What is an LED Strip Light?
A LED strip light is one of the most recent types of lighting that is extremely versatile. There are many variants and exceptions to this, but in general, LED strip lights have the following features:
- The LED emitters are mounted on a narrow, flexible circuitboard that contains many individual LEDs.
- Powered by DC power at low voltages.
- Variable and fixed color and brightness options are available.
- Ship in a long reel (typically 16 feet / 5 meters), can be cut to length, and includes double-sided adhesive for mounting.
The anatomy of an LED strip.
Typically, LED strip lights are half an inch (10-12 mm) wide and up to 16 feet (5 meters) or more long, and can be cut to size using scissors along their cutlines.
A LED strip consists of a strip of LEDs that are mounted along it. These LEDs are normally placed at a density of 18-36 per foot (60-120 per meter). The light color and quality of the individual LEDs determine the overall color and quality of the LED strip.
A double-sided adhesive is pre-applied to the backside of the LED strip. Simply peel off the liner, and mount the LED strip on any flat or curved surface.
A method for determining the brightness of LED strips
LED strips are measured in lumens, not watts. Different LED strips have different levels of efficiency, so wattage ratings do not always reflect actual light output.
Brightness of LED strips is usually measured in lumens per foot (or meter). The light output per foot of a good quality LED strip should be at least 450 lumens (1500 lumens per meter), which is similar to the output per foot of a traditional T8 fluorescent lamp. (For example, 4 feet of T8 fluorescent = 4 feet of LED strip = 1800 lumens).
The brightness of LED strips is primarily determined by three factors:
- The light output and efficiency of LED emitters.
- LEDs per square foot
- LED strip power consumption per foot
LED strips without a brightness specification are a red flag. You should also be wary of low-cost LED strips that claim high brightness, as they may overdrive the LEDs to premature failure.
Density and power draw of LEDs
In an LED strip, what matters most is the number of LEDs per foot, and how much power is consumed per foot. You may encounter different LED emitter names, such as 2835, 3528, 5050, or 5730.
A LED’s density determines how far the LED emitters are apart (pitch) and whether or not there will be visible hotspots or dark spots between them. The best, most evenly distributed lighting effect is usually achieved with 36 LEDs per foot (120 LEDs per meter). When comparing LED strip prices, be sure to take into account the differences in LED density when comparing LED strip prices. LED emitters are the most expensive component of LED strip manufacturing.
In order to determine your electricity costs and power supply requirements (see below), consider how much power an LED strip light will consume per foot. The power draw tells us how much power the system will consume. LED strips should provide at least 4 watts per foot (15 W/meter) of power.
Finally, divide the wattage per foot by the LED density per foot to determine if the LEDs are being overdriven. For an LED strip product, it is usually a good sign if the LEDs are not being driven at more than 0.2 watts each.