brighter and pull 3x more power. Ideal for commercial use where the observer may be further away – high ceilings, wall colour-washing, outdoor lighting, ambient lighting for larger areas – or for domestic applications where more light is required such as ‘working light’.
What colours are available for LED strip lights?
One of the great advantages of LED strip lighting is the variety of colours and tones available. By choosing the right shade, you can immediately enhance the ambience and mood of any room or other location.
- Pure White– White with a cool blue tone. Perfect for kitchens and bathrooms, and modern crisp living. We stock a range of pure whites, from 5000k-6500k.
- Warm White– A more traditional yellow colour, similar to incandescent lighting. Ideal for ceiling LED lights, and domestic spaces such as bedrooms, living rooms and hallways. We stock warm whites from 2700k-3200k
- Single Colour (Red, Green, Blue or Amber) – Striking shades and colours that will give your rooms a bold effect. Great for commercial spaces like clubs, bars and restaurants, or for domestic feature lighting.
- RGB– LED strips with a combination of red, green and blue LEDs. By mixing these colours through a controller or smartphone app, you can create any shade you can imagine! (Including pure white.)
- RGBW– The next evolution of RGB LED strips. RGBW strips offer a combination of four LED colours – red, green, blue and white. The addition of white light enables you to create pastel shades in addition to all the colours offered by RGB LEDs.
How many LEDs per metre are on an LED strip?
An LED strip’s brightness depends on the spacing of diodes – that’s to say, the number of LEDs per metre – and the type of SMD (diodes vary in quality, brightness and reliability: 60 more powerful LEDs can be brighter than 120 less powerful LEDs. For example, our 15w LED tape is brighter than our 10w tape). LED strip cut-points are typically at intervals of three LEDs apart – either 25mm, 50mm or 100mm intervals.
At InStyle, we offer three choices of LED spacing:
- 30 LEDs per metre – 7.5 watt (RGB) LED strips.
- 60 LEDs per metre – 5 watt / 15 watt (white), 15 watt (single colour) & 15 watt (RGB) LED strips.
- 120 LEDs per metre – 15 watt / 20 watt double-power / 25 watt (white) LED strips.
- 240 LEDs per metre – 20 watt standard-power (white) LED strips
If installed in direct sight, an extrusion will give a smoother effect with 120 LED per metre tape. When hidden, both 60 and 120 LEDs per metre tape will produce a smooth effect without extrusions, as their LEDs emit a very wide angle beam (120 degrees) – so you don’t need to worry that 60 LED type will generate a ‘dot effect’. (Though this will depend on how close to a surface you install your LED strip lights, and how reflective that surface is.)
LED strips – IP ratings
IP – ‘Ingress Protection’ – is an industry-standard rating that determines an LED strip’s level of waterproofing and resistance to dust and small objects. At InStyle LED, we offer LED strips rated to IP65 and IP67, in addition to our standard IP33 option.
- IP33– Standard LED strip, no waterproofing. For indoor use in dry dust-free areas such as bedrooms and living rooms, ceiling coving, display cabinets, and wall colour-washes.
- IP65 – Coated LED strip. This strip has a heatshrink coating. (Superior to some alternative resin coverings, it won’t discolour over time or go brittle in low temperatures.)
- IP67– Water resistant LED strip. These strips are protected with heatshrink (like our IP65 strips), with the addition of fully glue-sealed ends. Though waterproof, they should not be fitted in a submerged location (not in a pond, for example). Indoors, IP67 strips are a good choice for bathrooms or kitchens, close to showers, sinks, and other splash-prone locations. Outdoor applications include paths, driveways and walls.
LED strips – operating temperature
LED strips typically operate at a temperature in the -25C to +60C range.
What power supply should I select for my LED strip lights?
At InStyle LED, we offer both 12 volt and 24 volt transformers, with a range of output wattages to meet your project’s needs. All of our transformers are commercial grade, which means they’re built to last. We also offer reliable market-leading Meanwell-branded transformers: our LED strip lights have a life of 50,000 hours, so why not choose a transformer that will last just as long? Otherwise you could be changing it every 6 months.
To calculate the power-supply wattage your transformer will need to output, multiply how many metres of LED strip you wish to power by the strip’s wattage per metre. (For example, 5 metres of 20-watt LED tape will require a transformer outputting 5 x 20 watts = 100 watts.)
If you are installing an outdoor or splash-prone installation, we have a range of waterproof (IP67) transformers in stock.
For more info on this topic, see our How do I power my LED tape? support page.