Explaining the possibilities of LED strip lighting, what it
is and what it can do for you. Anyone
can install LED strip lights and they can be used almost anywhere, this article
provides basic and technical information on how to release its full potential.
LED strip or LED tape is a versatile lighting solution that
provides endless possibilities. Let me start by explaining what it actually is:
LED lighting strip in its essence, is a continuous row of
LEDs that have been soldered together with resistors to form a circuit. When
powered by a power supply or driver, the LEDs produce a seamless light, similar
to a fluorescent. LEDs are low voltage and require a DC (direct current supply)
which is usually 12 or 24 volt DC. When connecting the strips to a mains
voltage power source, the use of a power supply of LED driver must be used. The
power of the driver is determined by the wattage and the length of the strip.
There are three main types of LED strips; the first is none
waterproof. This version is the most basic and fragile as the LEDs are placed
on a piece of card or plastic without any cover to protect them. The second
type silicone coated, this is waterproof and rated at IP65. This version is
made up of a similar row of LEDs but is covered by a clear, thin silicone
layer. The silicone version is not self adhesive, when sticking this to a
surface, double sided tape or an adhesive must be used. The third version,
which in my opinion is the best, is the epoxy coated LED strip. This version
provides greater protection as the LEDs are sealed and set into the epoxy
resin. This version is waterproof, rated at IP65 and self adhesive. The epoxy
version infuses the best assets of the other LED strips.
These variants are only the construction of the lighting
strips. Within the strips there are many types of LED chips that could be used,
ranging from smaller dimmer chips to larger brighter chips. When larger chips are
used, the strip needs to be wider to house them. The LED chips that are used in
strip lights are called SMD which stands for surface mount device.
LED strip has been used in commercial applications for many
years but until recently was deemed too expensive and complicated for household
use. As the price of LEDs gradually decreases due to higher demand and mass
production, LED strip is now more accessible. Easy to order, plug and play kits
allow consumers to fit it themselves and many people are realising the full
potential that LED strip has to offer.
One of the fastest growing areas that LED strip is used is
under kitchen cabinet use. The benefits of using the lighting strips here is
that they can be cut to almost the exact lengths that are required (within 50mm).
Basic installations can be done in a matter of minutes as the strips can be
stuck directly to the cabinets using the self adhesive backing. Then plug the power
supply straight into a standard wall socket and the job is done.
Some commercial projects can get quite complicated, when
multiple colour changing strips are used and they all need to be controlled
from one main device. This is when a DMX (digital multiplexer) controller must
be used as the DMX converts a basic digital signal into a PWM (plus-width
modulation) signal. When the strips have been converted into a PWM signal they
can then be controlled by computer based software that allows anything from
colour changing to scene setting.
For new users to LED strips, the options can seem daunting
but most companies have now realised that there is no need to stock every type
of strip available when one type will cover most applications. The most
universal strip is the epoxy coated with SMD 5050 LEDs. This version is
available with 30 LEDs per metre or the super bright 60 LEDs per metre. Even
when you have selected your type of strip, different variations exist as they
are manufactured in different factories which have different quality control
Controlling the strip can be done by using a basic on/off
switch, a remote control or by using computer based software via a DMX decoder.
The most advanced way is to control the lights from an Iphone or smart phone,
this allows you to dim or change the colour of the strip in your kitchen from
anywhere in the world! This is a great way to frighten the rest of the
household when on holiday or working away.
LED strips can be supplied in very short runs ranging from
just 50mm up to 100s of metres. The use of hard wired, heavy duty power
supplies must be used on longer runs. Hard wired installations should be done
by a qualified electrician but shorter runs (around 10 metres) can be done by
almost anyone as no tools or electrical knowledge is required.