Complete LED Tape Light Buyer's Guide: Benefits, Styles, Design and Layout Tips
What is LED tape light?
LED tape light is one of the most versatile forms of lighting. There are many variants that are available, but for the most part, it has the following characteristics:
- Consist of individual LED emitters mounted on a narrow, flexible circuit board
- Operates on low-voltage DC power
- Available in a wide range of fixed and variable color temperatures
- Various brightness levels
- Comes in reels, or can be cut to length
- Features double-sided adhesive for easy mounting
An LED tape light is typically half an inch (10-12 mm) in width, and up to 16 feet (5 meters) or more in length. It can be cut to specific lengths using a pair of scissors along the cutlines, located every 1-2 inches apart depending on manufacturer.
Individual LEDs are conveniently mounted along the strip, typically at densities of 18-36 LEDs per foot (60-120 per meter). The color and quality of the individual LEDs translates to the overall light color and quality of the LED tape.
The backside of LED tape light includes pre-applied double-sided adhesive. You simply peel of the liner to mount the LED tape to virtually any surface. LED tape light can even be mounted on curved and uneven surfaces since the circuit board is designed to be flexible.
How is the brightness of LED tape light determined?
The brightness of LED tape light is determined using metric lumens. Unlike incandescent bulbs, different types of LED tape light can have different levels of efficiency, so the wattage rating does not always determine the actual light output.
LED tape light brightness is typically described in lumens per foot (or meter). For example, a quality LED tape light should provide at least 450 lumens per foot (1500 lumens per meter), which will provide the same amount of light output per foot as a traditional T8 fluorescent lamp (E.g. 4-foot T8 fluorescent = 4-foot of LED tape light = 1800 lumens).
LED tape light brightness is typically determined by three factors:
- Light output and efficiency per LED emitter
- The number of LEDs per foot
- The power draw of the LED tape light per foot
What are the color options of LED tape light?
LED tape light is available in various shades of whites or colors. Typically, white light is the most used and popular option for indoor lighting applications.
There are different shades and qualities of white. Color temperature (CCT) and color rendering index (CRI) are two metric help determine how white the light output will be.
Color temperature is a measure of how warm or cool the light's color will appear. If your looking for a soft glow that resembles that of an incandescent bulb, a low color temperature (2700K) is the best choice. However, if your need a more crisp, bright white that resembles natural daylight, a high color temperature (6500K) is recommended.
Color rendering is a measure of how accurate colors will appear under the light source. Under a low CRI LED tape light, colors will appear distorted, washed out, or indistinguishable. Whereas, high CRI LED tape lights allows objects to appear the way they would under an ideal light source such as a halogen lamp, or natural daylight.
Fixed and Variable Color
If you're looking for something that pops, or has a saturated color effect, colored LED tape light is ideal. Its great for accent and theatrical lighting effects. There are several colors across the visible spectrum available, such as blue, green, amber and red.
There are two types of color LED tape light, fixed single color and color changing. A fixed color LED tape light emits just one color, and operates just like the white LED tape light previously discussed. A color-changing LED tape light consists of multiple color channels on a single LED strip. The most basic type will include red, green and blue channels (RGB), which will allow you to dynamically mix the various color components to achieve virtually any color your space requires.
How to connect LED tape light?
Each LED tape light segment is required to be connected to a DC power supply, or another LED tape light segment that is connected to a DC power supply (daisy chain). The connection method depends on the type of wires or plugs provided with the LED tape light, as well as whether or not the DC power supply includes a plug.
How to install LED tape light?
LED tape light can be installed in multiple ways. If you're looking for more of a polished look than using the double-adhesive backing, we recommend using aluminum channels and diffuser covers. Mounting the LED tape light inside of an aluminum channel, along with a diffuser cover, can drastically improve the aesthetics of a lighting installation.
Aluminum channels are long pieces of extruded aluminum in a U or V shape. The LED tape light is neatly placed and secured (using the double sided adhesive) at the bottom of the channel. Then a long frosted polycarbonate plastic lens then snaps onto the top of the aluminum channel. Besides being aesthetically pleasing, aluminum channels also help to dissipate the heat away from the LED tape light as well.
How to dim and control the color of LED tape light?
All LED tape light is dimmable when paired with the correct hardware. There are two methods of dimming LED tape light, a traditional phase-cut wall dimmer, or a DC low-voltage dimmer. The AC phase-cut dimmer is the most ideal choice for residential and commercial lighting applications, which is where the dimming input signal comes from a traditional wall-switch dimmer.
The DC low-voltage dimmer, or (RGB) controller, is typically a manual or digital dimmer module that is placed between the DC power supply and the LED tape light. This method is most suitable for color changing applications, or less permanent lighting installation.
Need additional tape light design & layout tips?
We are to provide the guidance you need in selecting the most appropriate and type of LED tape light that best suits the needs of your application. If you are unsure on how much tape light you need to provide adequate illumination, let us give you a free lighting layout to put your mind at ease and know you get the right amount of lighting you need for your application. If you have any additional questions about LED Tape Light feel free to reach out to one of our customer service specialists.