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How to Connect LED Strips

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LED strip lights’ applicability or the ability to channel light in personalized designs, and still resist damage make them more popular today than traditional lights.

While tech-savvy consumers find connecting LED strips simple, for regular folks it can be too technical knowing where to make the cuts and how to connect. That is why we prepared this guide to go over how to connect LED strips.

How to Connect LED Strips Effectively

Although there are readily soldered LED strips in the market, learning how to connect the lights using connectors gives you a chance to handle personalized lighting or other DIY projects. Besides, the ready-made LED strips have a specified length and you may need to adjust them.

You can connect LED strip lights in two ways: 

  • Using a connector
  • Soldering

Of the two, soldering offers a more lasting connection although it takes a little more work as compared to using connectors

Connecting LED lights in a circuit board

Connecting LED Strips Using Connectors

You often need to buy connectors separately. They vary depending on the LED lights you are using. The average is 60 watts and is designed to fold-over or clip-on. To connect, you need several tools. These include:

  • A measuring tape
  • A pair of scissors (or razor) to cut the strip, and
  • The connectors

Preparing the LED Strips

Before connecting, follow these steps to prepare the strips

Step One: Measure the Strips 

Use a tape measure to determine the perimeter of the space you want to fix the lights. 

LED strips usually come in various pre-cut sizes. To ensure your strip covers the area you intend to light-up, take a measuring tape, measure, and record the measurements.

In consideration of corners and the cuts you will make, buy a few extra feet of the strip to take care of such adjustments.

Step Two: Mark the LED Strips

This is basically for accuracy. It helps you to cut the strip into the right lengths and put the connectors where they fit best

To minimize the chances of making wrong cuts. Spread the LED strip on a table. Place your measuring tape alongside it and use a marker pen to mark where cuts need to be made.

Step Three: Cut the LED Strips

The distance between one cutting point to the other varies from one strip to another. It may depend on how long the strip you purchased is. As mentioned earlier, each strip has marked cutting points. Ensure you cut the strip where marked (usually with a dotted line or a scissors icon).

You will notice that strips with closely-knit LEDs have more cutting points as compared to those whose LEDs are distanced. 

Despite the distance between these cutting points, or how many they are, you can only cut where there are no markings. Use a sharp razor or scissors to cut as accurately as possible. Wrong cutting may destroy the lights.

Connecting the LED Strips Using Connectors

Connectors are better for their affordability and ease-of-use. They offer a less technical method of fixing LED strip lights and come in two types;

  • Fold-over connectors
  • Clip-on connectors

In cases where the LED lights are designed too close to each other, the fold-over connector may fail to close thus a clip-on is best fitted.

Always confirm whether your connectors and LED strips are compatible. For instance, Monochrome LED strips connectors may differ from those of multi-colored (RGB) LED strips.

Details of these units can be found on the LED strip package. To ascertain the right choice, read instructions before purchasing your connectors.

LED light strip

Connecting Strips Using the Fold-over Connector

After cutting the strip, slide the open sides of the strip and the connector and slide them in. Avoid forcing them into each other as they are both delicate. Ensure the wires are aligned properly. The wires on the strip are usually labeled to ease the process.

Try moving the connector side to side to ensure it’s fully installed. When ready, close the flap by pressing it until it clicks into place.

Connecting Strips Using the Slip-on Connector

The first steps are basically the same. Measure, mark, and cut. Slide the slips as described earlier ensuring accurate alignment of the wires. Once done, push the slip-on buttons (usually black) and press them from either side until they lock the strip in place.

Connecting LED Strips by Soldering

Although connecting strips using soldering takes a little bit of time and caution, it’s more effective. Many people believe it can pass more current, too. Furthermore, most extra-large strips must be soldered since there are no connectors available for them. To solder, you’ll need these:

  • Your LED strips
  • Solder
  • Soldering iron
  • Multi-channel LED controller
  • Multi-conductor wire
  • Wire strippers – preferably multi-conductor wire strippers
  • Scissors
  • Heat link or tape
  • Heat gun
  • Appropriate power supply

The Soldering Process

To make a strong connection, you may need some helping hands tool to hook your strip on so as to make it stable. Carefully take the following steps.

  1. Strip off a small part of the jacket of the wire – we recommend you strip an eighth of an inch on each wire.
  2. Heat the wires, each wire at a time.
  3. Melt the solder into each wire.
  4. Melt a little solder on the LED strip.
  5. Insert the heat tube over the wire before soldering.
  6. Place and solder the wires on the LED strip noting which color you solder on which part of the strip.
  7. Slide the heat tube over the connection area and heat it moderately to seal.

Soldered LED lights are more durable as compared to those fixed using connectors. Each connector’s current should be limited to 4 Amps (equivalent to 60 Watts).

Important Points to Remember While Soldering LED Strips

  • The wires must remain separate. At no time should they be soldered together
  • Each wire should match its color on the LED strip. This is especially important when joining the wires to the LED controller
  • When applying heat on the sealer tube, apply minimal heat. Too much heat may destroy diodes on your LED strip
  • The soldering bar heats pretty fast – 30 seconds on average. Only heat it when you are ready.
  • A traditional wire stripper is helpful but while using RGB LED strips or RGBW, a multi-conductor wire stripper will be more effective
  • Soldering from the center out is much easier than soldering from one end to the other
DJ lights

How to Connect RGB LED Strips

There are two types of RGB strips;

  • Addressable strips
  • Regular strips

Addressable Strips

Individually addressable LEDs use a micro-controller on each of those LEDs. This activates each LED to light up with unique colors and brightness. The strips have three wires. A data wire, a ground, and a voltage wire.

We recommend you connect a maximum of two RGB’S end-to-end. The connection process is similar to regular LED strips. If you have an additional strip, separate them using a higher gauge power bus.

Several considerations come to play with RGB strips. First, they are 5 volts direct current strips, not 12 volts. Keeping this in mind helps you make informed decisions regarding power and power connections.  Connecting these strips follows a similar process as the single-colored strips.

Do’s and Don’ts of Connecting LED Strips

Finally, here are a few things to do or avoid when connecting LED strips: 

Do’s

  • Use clips to mount especially where there are uneven surfaces. This ensures the strip does not droop or fall off even if the adhesive loosens. It also helps to balance the lighting.
  • Choose colors selectively. Where color is not a must, we recommend all-white strips. RGB strips display red, green, and blue strips. These can help you get other colors but can easily cause discomfort depending on the environment.
  • If the strips are going to be exposed to water, provide waterproofing to ensure your lights last longer.
  • When soldering, match the lines as per their colors, for instance, red to red, and green to green.
  • Use higher amperage while using multiple strips. When you set up many LED strips end to end with regular power, lights keep dimming as they get further from the power source. To solve this, use a supplementary power supply.

 Don’ts

  • Don’t bend or loop the strip to avoid making cuts. This gives unbalanced lighting and may rob you of the beauty you are looking for by installing LED strips.
  • Don’t directly expose the strips. LED strips left bare yield excessively bright and uncomfortable lighting. This is too harsh for your eyes. Place the strips strategically facing away from sight to avoid direct light. Alternatively invest in a channel. This helps to shield them as well as to regulate the light.
  • Don’t melt excess solder. You only need a little amount of solder melted on the pads since every line needs to be connected separately.

Conclusion

LED strips are becoming increasingly popular and are slowly replacing traditional incandescent bulbs. In fact, it is estimated that by mid-year 2020, LED lighting had a 61% penetration of the lighting market globally

They use less power and hardly heat-up. To get the best out of them, take your time, and make solid connections. Avoid looping them. This only makes them untidy and shortens their life span.