Installing LED Light Strips : A How-To Guide

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LED Light Strips are flexible strips of powerful lighting that can be used in virtually any space. They can be cut to custom lengths, there are different color options, and most can even hold up to outdoor environments as they are dust and waterproof. With their super thin design they are ideal for hard to reach places or to enhance a small space with custom lighting. The options are endless.

Before You Begin

Our guide is meant for those who have experience working with electricity. Installing LED Strips means working with high voltage power connections. Without the proper knowledge you or others can be seriously injured. Please use caution and common sense when working with LED Strips. If you’re unsure about anything we suggest consulting with an electrician first. We are not responsible for any injuries or damages caused due to lack of experience.

Brand Differences

LED Strip Light packages and products will vary from different manufactures. Though the concept is basically the same for the majority of them some come with different mounting hardware or optional pieces of equipment meant to cut your install time down. This guide will give you a general idea of how to set up most of them. You can also view information about our own LED Strip Lights here.

Double Check Your Supplies

Before you begin you want to make sure you have everything you’ll need. It is a good idea to work in an area that is equipped with safety materials in the case of an emergency. Print this list and check off the items to make sure you have everything you’ll need.

(1) Pair of Scissors
(1) Wire Stripper
(1) Lighter
(1) Power Adapter
(1) Soldering Iron and Solder
(1) Heat Shrink Wire Tubing (Small, Medium & Large)
(1) Three Prong AC Power Cable
(2) Pin Strip Connecting Wires
(1) SPST Toggle Switch (A Basic Light Switch)

Get Ready to Install

After you have all your supplies on hand you are ready to begin. The first step is to measure out the lighting. Cut the strips to your desired length, making sure to use the scissors only on the designated areas on your LED strip. Then you’ll want to prepare the three prong power cable that you have.

Take your scissors (or a knife if you prefer) to cut off the end of the cable. Leave as much usable cable as possible on the end that will plug into your wall or outlet. Now you’ll want to expose and strip the wires that will be leading to your LED Strip by using your wire strippers. You can do this by cutting through the outer molding of the power cable. Gently pull the casing off of the wires. Do not pull too hard or you could cause damage in the cable. As you remove the casing you should see twisted wires inside of it. Simply untwist these wires and separate them.

Pay attention to the color coding on the wires that you’re cutting. There is usually a common way of color coding wires but this should never be assumed. For example, white generally indicates neutral, black indicates live and green means ground wire. It is very important that you know this before going any further. Once you have properly identified your color codes you will need to use your wire strippers. Cut off half an inch of casing from all the wires that you just separated.

Next you will need to prepare your shrink tubing. This will insulate each wire and eventually cover the entire set. There are different sizes for different lines. Small ones are generally best for the live and neutral lines. Medium is usually best for the cable coming from the power adapter and large ones are good for the entire AC cable. It is very important to place the largest one on before taking any further steps. If this is not done the wires cannot be soldered together. Slide it over all the wires and then out of the way for the time being.

The small tubing can then be placed over the live and neutral wires. Do the same thing with the medium sized tubing. You can then slide the medium sized tubing down and out of the way for now as well. The next step will be soldering.

Using your solder iron solder each of the pairs of wires together. Take care to do this as cleanly as possible otherwise there may be extra resistance in the wire which can lead to safety hazards.

Grab your lighter and take the smallest shrink tubing and slide it over the solder joints. Use the lighter to heat the tubing until it shrinks to the smallest size it can possibly go. Take care that the covered wires do not have any exposed wires. Exposed wires can result in a short.

Next we will do the same thing with our medium sized shrink tubing that we put on the wires earlier. Make sure it covers the exposed wires coming from the power supply cable – from the outer casing of that cable to the small shrink tubing we just shrunk down. This will act as the first layer of insulation around the ground wire. Heat the medium tubing with the lighter. Again, make sure it shrinks as much as possible.

Shrinking the large tubing is next. Slide it back up so it covers both the casing on our AC cable and the medium tubing that we just shrunk. There should now be full coverage across all the wires we’ve used so far. Before going any further, go over the lines one more time and double check that there are no exposed wires. Providing there are no exposed wires, use the lighter to shrink the large tubing.

Next you can grab your SPST (single pole single throw) Toggle Switch, which is a basic on-off switch and your pin wires. Cut one end off of both of the pin wires and strip off the casings. You will then want to cut another piece of small shrink tubing and slide it over the wire that will be soldered to your ground wire on the power adapter. Slide it back down and out of the way for now.

The switch will be wired to the positive DC wire. To do this, find your ground wire and solder it from the power adapter and the LED light strip plug. Make sure that the wire you solder on the LED strip side is the side of the connection that will connect to the negative connection on the LED strip. Slide the small shrink tubing back up and use your lighter to shrink it down as much as possible.

Now we’re going to solder the switch. Take your positive wire from the power supply and the positive wire that is going to our LED strip. Solder them to the contacts on the back of your switch. Plug the connector that is now attached to the switch into the power plug on the LED strip.

The final step is to test your LED light strip. Plug the AC cable into your wall outlet then turn your DC switch to ON. The lights should come on and function properly. If they do not the chances are that you’ve wired something wrong or you have a bad part. Sometimes the solution is as simple as double checking to make sure you have the positive and negatives connected properly. Check both the LED strip and the power supply.

Finishing Up

Short jumper wires can be used to connect LED strips together in a chain if you need a longer length and there are different mounting tape options for easy hanging of the power adapter and the switch. Depending on your project location, you may want to mount them out of view.

LED strip lights have many uses and can make dramatic differences in a space with only a small amount of investment. They can be used in cars, offices, homes, outdoor spaces, small and hard to reach areas such as cabinets and drawers and are even starting to be used in cosmetics and fashion. The options really are limitless.

Did you find our guide helpful? What are you using your LED strip lights for?