LED flexible tape has rapidly become a staple in our lighting diet – ingenious, small, useful and simple to use. It’s ability to fit into any nook or cranny provides a wonderful tool to illuminate, highlight and embellish all spaces but especially traditional interiors. As more products enter the market it seems a good time to evaluate and understand the best way to apply this lighting category.
The decision making process often follows this pattern:
1. What do you want to achieve?
It is important to initially gauge the expectations of the specifier – is it a gentle glow we require or a strong output?
Flexible LED tape is generally manufactured in the following sizes:
30 LED chips per metre – running under 5W per metre
60 LED chips per metre (each chip with a size of 3.5mm x 2.8mm) – running at 5W per metre
120 LED chips per metre (each chip 3.5mm x 2.8mm) – running at 9.6W per metre
60 LED chips per metre high output (each chip 5mm x 5mm square) – running at 14.4W per metre
2. Colours of white
The available colour temperature of ‘white’ LED tape is broadening but some colours are at a premium price.
Commonly used colours of white are:
2700K – Very warm white – our most commonly used colour of white
3500K – warm white (but does feel like it’s quite brilliant white so watch out – depends on what it’s reflecting off)
4000K – white
6000K – very cold white
Even warmer colours of white such as 2500K and even 2300K are also available but are priced at a premium.
A word of warning – most manufacturers stock LED tape according to its level of demand, so a combination of a specific output and colour temperature may be regarded as a special request – with a price to suit.
If you want to achieve an extra warm rich colour of white but cannot afford the higher cost lower colour temperatures – reflect the light off a warm colour – such as a gold.
3. CRI – colour rendering index
Colour rendering – how true the illuminated object / environment will look, can be important – especially in retail. LED tape can have a very high CRI
4. Length of run
A long run of LED tape can be achieved but it will need to be subdivided into smaller runs, each powered by a remote driver.
Single colour LED tape we try to limit to a run of no more than 10m before adding another driver – it does depend on the specification of the tape. For example, one manufacturer advises no more than 7m.
You need to find a location for each driver – bring mains power to it and then run a smaller gauge cable to the LED tape. The power enters the tape and can be brought out the other end and then into another length. The run terminates at the end of the tape – no cables to be brought back to the driver.
Dimming LED tape can raise difficult issues. The new drivers that are recently arriving in the market, allow mains dimming of LED tape. However, a tried and tested reliable method is utilising a 1-10V protocol. Look out for PWM high frequency dimmable drivers that provide a very smooth level of dim.
7. Cutting tape to length
LED tape is either made to the specific length before despatch or sold on a reel of 5m. It is possible to cut tape down with a pair of scissors approximately every 50mm but it will need cables to be soldered back onto the tape for correct fixing. There are push fit connectors that can be used to join tape together but we recommend soldering every time.
8. Sticking into place
LED tape has a 3M adhesive reverse side to it, which sticks surprisingly well to most surfaces – but not dusty or oily ones!
An aluminium extrusion offers a smooth surface to stick the tape to, provides a frosted cover to diffuse the light and will act as a heat sink for higher output tapes. The tape doesn’t need to be placed in an extrusion but it is often a neat way of installing it budget allowing.
10. 12V or 24V?
LED tape divides into 2 categories of extra low voltage supply from the driver, 12V or 24V. 12V is most popular however 24V offers longer continuous runs.
The LED market is highly dynamic and new products are appearing on a daily basis. Call us at Orange Lighting and we can help you choose and use this adaptable light source.