The Ultimate LED Strip Lighting Guide 1

LED strip lighting can be used for countless home, landscape, vehicle, retail, office, and industrial applications—from under-cabinet lighting to creating powerful ceiling light fixtures. They’re available in a variety of lengths, intensities, colors, and voltages. And with compatible accessories as well as peel-and-stick adhesive backings, they can be easily installed and mounted. If you’re struggling with deciding which strip is right for your application, choosing a power supply or accessories, or how to install LED strip lights, you’re in the right place.

LED strip lights - how to choose LED strip lightingLED strip lights - what you need for LED strip lightingLED strip lights - how to mount LED strip lighting

LED strip lights - obstacles in LED strip lighting

Popular How Tos:

LED strip lights - under cabinet LED strip lightingLED strip lights - cove LED strip lightingLED strip lights - pool LED strip lighting

Choosing LED strip lights


Strips are classified as weatherproof, non-weatherproof, or waterproof. The type of strip you need is determined by the environment where your strips will be installed. Each strip has an IP rating that indicates the size of solids and pressure of liquids that a strip can resist.


These strips are rated below IP65 and aren’t meant to be exposed to water. Indoor LED strip light applications include under-cabinet lighting, above-cabinet lighting, pantry lighting, cupboard lighting, bookshelf lighting, cove lighting, bias lighting, and more. Generally, indoor LED strip lights are not weatherproof or waterproof, but they should be if you’re installing them in bathrooms or other areas where they could be exposed to water.

LED strip lights - indoor LED strip lighting


Outdoor strips are rated IP65 and above. They’re designed for a variety of applications, such as landscapes, vehicles, motorcycles, and decks as well as walkways, patios, gazebos, and railings.

LED strip lights - outdoor LED strip lighting


When choosing LED strip lights, you must determine how much strip you’ll be powering. Measure the length of all areas where you’ll install your strip lighting. Account for gaps as well as dips and turns around corners.

Strips are available in set lengths, and select styles are available in custom lengths. When you determine how much strip you’ll need, you’ll have to find out the maximum run of the strip you want.

LED strip lights - maximum run

How to Avoid Voltage Drop:

The Ultimate LED Strip Lighting Guide 2

LED strip lights - amplifiers


Strips are available in 12- and 24-volt versions. The voltage you choose will depend on where you’ll install your strips. For example, most vehicles will require a 12-volt LED strip light. In most other applications, voltage usually only comes into play if you want longer runs of strip. A 24-volt strip usually has a longer maximum run than the 12-volt version of the same strip. Choosing strips with longer maximum runs will help you avoid wiring several sections of strip to your power supply or using amplifiers. You will need a power supply that matches the voltage of whichever strip you choose.


Single Color

Strip color options include pink, UV (blacklight), blue, green, yellow, amber, red, and orange. Single-color LED strip lights are also available in cool, natural, and warm white. These strips are capable of different color modes and intensities when you’re using a single-color controller. They must be used with single-color accessories.

The shade and color rendering capabilities of a white strip are determined by its correlated color temperature (CCT) and color-rendering index (CRI).

LED strip lights - correlated color temperature of LED strip lighting

what is cri

Tunable White

Tunable white strip lights provide a range of color from warm to cool white. A tunable white controller is required to change shades of white. These strips are beneficial for areas that can function for different purposes (ex. using the dining room table for dinner or homework). They must be used with tunable white accessories.

Use these LED strip lights to match time of day/natural light color. This will help keep your natural circadian rhythm. For example, use natural white in the morning, cool white in the afternoon, and warm white in the evening.


RGB strips use red, green, and blue LEDs to create a variety of colors including white. However, this white will appear with a purple hue. RGB controllers are required for color selection as well as speed, brightness, and mode control. These strips must be used with RGB accessories.


RGBW strips have separate white LED chips in addition to RGB LEDs. Separate white LEDs eliminate the strange hues typically associated with RGB “white” color. RGBW controllers are required for color selection as well as speed, brightness, and mode control. These strips must be used with RGBW accessories.


Colored LED strip light brightness is measured in millicandelas, and white strip brightness is measured in lumens. The brightness of one candle is approximately one candela. A millicandela is brightness in thousandths of a candela. There are calculators for converting millicandelas into lumens, but that will most likely result in a deceptively low lumen value.

Lumens measure light wavelengths in all colors of the visible spectrum. Because multiple wavelengths create white light and colored strips are a single-wavelength source, colored strips will have lower lumen readings. However, they will appear equally as bright as the white version of that strip.

LED strip lights - brightness of LED strip lighting

LED strip lights -supplies for LED strip lighting

Power Supply

LED strip lights - power supplies for LED strip lighting

Unless you’re using a strip in a vehicle and connecting it directly to the vehicle’s wiring system, you’ll need a power supply.

LED strip lights - watts per foot of LED strip lighting


Multiple options are available for controlling LED strip lights—from dimmers that adjust only brightness to controllers with wireless remotes used to adjust colors, modes, speed, and brightness. Motion sensors are also available to operate strips automatically when someone is near them.

Single Color

Options include dimmers and controllers with remotes, in-line dimmers and controllers, and knob dimmers for single-color LED strip lights.

LED strip lights - single color dimmers and controllers

Tunable White

These controllers let you change the color temperature (from cool to ultra warm white) and brightness of a tunable white strip light.

LED strip lights - tunable white controllers and dimmers


These controllers let you change the color, color-changing mode, speed, or brightness of your RGB or RGBW strip. Choose between many dynamic or static single-color or color-changing modes.

LED strip lights - RGBW and RGB controllers


An option for avoiding voltage drop would be to use an LED amplifier between maximum runs of strip. These devices amplify power from the end of one strip to the beginning of the next to avoid any power loss and extend the maximum run of LED strips.

Types of amplifiers:

See examples of how to use an amplifier in our cove lighting and pool lighting posts.

LED strip lights - amplifiers for LED strip lighting


Depending on your installation, you might need several accessories, such as pigtail connectors or interconnect jumpers to join strip sections, CPS adapters to connect strips to a power supply, extra wire for covering gaps in an installation area, mounting clips, adhesive foam pads, silicone tubing, end caps, and heat shrink tubing for waterproofing, wire nuts, and more.

LED strip lights - accessories for LED strip lighting

LED strip lights - mounting LED strip lighting

Adhesive Backing

You can quickly and easily apply your strip to any surface if it has a peel-and-stick adhesive backing. Simply clean the installation area and peel off the strip backing as you install it.

If the area you wish to adhere your strip to is not entirely smooth, you can benefit from 3M Adhesion Promoter. This product will allow your strips to adhere better to the installation surface.

LED strip lights - adhesive backing

Mounting Clips

For added security or if your strips don’t have an adhesive backing, you can use strip mounting clips to permanently attach them to a surface.

LED strip lights - mounting clips

Aluminum Channels/Klus Housings

Create your own light fixture with aluminum profile housings. Complete with end caps and lenses, the housings give strips a clean, finished look. LED linear extrusions are available in various shapes and styles. Choose from flexible extrusions for bends and turns, channels for edge-lit glass, corner-mount channels for stair nosings or shelf lighting, and more.

Click here to learn how to create a fixture with aluminum channels.

LED strip lights - aluminum channels

LED strip lights - obstacles
Connecting strips
Turning a corner
Covering a gap
End of max run

When installing a strip, you might encounter certain obstacles, such as gaps, corners, reaching the end of a strip run, or the need to seal or weatherproof connections. There are accessories used to help install strip lights in all of these situations.

Connecting LED Strip Lights


Soldering is a way to securely, permanently bond LED strip lights together. You’ll need a soldering iron and solder. When soldering strip together, you might need scissors, additional wire, and silicone sealant for waterproof and weatherproof strips that have been cut and will be rejoined.

Click here to learn how to solder.

soldering LED strip lights


Pigtail connectors, interconnect cables and jumpers, CPS connectors, splitter cables, and angle connectors all allow you to connect strips together or to power supplies and controllers. They can be easily removed and used to easily connect strips to extra wire when covering a space that will not be illuminated, such as a kitchen window when installing under-cabinet lighting.

LED strip lights connectors

Turning a Corner

You might come across a corner when you’re installing bias lighting, cove lighting, sign lighting, etc. You can either solder a small run of wire between the strips on both sides of the corner or use a strip connector.

The Ultimate LED Strip Lighting Guide 3LED strip lights - 90 degree corner connector

Possible supplies: interconnect jumper, 90-degree connector, pigtail connector, two-conductor, tunable white, RGB, or RGBW wire, wire nuts, solder gun, solder

Covering a Gap

When you’re installing LED strip lights, you might come across a gap where you don’t want your strip to run.

LED strip lights - covering a gap


Under-Cabinet Lighting: stoves, sinks, windows, cabinet junctions

Vehicle Footwell Lighting: center consoles

Deck Rail Lighting: steps

Possible supplies: interconnect jumper, pigtail connector, two-conductor, tunable white, RGB, or RGBW wire, wire nuts, solder gun, solder

Visit our under-cabinet/over-cabinet post to see examples of how to cover a gap.

Max Run

After you’ve reached the maximum run of your strip, wire additional strips to your power supply.

The Ultimate LED Strip Lighting Guide 4


An option for avoiding voltage drop would be to use an LED amplifier between maximum runs of strip. These devices amplify power from the end of one strip to the beginning of the next to avoid any power loss and extend the maximum run of LED strip lights.

Types of Amplifiers:

LED strip lights - amplifiers


Strips that will be installed outside or near water should be weatherproof or waterproof. If you’ve altered your strip in any way or if you’ve connected it to another strip by soldering or with a connector, you will need make sure that all connections and exposed conductive traces are sealed.

weatherproof and waterproof LED strip lights


Use sealant to apply a protective silicone coating if you’ve removed existing silicone to connect to another strip or amplifier. You can also use sealant to adhere end caps to strips.

LED strip lights - silicone sealant

Silicone Tubing & End Caps

This tubing makes non-weatherproof strips waterproof. It’s available in 8- and 10-mm widths and should be used with silicone sealant and silicone end caps.

End caps are designed to seal the ends of weatherproof or waterproof LED strip lights. They should be applied with silicone sealant.

LED strip lights - silicone tubingLED strip lights - silicone end caps

Heat Shrink

Options include heat shrink tubes and butt connectors that create a weatherproof seal when heat is applied.

LED strip lights - heat shrinkLED strip lights - butt connectors

Electrical Tape/Self-Fusing Silicone Tape

With PVC or self-fusing silicone electrical tape, you can insulate and weatherproof or waterproof wire splices or strip connection points.

LED strip lights - electrical tapeLED strip lights - silicone electrical tape

For technical questions, don’t hesitate to call us toll free at 866-590-3533. Our customer service and technical support teams are available from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. CDT Monday-Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. CDT on Friday.