The Difference Between Rope Lights and LED Strip Lights | Hitlights

Table of Contents:

Rope Lighting An Overview

Rope lighting has been around for a considerable time and finds application in various settings. It consists of a long cylindrical tube that contains an internal light source placed at regular intervals, giving off a "glowing" or "twinkling" effect. The tube itself can be made of plastic, epoxy, or other transparent materials that allow the light to shine through. Rope lighting is primarily used for decorative purposes, as its light output is relatively low.

Here are some essential facts about rope lighting:

  • Lighting Source: Rope lighting can use either incandescent bulbs or LED bulbs. LED bulbs are more commonly used due to their versatility and longer lifespan. They come in both 120/220vAC input and 12/24vDC input options. While they are available in various single colors, they lack the ability to change colors dynamically (RGB).
  • Size: Rope lights typically come in either ½'' or ⅜'' diameter tubes, and the mounting clips may add extra width to the product.
  • Brightness: Rope lighting has low brightness levels, making it suitable primarily for decorative or accent lighting. It is not ideal for applications requiring higher light output or task lighting.
  • Applications: Rope lights are suitable for decorative purposes or low-level accent lighting. Their 360-degree viewing angles allow for easy wrapping around objects such as trees or shaping them into letters and designs.

Pros and Cons of Rope Lighting


  1. Cost: Rope lights are relatively inexpensive and can be cost-effective in the short term if they are of high quality.
  1. Run Length: They can be extended up to 250 feet with AC input or around 50 feet with DC input before requiring an additional power input.
  1. 360-degree viewing angle: Rope lights can be shaped into various forms and are often used for Christmas decorations.


      1. Low Brightness: Rope lighting lacks sufficient brightness for many applications where LED strips excel, such as under cabinet lighting, task lighting, and projects requiring focused illumination.
      2. Yellowing of the Tube: The tubing of rope lights tends to become dry and cracked when exposed to sunlight, resulting in a yellowish or brownish appearance. This affects the light output and color emitted.
      3. Size: Rope lights are relatively thick and can be challenging to install in certain areas.
      4. Mounting: Unlike strip lights, rope lights require larger mounting clips and do not have an adhesive backing, making installation less convenient.
      5. Low Bend Angle: Excessive bending can cause the lighting in rope lights to fail due to their internal wiring.

      LED Strip Lighting An Overview

      LED strip lights, also known as LED tape or ribbon lights, consist of a flexible circuit board populated with surface-mounted light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and often come with an adhesive backing. There is a wide range of quality levels available in LED strip lights, so understanding the differences between high-quality and low-quality options is crucial.

      LED strip lights offer a flat, low-profile shape, allowing for easy installation in various locations. Their brightness and customizable nature make them suitable for a wide range of applications, including kitchen under cabinet lighting, ceiling light replacements, hobby projects, or large conference rooms. They can be controlled through wireless dimming systems, DMX controllers, or wall switches.

      Key Features

      Let's delve into the remaining features of LED strip lights:

      • Lighting Source: LED strip lights utilize surface-mounted LED chips available in different configurations, sizes, and numbers. They can be powered by either 120/220vAC input or 12/24vDC input. LED strip lights come in a wide range of single colors and also offer color-changing options.
      • Size: LED strip lights are compact and slim, typically no wider than ⅜'' (10mm) and 1/16'' thickness (1.5mm) which may vary depending on the manufacturer and quality of the LED strip lights. This makes them easy to conceal and install in spaces where other lighting types may not fit. 
      • Brightness: LED strip lights offer a broad range of brightness options, from low levels to very high brightness. The light output can be adjusted to suit specific project requirements, and dimming capabilities are available. Additionally, LED strip lights generally provide better color rendering, light purity, color consistency, and accuracy compared to other lighting options. Here are some additional links for your reference:
      • Applications: LED strip lights are versatile and find applications as accent lighting, task lighting, display lighting, backlighting, and even in space vehicles for plant growth. They are commonly used for TV backlighting, under kickboards, display cases, bar and club lighting, architectural designs, terrariums, above cabinet lighting, under counter lighting, refrigerator lighting, and cove lighting. Their flexibility allows for a wide range of creative installations. More about LED strips lights with the below link 👇

      Pros and Cons of LED Strip Lights


      Brightness: LED strip lights offer high brightness levels and can be dimmed according to the desired ambiance. This is the luminous efficiency or efficacy which is measured in lumens. The density or pitch of the LED chips is also one factor that affects the brightness level of an LED strip. More details with the link below. ⬇️

      Size: Low voltage LED strip lights are slim and easy to install in various environments. They are often referred to as "tape lights" due to their similarity to adhesive tape. The sizes of LED strips vary greatly from one manufacturer to another, on top of that, the quality of the materials used as well will impact the size of the strip. Ideally, the following are standard in the market:
        • 8mm to 12mm width
        • 5 meters to 10 meters in length
      Mounting: LED strip lights come with a convenient 3M adhesive backing, making installation hassle-free. Aside from these, there are also a lot of options to use to make the installation and mounting easy and professional looking:
      Light Quality: LED strip lights generally exhibit better light quality, including higher Color Rendering Index (CRI), light purity, color consistency, and accuracy compared to other lighting options.
      Colors and Options: LED strip lights offer a wide range of color-changing options, providing greater flexibility in creating dynamic lighting effects. They can be controlled using remote controls, wall switches, dimmer switches or complex DMX systems.
      Simplicity in installation: While most LED strip lighting kits are user-friendly and suitable for DIY installation, there are certain projects that may require professional assistance, such as hard-wiring to a wall dimmer, calculating wattage usage, or wiring within walls. However, even if bigger projects require professional assistance, LED strip light installations remain simpler than traditional lighting installations. It has a more straight-forward-approach:
        • LED Strip Lights
        • Drivers or Power Supplies
        • Lighting Control - In Wall Dimmer Switches, Remote  Control, or Driver-Switch Combo


      Run Length: LED strip lights have maximum run lengths before voltage drop occurs, depending on whether they operate on 12V or 24V DC input. Though this holds true, there are ways to mitigate and overcome this limitation. 

        • Running a Parallel Connection is a good way to mitigate this issue
        • Split-The-Load - is another way to mitigate run length, it may seem a continuous connection but in reality, the load has been scattered and shared through several drivers within the run.
      360-degree Viewing Angle: Most strip lights have a narrower beam angle of 120 degrees, making it more challenging to achieve a 360-degree light installation. True to be, there are other alternative options if there is a need to get that 360-degree lighting angle. 
        • COB lights can get the 180 degree light angle, thus getting two COB lights lined up is a better option depending on the application you are aiming for
        • Customization request is another option to look at when it comes to big projects when on-shelf lighting fixtures or options are not available.

      Horizontal Bend Angle: LED strip lights can't be bent drastically and have limitations when it comes to horizontal bends. However, strip light connectors can solve this issue.


      When considering the cost and quality of your lighting projects, it is worth investing in high-quality LED strip lights rather than going with a less expensive rope lighting if you plan to use them regularly and for an extended period for that grit, professional, and appealing result. 

      While both rope lights and LED strip lights have their merits, LED strip lights provide more versatility in terms of brightness, customization options, and ease of installation. LED strip lights are well-suited for a wide range of projects, allowing you to bring your lighting vision to life.

      If you have any lighting ideas or further questions, feel free to reach out to us at or give us a call at 1 (855) 768-4135. Our team of expert engineers and electricians are here to assist you every step of the way

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