LED strip lighting comes in many styles, voltages, colours, quality, lumen output levels and prices. Pricing can vary from $1/m to $200/m. So which strip light should you use? If you just want to light the shelves in your shed or work van then cheap and cheerful will probably do, but if you would like to use the strip lighting as the primary light source for a room via concealed bulkhead light method then you will need to look for better quality and prices of around $50/m. In addition the strip light it self you will also need to select a driver to power the light either 12v DC or 24v DC and aluminium channel which acts as both a heat sink to cool the LED chips and will aid in keeping the light nice a linear in appearance which is especially important for installations concealed and lighting across a ceiling.
So what do you get if you pay more?
- Firstly the copper tape that the LED chips are mounted on is much thicker and therefore transfer more heat away from the chip. If the chip is kept cooler then is life will be much longer, specifications for LED chips will sometimes provide a lifetime vs temperature charts.
- Second the colour output from the LED chips from chip to chip or roll to roll we be closer to the specified colour. This is referred to as SDCM (standard deviation colour matching) any thing less then 3 is good, any thing higher than 3 the colours will deviated more and it will be more and more visible to the eye.
- Thirdly the actual light output is what is specified, cheap rolls usually don't output as specified.
- And last of all the CRI or colour rendition is higher usually 80+ and will as the name suggests make objects display their true colours better.
What other thing do you need to consider when selecting LED strip?
- Usually LED strip is either 12v DC or 24v DC, I would recommend in almost all cases 24v DC as the volt drop is lower and the current level in the circuit is lower.
- The colour of the backing tape usually is white, but can come in black and copper
- The type of chip: Either a single colour from 2500K(yellow) up to 6500K(blue/white), or multi colour chips which include variable colour from 2500k to 6500K, or RGB colours a chip that can blend different intensities of each colour to make millions of different colour combinations(using a PWM controller), or RGBW the same as RGB but is also includes a white diode which creates nicer looking white colours than RGB is able to and will also make pastel colours, and digital chips which can be individually and in groups of 3 controlled via a digital signal to go to a set colour.
- The spacing of the chips on the tape or number of chips per meter, which usually dictates the output power.
The final consideration is what driver to use. Almost all LED strip light runs on constant voltage. Constant voltage drivers that convert 240v main power to 24v DC can not be dimmed with a standard dimmer. If no dimming is required then that is no problem, but if dimming is required then a dimming method needs to be selected which will vary depending on the switch plates or if home automation is in use etc. You can buy drivers that accept an input of 0-10v that will dim the driver and the LED strip lighting but an external 0-10v signal from an automation system or a simple 0-10v dimming mechanism is still required as well. Additional there are a number of different control system that will dim the output of the driver on the 24v DC side, however these do not usually match existing switch plates and are often remote controlled which may or may not be desirable to the home owner.
This is not an exhaustive list of consideration and information on LED lighting, however when we select LED strip lighting options for our customers we take all these things into account plus much more to choose the best option that provides the best value for the situation, and makes the lighting project look great.