Advice for LED light installation
September 13, 2015 9:11 PM   Subscribe

I am after some good old collective internet wisdom on the best way to go about a LED light installation behind my headboard and bedside tables. Just wondering if anyone had done a similar project and could offer any tips, especially on the correct way that I should go about connecting the strips?

I'm on a bit of a DIY kick at the moment, and got the 'bright' idea to install some led lights behind the headboard in my bedroom for some nice mood lighting! After a quick google, lo and behold there are dozens of led strip lights kits for exactly what I want to do! FYI, I am going to try to go with a (fairly) reputable seller, that is, local, i.e. not something dodgy from China - although I understand it probably *will* be from China, I will at least be able to return it if it doesn't work, and it will have the correct power source, etc. Hoping that will be good enough! :)

The kit comes with a power source, etc and the actual cutting and connection of the strips seems really straightforward to me. However I am unclear on what is the best way I can bridge the gap between the bedside tables and the headboard? I really didn't want to have to have three different power sources as that feels like overkill to me, and I also only have the one power point. I also didn't want to be able to 'see' the lights between the bed and the tables, because I think that will be too bright, so I know I need to be able to cut them apart and then reconnect them in some way, but can't seem to find anything that does that longer than about 10-15 cm (which is not enough).

Can anyone who has performed a similar project (or anyone with general knowledge of electronics) point me in the right direction for what I should be searching for? I am thinking surely people want to connect these things over greater than 10 cm? Or is the fact of the matter that I will probably definitely have to look at customising my own? In which case can anyone give me any tips on which (if any) connectors I should be looking for with that?

(NOTE: I am generally quite handy so not scared if I have to try to solder my own or something, but just wondering if I should have to go to that extent, or am just searching for the wrong products?)
posted by Shibui to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've done a lot of projects with RGB LED strips, most involving cutting them. There may be other types, but on the ones I've used, it's just four conductors all the way down, so you can connect them across as long a distance as you want by using a four conductor cable between each piece. There are specific spots on the strips marked for where you can cut it, and it's pretty easy to solder to those pads once you've cut the strip. Just be sure you use large enough wire for the current it will be carrying, and solder carefully since the contacts are kind of close together and you obviously don't want a short. I put heat shrink tubing over the soldered connections to protect them a bit.

Usually I just buy the strips on Amazon, FWIW.
posted by primethyme at 9:18 PM on September 13, 2015

I've also done LED strip projects and agree with primethyme that generic RGB LED strips are the way to go. They come in 1m - 5m rolls like sausage links which can be cut every few inches or so. Make sure you get 5050 LEDs (brighter than 3528s) and don't get the ones with waterproof coating as it needs to be peeled off before soldering. I've had success connecting multiple strips by buying lamp cord cut to length at Home Depot since it's heavy gauge enough to run long distances and is relatively flat so it can be stuck to walls / floors easily. If you're uncomfortable soldering to the flat strips, there apparently exist snap-on connectors as well. Good luck!
posted by perihare at 9:31 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, those snap-on connectors are the ones I could never get to work right. YMMV...
posted by primethyme at 9:35 PM on September 13, 2015

Cool! So I can just solder directly to the strips themselves? Or should I get connectors and try to solder the longer wire to that (since I wanted a bend)?

I am in Australia, so unfortunately no amazon for me :( But I will take a look on trusty eBay :)
posted by Shibui at 9:47 PM on September 13, 2015

I solder directly to the strips, no connectors.
posted by primethyme at 10:12 PM on September 13, 2015

Depending on the distance you have to bridge (IE: if it was pretty short) I'd just slip a chunk of colour coordinating heat shrink over the strip light as needed.
posted by Mitheral at 10:23 PM on September 13, 2015

Working with LED strips is super easy. It takes some getting used to to use the connector clips with them, but once you get the hang of it it's not that tricky. Connector clips are best used if the lights aren't going to be fiddled with or jostled once they're installed.

If you're doing single color, you can use any basic two line connecting wire, like this.

If you're doing rgb, this stuff is made for it.

I think that 3528 type would be bright enough for your usage, 5050's are much brighter, though. I've ordered plenty of LED things from both amazon and from china directly via Aliexpress with no issues, though Aliexpress might be easier for you in Australia.

If you're not buying a complete kit, I would also look into an inline dimmer switch instead of just an on off. Something like this gives you remote control action. I just cut off the connecters on both sides of the dimmer and solder or tape the wires to the led strip wires, depending on how permanent I need the connection to be (I use LEDs for festival art, so I reuse and repurpose my stuff a lot)
posted by newpotato at 6:34 AM on September 14, 2015

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