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How To Choose LED Strip Lights

How To Choose LED Strip Lights

LED strip lights have increased in residential and commercial environments. Due to their efficiency, color options, brightness, and ease of installation, architects and designers find LED strip lights to be viable lighting options in virtually any architectural design. With their increase in popularity, the LED market has become highly saturated. Manufacturers and distributors offer various quality, cost, and specifications making it difficult to determine the best LED for projects. So, how do we choose? What is the standard for choosing LED strip lights?

Get a clear vision of the project design before selecting lights. Each project is unique and requires different types of lighting. The following questions are to help determine “the vision” before selecting lights:

  1. What will you be lighting?
  2. Where will the lighting be installed?
  3. Will dimming be required? If so, will the lights be dimmed via remote control or wall switch?
  4. What is the overall look and feel you want?
  5. What color do you need?

Once “the vision” is solidified, choosing the appropriate LED strip lights will be easier. However, lighting can be difficult to select; especially without prior knowledge of lighting terminology and understanding of specifications. The following guide will break down the top factors to consider when choosing LED strip lights, and define lighting terms to make your next LED lighting purchase a breeze.

Lumen / Color Temperature / CRI
Application Lumens Per Foot
Accent Lighting 155 – 350
Under Cabinet Lighting 175 – 525
Task Lighting (Short Distance) 280 – 440
Task Lighting (Large Distance) 345 – 690
Indirect Lighting
(Cove, Soffit or Valance Lighting)
375 – 565
Industrial Lighting / Signage 500 – 950

Lumen is a measurement of brightness that is visible to the human eye. It is the most important variable when choosing LED strip lights. Lumens per foot may be higher or lower, depending on the type of illumination needed.

Do not get tricked—always consider lumen output. If no lumen output is listed, you will not know the brightness of the strip until after you purchase them.

Color Temperature refers to the warmth and coolness of white light. It is measured in degrees Kelvin and ranges from cool white to warm white. Lights in the warmer spectrum are more orange or yellow when illuminated. Lights with cooler temperatures are white or bluish white.

Don’t confuse color temperature with actual colors! Color temperature is specific to white lights. Actual colored lighting can be obtained through RGB strip lights.

Color Rendering Index (CRI) is a measure of how accurately an artificial light source displays colors in comparison to natural sunlight.  The index is measured from 0-100. The higher the CRI, the more accurate the colors. In most applications, CRI that is measured greater 80 is considered to be more than acceptable. CRI greater than 90 is considered “High CRI” and is used in commercial, art, and retail locations.

LED Strip Size & Number Of LEDs On Strip

Before purchasing, measure the length of LED your project needs. This will make it easier for price comparison, since LED strips are sold in different packages—by the foot, in a reel, etc.

Once the length is determined, find out how many LED chips are on each strip and the chip type. LED chips are not created the same; size and brightness differ. Learn more about the differences »

Wattage Consumed Per Strip Of LED

Wattage is a measure of the amount of power required to illumination the LED. Be sure to verify the wattage per foot, per reel, etc. before purchase.

Pair LED strips with the proper power supply. Be careful! A strip that uses 24-volts will not work with a 12-volt power supply—this may result in the risk of fire.

Verifiable Quality

Verifying the claims of LEDs is important to ensure the intended lifespan and safety of the light. When inquiring about LED strip lights, ask about the following qualities:

  • Thermal Management

Heat management and dissipation are extremely important for LEDs. If LEDs overheat, their rated life may reduce drastically from 50,000+ hours to 10,000 to 20,000 hours. A well designed LED strip light does not solely rely on an aluminum heat sink to dissipate heat.

  • Color Quality & Accuracy

If you purchase a bright white fixture, you should not expect to receive a warm white color from the LED. Ask for a test report or view fixtures in-store to ensure quality and proof of the fixture you are purchasing.

  • Safety Certification

UL Listings, DLC Certification, RoHS, and other certifications can be verified through registries.

  • Material Quality

Materials and thickness used in the circuit board, wiring, resistors, etc. are just as important in determining product performance and longevity as the quality of the LED.


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