How to Choose LED Tape Light
The remarkable versatility of LED tape light lends to their popularity in a wide variety of lighting projects like decorative accent lighting over kitchen cabinets or even dramatic halo lighting around a mirror or flat screen television.
There are several things to consider to make sure you choose the right LED tape light and the necessary components that will enable it to work as you had imagined.
- Where will you use your tape light and how much will you need?
- How will you power it and connect it to its power source?
- What color tape light do you want? Should it be dimmable?
- How will you mount it?
- Do you want to control it remotely?
1) Where Will You Use Your Tape Light?
Where will your LED tape light be installed: indoors in a dry location, outdoors in a wet location that has direct exposure to rain, snow, etc., or in a damp location exposed to some degree of humidity (e.g., bathroom ceiling, under an awning outdoors, under a covered porch)? If so, check the manufacturer's recommendations to make sure your tape light is wet or damp location approved, respectively.
2) How Much Tape Light Do You Need?
Depending on the size and scope of project you're considering, you may need one continuous length of tape light, or you may need to connect several different lengths together to reach your goal. Your first step is to measure and record the length of each section in inches.
Project Tip: When would you need multiple sections of tape light? Maybe you have to traverse a gap or have an obstacle between two sections of tape light.
3) How Will You Power the Entire Tape Light Installation?
A low voltage tape light will need an LED driver to provide power. An LED driver converts AC line power (120V or 277V) to the appropriate DC voltage (most commonly 12V DC or 24V DC) or regulates the current (most commonly 350 or 700 milliamps or mA) for your tape light. Drivers might also include components to make them dimmable or optional steel enclosures to safely store the LED driver and its electric splices.
- Hardwired - Wired directly to the electrical power supplied by the home or building making it controllable by a wall switch or dimmer.
- Plug-In - Connects to an LED driver which plugs into an electrical outlet. If your tape light requires you to purchase a separate LED Driver, make sure you get the right voltage (12 or 24V) and that you've correctly calculated how much wattage you need.
Project Tip: Be sure to select an LED driver whose wattage is equal to or slightly greater than the total wattage of the tape light being powered.
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Do You Want a Dimmable Tape Light?
If you want to control the amount of light available and/or control the mood of the space, choose a dimmable tape light. Depending on the LED tape light you have selected, there might be a specific dimmer controller indicated in the Accessories section, or you can purchase a separate dimmer switch.
Project Tip: Remember, if you want your LED tape light to be dimmable, you'll need to purchase dimmable tape light, a dimmable LED driver, and a dimmer switch or dimmer control.
4) How Will You Connect the Tape Light to Its Power Source?
It is important to understand that there are different types of connection options available.
Connecting Tape Light to an LED Driver
- Connect a plug-in LED driver to two separate sections or runs of tape light with a Y-Splitter.
- Connect a hardwire or plug-in LED driver to a tape light section that is located some distance away from the driver with an Extension Cable.
Connecting Multiple Sections of Tape Light to Each Other
For two or more separate lengths of tape light, you will need to figure out how those separate lengths will be connected. For example:
- Connect separate lengths end-to-end by simply plugging the male end of one length to the female end of the other. If your tape light doesn’t have these connectors, use a Splice Connector.
- Connect two lengths with a Jumper Cable or Joiner Cable.
- Connect two lengths at right angles to each other with an L-Connector.
- Connect three separate lengths at right angles to each other with a T-Connector.
- Split tape lights into two or three separate runs to create custom lighting designs with a 3-Way or 4-Way Splitter.
Project Tip: Each tape light manufacturer has specific connectors that work only with their brand of light. The connecting options mentioned here are not a complete list and may or may not work with the tape light you choose. Always refer to the product description for your specific tape light to determine the available connection options for your project.
5) What Color Tape Light Do You Want?
You have three basic choices: white, solid single color, or color-changing.
- White Tape Light - There are several white color temperatures to choose from:
- Single Color - Solid colored LED tape lights are available in different colors.
- Color Changing - This type of LED tape light combines all of the RGB (red-green-blue) colors on a single strip to produce one unique color OR you may program it to a vast spectrum of colors that can be changed very slowly or very quickly.
Project Tip: Some tape light is color temperature adjusting (also referred to as "tunable"). This means that you can instantly adjust the ambiance of any room from a soft daylight to a warm amber to mimic the setting of the sun.
Project Tip: When choosing white tape light, determine how well you want it to render colors. This is called it's Color Rendering Index (CRI).
- CRI 70-79 - Good color rendering
- CRI 80-89 - Very good color rendering
- CRI 90+ - Excellent color rendering
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6) How Will You Mount Your Tape Light?
Your application will determine what the best mounting option is for the tape light, whether simply peeling and sticking it to the surface, using plastic mounting clips or investing in channel guides for a polished look.
- Double-Sided 3M Adhesive Tape - most tape light comes with this adhesive backing.
- Mounting Clips - most tape light comes with mounting clips and screws (indicated in the Product Description). If you plan to use mounting clips and screws in your installation, we recommend buying a few extra for spares.
- Mounting Channels - these are specifically designed for use with tape light to create a more permanent and professional installation. Not all tape light offers mounting channels as an optional accessory, so be sure to check the Product Description.
Project Tip: When would you use Mounting Channel to mount your tape light? Some examples include tape light as under cabinet lighting, accent lighting in a niche or in a bookshelf, display lighting in a cabinet, or around window framing.
7) Do You Need Controllers for Your LED Tape Lighting?
Now that you've covered your major decisions, there are still more options that will allow you to customize your LED tape light even further. For example, color-changing or color temperature adjusting tape light will require a controller to set these adjustments. Be sure to review your LED tape light's Product Description to learn about any required or optional accessories you may need to complete your project installation.
LED Tape Light Project Cheat Sheet - PDF
Download a printable PDF version of this information here.