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Rope Lights vs. LED Strip Lights

Rope Lights vs. LED Strip Lights

The LED market is growing and so are it’s applications in residential and commercial settings. Installing LED lights to accent crown molding, pathways,  under cabinets, steps, landscapes and other locations have become increasingly popular. However, which is the best LED lighting option for your application? If you are unfamiliar with lighting, you may be confused by what fixture you should use. Rope light? LED strip light? Something else? Rope light and LED strip light may sound like the same type of lighting. In fact, some may even use them interchangeably. However, it is important to know that rope light and LED strip light are two very different fixtures. Let’s explore the differences and determine which is best for your project.

Rope Light

Rope lights have been on the market for a long time and can be used in a variety of applications. These lights are strings of incandescent or LED bulbs encased in durable material. The casing can be plastic, epoxy, or other clear materials. The tubular string of lights provide 360-degree light distribution, making them good options for wrapping around objects, outlining pathways, garden beds, accenting doorways and more. They are also great as decorative lighting during the holidays and at parties.

LED Strip Light

LED strip lights (also known as LED tape lights)  are flexible circuit boards populated with surface mounted LED, typically with an adhesive backing. Low profile, and easy to install, strip lights are great for under cabinet lighting, bar lighting, cove lighting, small crevices and more.

If you are unfamiliar with  LED strip lights, you can learn more about them in our introduction to LED strip lights and our guide to choosing strip lights for your project.

Rope Light vs. LED Strip Light

Rope Light
LED Tape Light
Light Source  

•   Available with incandescent bulbs or LED bulbs. LED is more used due to flexibility & greater efficacy.

•   120/200VAC  or 12/24VDC

•   Available in a variety of single colors—not RGB color changeable


•   LED chips vary in configurations—sizes, brightness, etc. Learn more »

•   120/200VAC  or 12/24VDC

•   Available in a variety of single colors & RGB color changeable options.

Size & Mounting

•   1/2″ to 3/8″ tube diameters

•   Mounted with clips which adds extra width making rope lights thick, and potentially more difficult to install in many areas.

•   Ultra thin profile—as low as 1/8″ or 3.175mm

•   3M adhesive backing allows for easy installation in a wide range of areas, including small & tight locations.


•   Low brightness—good for accent lighting & decoration.

•   Overtime, tubes may yellow or brown, which will decrease the light output and change the color emitted. Yellowing is very common with rope lights; the outer casing changes color from sun exposure—drying & cracking will also occur overtime.

•   Ranges from low to very high brightness

•   High brightness makes strip good for task lighting & display lighting.

•   Compatible with wireless dimming systems, DMX controllers, & wall switches.


•   Low bend angle due to internal wiring—too much bending in any direction can cause lighting to fail.

•   360 degree viewing angle enables rope lighting to be made into shapes, wrapped around posts, and other decorative applications.

•   Easy to bend and adhere to surfaces.

•   Foldable up to 90 degrees, vertically.

•   120 degree beam angle

Run Length

•   With an AC input, rope lights can run above 250 feet.

•   Rope lights using DC  input run around 50 feet.

•   Voltage drops will occur if LED strip lights run too long. Divide long runs into shorter strips to prevent voltage drops. Learn more in coming post.

Best Option For Your Project

Rope light and LED strip light both offer different benefits depending on your application.

If you are looking for lighting that is bright, versatile, multi-colored, and highly customizable, we recommend LED strips. With a slim profile, they can be installed virtually anywhere as task, accent, and ambient lighting. LED strip lights can be installed for under cabinet lighting, cove & soffit lighting, bar lighting, display lighting, and more.

Although less versatile, rope lights also offer great benefits for decorative purposes. Wrap them around trees or bend them into shapes for the holidays or every day use.

If you need more assistance on choosing the right lighting for your project, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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