THERE ARE MANY FACTORS THAT CAN INFLUENCE YOUR CHOICE OF LED STRIP AND ITS OPERATION. PLEASE CHECK THIS LIST TO SEE IF YOUR QUESTION HAS ALREADY BEEN ANSWERED BEFORE CONTACTING US.
FOR INSTALLATION ADVICE HEAD HERE. TROUBLESHOOTING ADVICE FOR COMMON ISSUES CAN BE FOUND HERE.
There are many different types and the choices can be overwhelming. It’s probably best to consider what colour(s) you need first. Do you need a single colour, or do you need it to be colour-changing?
Bear in mind that even white has two options: Warm White and Cool White. Warm White has a yellowish colour, whereas Cool White is bluish in tone. As a basic rule of thumb, Warm White is often chosen for living & dining areas as it’s seen as more ‘relaxing’. Cool White is usually a better choice for bathrooms or commercial spaces. Please be aware that the colour of the light may appear slightly different depending on the environment in which they are installed. For example, a Cool White light cast on to a warmly-coloured background will appear warmer than if cast on to a pure white surface.
Colour-changing strips are known as RGB, because they contain Red, Green and Blue LEDs. Simple RGB strips combine the three colours to create the illusion of white light, but there are also RGBW and RGBWW cables which also contain dedicated White LEDs. These will create a ‘purer’ white light, thanks to the chip whose sole job it is to provide white light. This also allows for a wider range of colours to be displayed as the white LED can be used in conjunction with the colours, giving more subtle variations.
RGB / RGBW / RGBWW cables also need a remote control and receiver to change the colours. These can be quite advanced and, depending on the type of strip, create hundreds of colour variations and lighting patterns, allowing the strip to pulse, flash, fade, cycle through colours etc. These are often used for more commercial uses (shop or display lighting, for example) but many people also use them in their homes as they can quickly change the light dependent on mood or situation.
When you buy an RGB strip from us, you may notice Related Products, such as a remote, on the product page. In these cases, the remotes have been carefully matched with the strip to provide the maximum amount of effects available for that strip type and to ensure full compatibility, so you don’t need to worry about buying the wrong one.
2835 and 5050 are the two main LED chip types we offer here at SmartLight. We do have others which are more specialist in nature, but these two will suit most practical applications.
The number refers to the dimensions of the chip, so 2835 is 2.8mm x 3.5mm and 5050 is 5.0mm x 5.0mm. Both have their own drawbacks and advantages. Per LED, 2835 chips are roughly 20% brighter and more energy efficient per metre. Due to their size however, only one LED can be fitted per chip, this impacts a 2835 RGB strip by not allowing them to produce whites, or complex colours as each chip is an alternating series of Red, Green and Blue LED's limiting the strip to just these three colours. 5050 chips on the other hand can fit up to 4 individual LED's per chip, allowing for a more complex and vast array of displayable colours. Due to this density, this can give them the appearance of being brighter than 2835 strips.
What about addressable strips?
Addressable (or programmable) LED strips are also available on the website. These are special types of LED strips that have integrated control chips that allow each individual LED on the strip to be customised from the colour, brightness and even the on/off status of the separate LED. Combined across the entire strip, you can create a whole manner of wild patterns and configurations on top of the preprogrammed selection.
We currently sell 5V, 12V and 24V strips. The higher the voltage, the brighter the lights will be and the longer the strip can be before voltage drop begins to become noticeable.
So what is voltage drop? In short: a longer strip will be darker at the end furthest away from the power supply as the available power to those LEDs diminishes due to the natural resistance of the wire.
5V strips are generally used for small electronic projects (such as PC builds) requiring a lower power draw and are therefore used in shorter lengths, which means that voltage drop is less likely to be noticed. On a 12V strip, voltage drop starts to become noticeable after about 5 metres. On a 24V strip, it starts to become noticeable after about 10 metres.
The best ways to address this issue is to power the LED strip from both ends simultaneously, or to wire directly into mains power using a step-down transformer. ALWAYS ENSURE THAT MAINS WORK IS CARRIED OUT BY A QUALIFIED ELECTRICIAN.
Alternatively, if chaining together more than one strip, you could power them centrally from one adapter, using a splitter in the middle. In this method, any voltage drop is restricted to the furthest extremes and the strips remain bright at the central point where the adapter joins them. An even better solution would be to use inline amplifiers which allows you to tap into the supply at any point where the connected strips are joined.
When we offer a power supply in the Related Products section of a product page, this has been carefully matched to the strip, just like the remotes, to ensure maximum compatibility. Be aware that adding more and more strips in series will definitely require additional power at some point.
Before installation, please consider if the power of your chosen strip is adequate for the task at hand. Brighter lights will have a greater ‘throw’ (the distance from the light source to a given surface) so, using kitchen cabinets as an example, higher voltage lighting may be better as a downlight to illuminate the work surface. Whereas lower voltage lighting might be more suitable as an uplighter above the cabinets – although this could also depend on other factors, such as the height of the ceiling. (In this scenario, you could also use a higher-density strip to achieve the same effect: more LEDs/m = more light).
IP rating refers to ‘Ingress Protection’, or how protected the strip is against moisture and intrusion. This is represented by the letters IP, followed by a number which represents the level of protection. This is a standardised system and you may have seen it referring to other electrical equipment, such as mobile phones and tablets – see here for more information.
We sell strips with 4 main types of protection: IP20, IP65, IP67 and IP68. IP20 is unprotected, IP65 has simple waterproofing, provided by a layer of silicone over the top of the strip. It does not have any protection on the reverse (tape) side. This makes it resistant to splashes and spray. IP67 is enclosed in a silicone tube, which provides excellent moisture protection and resists submersion for short periods of time (up to 30 minutes) and up to a depth of 1 metre. IP68 provides the highest level of resistance to liquid and moisture ingress: the strip is completely encased in a solid layer of silicone which means that it can withstand complete submersion in water.
As a basic rule of thumb, IP20 could be used in a living room, IP65 or IP67 in a kitchen and IP67 or IP68 in a bathroom. In areas where moisture is present, we would always advise using the higher of the two options to be on the safe side. Yes, the LED strip in your kitchen may not come under a constant barrage of water, but if there is a lot of steam generated from cooking, it would be better to use IP67 to protect against moisture ingress over time. An IP67 strip might also be fine in a bathroom if you don’t plan to have it submerged, but it’s far more likely to come into contact with large levels of steam and moisture than a kitchen, so IP68 might be more suitable. Of course locations vary considerably, so we can only provide advice based upon our experience. We cannot be held responsible for the failure of an item if it is unsuitable for the location in which you have installed it.
Please also note that although IP67 and IP68 offer excellent moisture protection, the wires which attach to the power supply are exposed and should be kept well clear of moisture (and preferably sealed independently). Always ensure that your power supply is as far from areas of moisture as possible.
Does the amount of protection affect the amount of light emitted?
To all intents and purposes: No. If you were to compare the output of an IP20 and IP68 strip with a professional light meter then you may notice a difference, but in most practical circumstances there is none. The silicone used is high quality and very transparent.
The majority of the LED Strips we sell come in whole metre rolls with the most common lengths being 1M, 5M, 10M & 20M. Certain types of strips come in smaller and more incremental lengths.
Only you will really know for certain what length is required but you can quite easily cut strips to your required length by trimming them at the cut points. Some strips are clearly marked with an image of scissors at the cut points, others are designated by a straight line across the copper terminals.
This is easiest to do on IP20 and IP65 strips. IP67 and IP68 can also both be cut, but need to be resealed with silicone at the cut point in order to preserve their level of moisture protection. We take no responsibility for the failure of inadequately re-sealed strips.
We would advise that you buy a longer strip than needed and cut to the required length, rather than chain together several smaller strips. Chaining strips together is only usually advisable at right-angles and other intersections where a flush profile is desirable (in the corners of rooms, for example).
This refers to how closely bunched together the LEDs are and is measured in LEDs per metre. A higher number indicates a higher density and will therefore produce a more continuously solid, unbroken glow from the strip. If you need a strip which will provide a truly unbroken line of light, see the "Other Strip Type" section below.
Most LED Strips are provided as single-row configurations, however, double-row strips are available (see here for an example) and have the LEDs mounted side-by-side in two rows along the full length of the strip. This produces more light per metre due to the increased density of LEDs, but also increases the width of the strip, so it might not be suitable for installing in areas where space is tight.
There are! LEDs come in all shapes, sizes and configurations. Some of the additional types we sell are:
S-Shaped These have an ‘S-Shaped’ curve along the full length of the strip. When removed from the backing tape, these can be bent easily into more complex shapes, allowing you to create the outline of letters, images etc. far more easily than with a regular LED strip. However, their increased flexibility means that only a basic level of protection can be applied to them, so they are supplied in IP20 and IP65 versions only.
COB Chip-On-Board or COB strips have a high density and illuminate a silicone strip from behind, providing a more continuous and unbroken line of light. In addition to single-colour, RGB and RGBW, COB strips are also available in a variant called RGBCTA, which are 'colour temperature adjustable', giving finer control over the warmth or coolness of the light emitted.
Electroluminescent (EL) Wire
Electroluminescent or EL wires are not actually LED strips, but have similar uses. They are composed of a single copper wire that is treated with a coating which fluoresces when a current flows along it. They are sealed inside a coloured tube which is what provides the colour for that particular wire. This means that they are only available in single colours, however their advantage is that they are thin and highly flexible, allowing you to bend them into shapes that would break an LED strip. Additionally, we sell welted EL wires, which means they can be easily sewn into fabric or glued to a surface. This makes them perfect for cosplay costumes, vehicle interiors and any number of other design applications where light weight and flexibility are a priority.
Many people choose to wire their strips up directly, or may not have a use for the remote in their particular set-up. As this is the case, we have made the choice to sell the LED strips on their own, and allow the customer to decide which accessories they require for their set-up. Most LED's will have related products displayed on their product page to let you know which accessories are compatible. Accessory pages with relevant products can also be found in the category drop downs at the top of the page.
If you have purchased an accessory and you believe it is missing from your order, then please do get in touch via the contact form and we'll do what we can to help.
Please refer to the category page for the item you are interested in. More detailed technical information is provided there. Additional information, such as specific dimensions, can be found in the images on the individual product pages.
Due to the almost infinite number of set-ups, only general advice can be be given and unfortunately we cannot offer you a step by step detailed breakdown for your own personal installation.