Last updated: August 4, 2021

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LED strips create ambience in interiors. As an indirect light source, they can set colour accents, highlight favourite objects or provide additional safety. But LED strips are also convincing outdoors. Whether as colourful party lighting or to accentuate architectural elements, the waterproof versions can withstand any weather.

With our big LED strips test 2021 we want to help you find the perfect lighting for you. We have compared LED strips and noted down the most important facts. With this information, we would like to answer your questions and simplify your purchase decision.




Summary

  • LED strips bring light and colour indoors. They are also versatile for outdoor use, even under water.
  • LED strips are very energy-efficient and have a very long life. This makes them very environmentally friendly and sustainable.
  • Without tools, LED strips can simply be attached with adhesive tape. They are flexible and can also be stuck into angles or around curves.

The Best LED Strips: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for LED strips

There is a wide range of LED strips for sale in specialist shops, department stores and on the Internet. We have examined various offers and show you below which criteria we paid attention to.

With the help of the following aspects, you can compare the different LED strips to find the right model for you.

In summary, these are:

Length and width

The LED strips are available in different sizes. Usually, rolls with 5 metres of LED strip light can be bought, which corresponds to the international standard. Certain LED types are available on large rolls of 30 or 40 metres.

Most LED strips can be separated with scissors every 5 or 10 cm.

So that you can recognise possible separation points, these are often printed on the strip.

Half of the bare copper connections must remain at the beginning or end of each segment. If a segment is cut, the series connection of the LEDs is interrupted and it no longer lights up. On a tape, all segments are connected in parallel, i.e. if one segment is damaged, the others will still light up.

The LEDs are soldered onto a carrier strip that is usually 8, 10 or 12 mm wide. Due to their small width, they are very flexible and can usually be mounted invisibly.

Brightness

When buying LED lighting, estimating the brightness is the most difficult step. With conventional lighting, you could use the wattage as a guide. With LEDs, this figure alone is not meaningful enough. LED strips with the same wattage can achieve very different brightness levels. This depends on the efficiency (luminous efficacy). With LEDs, the luminous value (luminous flux) is therefore measured in lumens (lm).

The brightness of LED strips is given in lumens per metre (lm/m). In the following overview, we have compiled how many lumens are suitable for which type of light. Very bright LED strips can have up to 4,000 lm/m.

Type of use lumens per metre
Decorative light just under 300 lm/m
Working light 420 - 550 lm/m
Indirect room lighting (depending on room size) from 1,000 lm/m

The brightness of many models can be adjusted. The ability to dim the lights makes LED strips even more versatile. If the light is needed for work, it can be brighter, but for a dinner for two, a dimmed version is more romantic.

Number of LEDs and their spacing

Important quality features are the number of LED chips and the distance between them. While high-quality LED strips have between 360 and 480 LEDs over a length of 5 metres, inexpensive models have barely half that number. This is reflected in the quality of light. The more LEDs there are, the more uniform the light.

If the distance is too great, the lighting result is often uneven and the luminosity leaves much to be desired. If the 'natural' luminosity is not given, it is often 'artificially' increased by supplying the LEDs with higher amperage. This in turn has an effect on the service life of the LEDs.

Colour diversity and lighting effects

  • RGB LED strips contain the light colours red (R), green (G) and blue (B). These colours are produced by the attached SMD LEDs. By mixing the colours differently, over 16 million shades of colour can be represented. To produce white, all three colours must be turned up fully. This white usually has a high blue content and therefore appears cold. In cheap models, the SMD LEDs can usually only display one colour. This makes it impossible to mix the colours into one white.
  • The RGBW LED strips also contain true warm white. The SMD LEDs soldered on here contain white in addition to red, green and blue. This enables the presentation of a pleasant white tone. Alternatively, there are also those that have a separate chip for white.

The colour temperature of LEDs influences our well-being. The colour temperature is expressed in Kelvin (K). While an LED with 2700 K produces a yellowish-warm light, it emits a bluish-cool light at 6500. In the table below, we have listed how many Kelvin (K) result in which colour temperature.

Kelvin (K) Light colour Effect
2700-3300 Warm white Relaxing
3300-5300 Neutral white Activating
from 5300 Daylight white Concentration-enhancing

The lighting effects are usually adjustable by means of buttons. These sequences of lights range from flashing to modes with sonorous names such as Sunset or Rainbow. In some cases, you can save your own programmes.

Models with sound sensors are a special feature. They can detect sounds and music and reproduce them as a dynamic light impression.

Control

With the diverse accessories, you can control the brightness or light colours of your LED strips by remote control, voice, app or sensor. With some models, the switch-on time can be set so that the lighting comes on automatically.

To dim an LED strip light or change the colours, a controller is needed. This radio control only works with strips where this is provided. The controller is installed between the power supply unit and the LED strips. But be careful, the power of the controller must match the LED strips!

The RGB LED strips are controlled with a 3-channel controller. Each channel influences one of the basic colours (red, green, blue). As a rule, the desired colour tone can be selected via a colour wheel or selection buttons. Any pre-programmed lighting effects can also be called up in this way.

If you want a "real" white, you should go for RGBW LED strips.

With RGBW LED strips, the 3 coloured LEDs plus one white are usually housed in a 4in1 chip. These strips require a controller with 4 channels. If only the white light is desired, the other three are switched off.

Digital LED strips are a special feature. Here, all LEDs can be controlled differently, thus enabling chaser effects and animations.

Coating and degree of protection

High-quality LED strips have a durable coating that remains odourless even when activated. Cheap models may have a strong-smelling coating that becomes brittle within a short time. If this protection breaks, the components are exposed.

If no IP value is specified, the strap should not be exposed to moisture or water.

Uncoated strips should only be installed in protected places such as furniture or profiles. Unlike coated strips, they are not protected against dust and dirt.

LED strips can be coated or sheathed in silicone to protect them from water and moisture. The degree of protection is indicated in IP and a number.

At IP23, there is initial protection against rain and from IP68, an LED strip can be used under water. For bathrooms and kitchens, splash water protection (IP44) is recommended.

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying LED strips

Before buying LED strips, there are several factors you should consider. We have answered frequently asked questions and compiled important information in the following sections.

What is special about LED strips and what advantages do they offer?

LED strips can be used in many ways. They can set accents, illuminate rooms or point out danger spots. The LEDs are soldered onto narrow, thin strips. This makes the light strips flexible and hardly visible. They are easy to mount thanks to their self-adhesive underside.

In contrast to conventional light sources, they are energy-saving and have a long service life. RGB LED strips have an endless number of colours and usually also different light modes.

What types of LED strips are there?

Here we would like to introduce you to the different types of LED strips. When it comes to power supply, there are two different variants, whose advantages and disadvantages we have listed below.

LED Strips powered by electricity

This is the most common way to power LED strips. They cannot be connected directly to the 230V household mains, as most LED strips operate in the low-voltage range - i.e. 12 volts or 24 volts. A power supply unit is used to ensure the corresponding low DC voltage.

The advantage of low-voltage is that it is not dangerous and therefore there is no risk of injury even if installation is faulty. Important: the power supply unit must have enough power for the connected LED strips.

Advantages
  • Uninterrupted power supply
  • No sudden failure
Disadvantages
  • Cable partially visible
  • Power socket must be nearby

LED strips with batteries or rechargeable batteries

LED strips with batteries or rechargeable batteries are even more versatile because you are not tied to a power socket. Because LED strips are very energy-efficient, they can also run for many hours on battery or rechargeable battery. How many hours depends on the capacity of the battery or rechargeable battery. Furthermore, the operating voltage and power consumption of the LEDs play a role here.

The amount of current is given here in ampere hours (Ah) or milliampere hours (mAh) (1 Ah = 1000 mAh). How many Ah or mAh a battery or accumulator contains can usually be found on its packaging. 1 ampere-hour means that current is maintained for 1 hour. Often the discharge currents of batteries are lower.

Advantages
  • Can be used anywhere
  • Not dependent on power outlet
Disadvantages
  • Power supply can run out
  • Needs replacement batteries or charging

Where can LED strips be used?

LED strips can be used in many ways. As an indirect light source, they bring light and colour into interiors. They can be used to set accents or create a cosy ambience. Besides the decorative aspect, they can also serve as a safety factor by illuminating stairs.

LED Strips-1

With LED strips, you can beautify your workplace and set accents.
(Image source: Stefan Gall / Unsplash)

LED strips can also be used outdoors. The LED strips can be used on the facade of a house or, as a waterproof version, even in a pool.

Whether as party lighting, vehicle decoration or to embellish costumes - the possible uses for LED strips are endless. In the latter case, the light strips are operated wirelessly by rechargeable battery or battery.

What alternatives are there to LED strips?

Depending on the application, there are certainly viable alternatives. The main factor here is installation. In addition, lighting variants can hardly compete with LEDs in terms of environmental friendliness. The low power consumption and long service life cannot be beaten.

Chains of lights with small individual lamps are mainly known for the Christmas season. They are similarly flexible to LED strips. However, mounting them on flat surfaces is more complicated because the cable does not lie flat. These chains with LED bulbs are perfect for wrapping around objects.

LED Strips-2

LED strips can be easily mounted as accents on walls. Incandescent bulbs are limited in their use.
(Image source Jaël Vallée / Unsplash)

Indirect lighting can also be provided by light boxes on cabinets or shelves, but these are heavier and take up more space. If the lamps cannot be placed on top, they have to be mounted with screws.

What do LED strips cost?

The purchase price of LED strips is similar to that of other lighting products. What is often ignored is the service life of LED strips. In contrast to luminaires with light bulbs or fluorescent tubes, they have a long service life and no wear and tear on spare parts.

Complete sets with 5-metre rolls are available in shops from about 12 euros. Please note that the cheap models often have a shorter service life. It is therefore worth looking for cheaper versions.

How can LED strips be attached?

Flexible LED strips are equipped with a self-adhesive back. This allows for easy installation without tools.

LED strips can be mounted without tools.

If you are looking for a visually appealing variant, you can use a profile made of plastic or aluminium. The LED strips are glued in and thus protected from dirt. An additional plastic cover provides better light distribution and protects against dust.

The plastic or aluminium profiles are usually dowelled or screwed on directly. However, they can also be embedded in the floor to mark danger spots or as orientation lights.

How are LED strips connected?

To operate the LED strips on the mains, you need a power supply unit that is short-circuit-proof and voltage-stabilised. If you want to use the strip light in a boat, car or truck, you can connect the strips directly to the 12 or 24 volt on-board power supply.

Most LED strips are available as sets and already contain everything needed to operate the strip lights. To control the lighting by remote control, a controller is needed between the power supply unit and the light source.

Image source: Dechev/ 123rf.com

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