Your Guide to the Wiring in LED Lights

Everything You Need To Know About the Wiring in LED Lights

LED strip lights are a versatile and energy-efficient method of lighting your business. There are a number of decisions you must make when choosing products and planning your installation. Understanding how the wiring in LED lights affects these decisions will make the process easier.

Installation and Maintenance Tips for the Wiring in LED Lights

You can avoid many common issues with LED lights by properly installing the wiring.

Don't Bend Your Strips

The wiring in your LED lights is thin. Bending it can disrupt the function of the diodes. Instead of bending the strips, cut the strip on the designated cutting mark and use connectors to join strips at corners.

Choose the Right Voltage for All Components

12-volt strips may work better for accent lighting, while 24-volt strips provide enough output for illuminating an entire room or task lighting. Choose the correct voltage for your application and make sure all of the components, such as the power supply, are also rated for that voltage.

Plan Before You Place Your Lights

The length you are covering, the surface you are mounting to, the location of the power supply, and other factors impact the choices you need to make about the wiring in LED lights. Plan out where you will put your strips before you buy anything instead of trying to piece together your setup on the fly.

Determine Whether You Need Waterproof Lights

The wiring in your lights should not get wet. If you are installing outdoors, choose lights with an IP rating of at least IP-67. Waterproof strip lights may also be a good choice for damp interior areas, such as near swimming pools and inside restrooms.

Use the Right Connectors

The ability to connect multiple strips is one of the top advantages of using LED lighting strips. However, connection points can cause problems if you don't use the right connectors. Make sure you use connectors that match the pins on your strips and securely attach them to both ends of the strip.

Only cut your strips in the areas marked for cutting. Cutting in other spots of the strip can cause broken wires.

Choose the Right Power Supply

The electrical wiring in most businesses conducts 120-240 volts of alternating current. The wiring in LED lights conducts a lower voltage of direct current. The LED power supply converts the alternating current from your power source to the direct current needed by your LED lights.

To select the correct power supply, consider the features of the lights you are using. Colored lights, waterproof lights and dimmable lights have different needs. You also need a different power supply for indoor and outdoor lighting.

If you will be using a wall switch to control your strip lights, you need a knockout-version power supply. Hardwiring your strips will give them a cleaner and more elegant appearance.

Wattage

The label on your strip lights lists the watts required to power 1 foot of the strip. Multiply that rating by the total number of feet you will use to calculate the total watts the strip will use.

Aim to use 80% of the maximum wattage rating. This will help keep your lights cool and extend their life. To determine the wattage of the power supply you need, divide the total strip wattage by 0.8.

Voltage

The lights you choose specify the voltage requirements. Most lights need either 12 or 24 volts. Choose a power supply that matches the voltage requirements of your lights.

Choose the Right LED Drivers

LED drivers come in two main types. Constant current drivers maintain a continuous flow of electrical current by varying the voltage. These drivers have milliamps or amps ratings and are wired in series.

Constant voltage drivers alter the current to maintain consistent voltage. These drivers have voltage or direct current ratings and are wired in parallel. Constant voltage drivers can help avoid LED burnout, create more consistent brightness and provide easier application control.

Decide Between 24-Volt vs 12-Volt LED Strips

The main determinant of whether you need 24v or 12v wiring in LED lights is how you plan to use them. First, determine how much light output you need. Next, consider how you intend to power the lights.

24v LED strip lights are often a better choice when you plan to use the strip as your main light source. Consider using 24v LED strip lights for under cabinet lighting, uplight coving and closet lighting.

Check Your Strips Periodically

Visually inspect your illumination periodically to check for lights that are not working or are dull or flashing. If you spot a problem, check the troubleshooting section of this guide for solutions.

Check Your Connection Points

If your lighting is in a high-traffic area, connectors may get knocked out of place. Regularly check your connection points to ensure the connection is tight and all of the pins are hitting their contacts.

Common Problems With the Wiring in LED Lights

If your LED light strips are not working properly, there are several common wiring problems to check for.

Wrong Type for Length of Run

If you are running an LED light strip for 30 feet or more, you need to use a strip with 24v wiring. Otherwise, there may not be enough power to properly light the entire strip. Check the max length limit of your strip before you install it.

Dim Sections

If sections of your LED strip are dimmer than the rest, the run is probably too long for the strips or the wiring. To avoid this, use the most direct route when wiring your strips and make sure you are using the correct gauge of wire. If you run the wires too far or the wire is too thin, it may cause a voltage drop.

If you have used the most direct route and the correct gauge wire but are still having problems, you probably need to make the run shorter. Locate your power supply in a central area of the room and spread your strips out from the middle to reduce the run lengths.

Damaged Sections

If you have a dark section in the middle of your LED strip, your lights may have wiring damage or there may be a poor connection. The easiest way to fix this problem is to cut the damaged section out and replace it by using solderless connectors.

Flickering Lights

A defective power supply unit can cause the lights in your strip to flicker because of inconsistent voltage. The power supply may also make noise or get hot. To fix the problem, replace the power supply.

Troubleshooting the Wiring in LED Lights

If your LED lights won't turn on, the most likely problem is that power is not reaching the lights. You can identify the source of the problem through the process of elimination.

Test the Electrical Socket

Plug another device into the electrical socket your lights are using. If the device works, then move to the next step. If it doesn't, make sure the power switches in the room are on and check your circuit breaker box. If the outlet is on and the breaker doesn't need to be reset and the outlet still doesn't work, then you may need to contact an electrician to repair the outlet.

Test Voltage

LED strip lights run on either 12v or 24v DC power. To convert the power in your building from AC to DC, you need a transformer, power supply or driver. 

To test your voltage, use a DC volt meter.  If the voltage reading is lower than the rating for the lights and power supply, then you may need a new power supply or batteries.

Check the Power Supply Rating

Make sure your power supply rating matches the light strip you are using. You can find this information printed on the strip and the power supply. If they don't match, then you need to purchase a compatible power supply.

Test Accessories

If you are using any accessories with your lighting, such as a dimmer, make sure they are compatible with your lighting.  To test your accessories, remove them one at a time and test the lights. If the strips start working after you remove an accessory, then the accessory is probably the problem. You should not connect your LED lights to AC without the power supply driver, so do not remove this.

Check Your Connections

Solderless connectors are the most likely part of an LED strip to have a poor connection. Use a multimeter to check the voltage along the strip to identify the location of a bad connection. If you don't have a multimeter, visually check each connector and the power supply adapter for loose wires.

A short circuit, caused by positive and negative wires touching, could also be the source of your problem. You can usually identify damaged wires that may cause short circuits by visually examining the wiring.

HitLights Can Help With the Wiring in LED Lights

HitLights specializes in UL-certified lighting products. We provide a vast range of customization options, fast turnaround times and an experienced, friendly and knowledgeable team of experts. We can help you with product selection and any questions you have about the wiring in LED lights. Visit us online to shop our selection or find out more.