LED Ribbon Tape Strips

by Editor on June 2, 2016

LED adhesive Tape strip lighting provides an effective way of illuminating shelves, signs, cars, boats and much more. Here’s an overview of the diffent types of LED ribbon tapes, the best LEDs to use, and also some tips for DIY LED lighting.

I’ve regularyly installed LED ribbons as under cupboard lights in kitchens and they also look impressive around plinths and in curtian pelmets. As well as looking good, LED ribbon tapes lights are low voltage, low energy and are safe to touch as they don’t get hot.

LED RGB tape strip light

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What are LED Ribbon Tapes? The most basic form of LED strip light is an LED Ribbon or Tape. Each LED ribbon consists of a length of printed circuit which has the components including LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) soldered on to it. At the end of each ribbon tape there are terminals for connection to additional ribbons. There are basically two types of LED Ribbon tape- Single Colour and RGB. Single colour LED ribbons are often used for functional lighting under cupboards and plinths for display and over work areas. The RGB LEDs give more options in colours and can be used to give lighting effects and LED mood lighting.

LED tape strip lights

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Advantages of LED Ribbon Tapes Unlike most other types of light fitting, LED Ribbons or flexible LED strips have no replaceable parts or bulbs. They are easy to install and no screws or fixings are needed. In summary, the advantages of LED ribbon tapes are:

  • Low cost
  • Low energy consumption
  • Extra Low Voltage for safety- 12 or 24 volts
  • Don’t get hot- Safe to touch.
  • Easy to cut LED tapes to length
  • Easy to remove and replace
  • Long life- LEDs can last up to 50,000 hours (over 5 years of continuous operation)
  • No parts or bulbs to replace

The ribbons are are normally supplied on reels and come in single colour or RGB multi colour. The RGB or RGBW strips can give various effects such as colour changing, dimming and chasing, depending on the capabilities of the LED Controller. LEDs for Boats, Cars and Caravans Ribbon Tapes make an ideal choice of LED lighting for boats, cars and caravans. LEDs can operate on the same 12 or 24 volt DC as a car battery which makes them convenient and safe without the need for additional transformers. Please note- Be sure to install the correct current rated switches and fuses when installing LED lights in cars, boats and caravans.  

  Waterproof LED Ribbons LED ribbon tapes run on 12 or 24 volt DC electricity so they are safe in most normal conditions. The mains voltage power supply however will need to be insulated and enclosed to make it touch safe and weatherproof, as with all other electrical accessories. Waterproof LED ribbons are slightly more expensive and have a clear plastic coating. This gives added protection from knocks and scrapes and also protection from the elements. Generally the “waterproof” versions are really only considered as “splashproof”. So if you’re planning to install your LEDs under water you’ll need to use specially constructed underwater LEDs. These “submersible” LEDs have a thicker flexible silicone coating and are filled with a waterproof gel. This makes them suitable for pools, water features and aquarium LED lighting.

Submersible Underwater LED strips

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White LED Ribbon Colours Single colour LED ribbon tapes are ideal for utility and secluded lighting. They are often used in kitchens and bathrooms under pelmets and cupboards. With white LED ribbons you have options of warm (yellowish) or daylight/natural. The white colour rendition in most RGB ribbons is a more blue-white as it is made up from a combination of the RGB colours. The colours and brightness of LED tapes can vary but if you’re after a simple multi colour display then a basic 12 volt RGB LED kit will do the job fine. If you prefer a warmer white then it’s advisable to go for a single colour “warm white” or use a RGBW LED ribbon. RGB and RGBW LEDs RGB LED Ribbons use red, green and blue leds to produce a rainbow of colours. The amount of colours and effects will depend on the LED Controller you use, but most basic LED kits give a selection of colours and effects such as dimming, static and chasing. As previously mentioned, an RGBW ribbon would give the “white” colour rendition from multi-colour LEDs. DIY LED Kits If you know the length you want for your light fitting, and have a power supply or socket nearby, then LED kits offer an easier way to carry out a DIY LED lighting installation. You can simply cut the LED tape to length and then stick it in place.

LED Strip tape lighting kits

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LED tape kits should have everything you’ll need including a power supply/driver, controller, leads etc. . You’ll find some DIY LED installation tips below.

LED Size and Power The type of LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) used in ribbon tapes are SMDs (Surface Mount Diode/Device). The most commonly used sizes are 3528 and 5050 although very high output versions 5630 are now available. The size “3528” is 3.5 x 2.8 mm using 0.08 watts of power and the “5050” is 5.0 x 5.0 mm using 0.28 watts per LED. The 5050 LEDs are brighter of the two and can give off more heat. The very bright “5630” uses 0.4 watts per LED.

5630-5050-3528 LED ribbons

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The 3528 LEDs are more power-saving and not as bright, but are very suitable for most domestic uses. The 5050 and 5630 LEDs are more expensive and generally considered for higher luminosity and professional use. The brightness (or light output) of an LED ribbon is determined by the type and size of the LEDs and how close together they are mounted. This can vary from 30 to 120 LEDs per metre. The average power consumption of a 3528 ribbon is 5 watts per meter (for 60), while a 5050 could draw around 15 watts per meter as with some extra powerful ultra-white 5050 LED lighting strips. A rough guide to power consumption of LED Ribbon Tapes:

  • 3528 x 60 LEDs allow 5 watts per metre
  • 3528 x 120 LEDs allow 10 watts per metre
  • 5050 x 60 LEDs allow 15 watts per metre

Please note– Never overload an LED driver as it will get very hot and fail. As an example, 5 metres of 3528 x 60 LEDs will require at least a 30W LED Driver. LED Drivers The easiest way to power up your adhesive LED strip lights is from a standard 3 pin wall socket via a transformer or power supply, known as a DC Driver. You could also power from a lighting circuit but it’s advisable to get this installed by a qualified electrician.

LED Driver DC Transformer

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If you’re buying your LED components separately you’ll need to select a driver with the correct voltage and power capability to suit your LED lights. If dimming the LEDs from a main wall switch you’ll need to make sure it’s a “dimmable” driver. It’s advisable to check with the seller that all the LED components are compatible before ordering.  

LED Controllers Single colour LED tapes can be connected directly to the output of the DC driver for simple on/off operation, but RGB colour LED strips also require a controller. An LED RF controller allows you to change the colour, chase or dim the LEDs at the push of a button on a remote wireless handset.

LED RGB Controller

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An LED Wifi or Bluetooth Controller enables control of LED lights from a Smartphone App.

LED Wifi Bluetooth Controller

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  How To Cut LED Ribbons LED adhesive ribbons are very easy to fix by peeling off the covering on the back of the tape to reveal a sticky back coating. It’s best to draw a straight line or guide marks on the wall or shelf surface before sticking to be sure to get level or parallel with any edge. You can then cut your LED strip to the required length along the break lines as indicated.

How to cut LED ribbon tape strips

How to cut LED Ribbon Tapes

LED ribbons shouldn’t get hot when in use but can sometimes become warm. They can also be affected by dampness so it’s advisable to use the best adhesive tape possible. 3M self adhesive tape is considered to be the most reliable for sticking LED ribbons. How To Join LED Strips You can extend or cut and join ribbons to go around corners with LED connectors. It’s also possible to create new power lead tails without the need to solder by using the LED clips. This makes them ideal for DIY LED lighting installations.LED Ribbon Lights are cheap and easy for DIY LED lighting. They can easily cut and joined using LED connectors

LED clip on connectors

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  The connectors come in various pins and widths to suit the types of LED Strips. These can be 2 pin for single colour and 4 or 5 pin for RGB.

LED Leads and Extensions Best results will be obtained by having the LEDs close to the power supply. With runs longer than 5 meters you may experience voltage drop and the lights won’t glow as brightly.

LED extension leads

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Be sure to check the manufacturer’s technical info if you want a longer run of lights or are joining 2 or more LED tape strips together.

With long runs of LED Ribbon lighting it may be necessary to add boosters or repeaters along the length. This is especially true with multi-colour installations. As with most things electrical, planning out your installation and getting all the right parts before you start is the key to success. ElectriciansBlog.co.uk

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