What To Look For When Buying LED Strips

Krista Aumüller
09/21/2017 in Know How

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the atmosphere of any home can be greatly influenced by the right type of lighting! This is one of the fundamental reasons why we include various LED strips in our online product range. Not only do LED strips provide a great source of secondary lighting, they can also add colourful accents to rooms, and change the mood depending on the occasion.

We are often asked why our LED strips are more expensive than those you might find on Amazon or eBay etc. Like anything, not all LED strips are created alike. There can be significant differences in the quality of the chips, resistors and coatings, which necessitate a higher price tag. Put simply, it’s a case of ‘buy cheap, buy twice’.

We’re not suggesting that you need to go out and spend a fortune on LED strips; instead, what’s more important is that you seek out quality strips that will last. How can you tell which LED strips are high quality and which aren’t? Besides good old fashioned common sense, here are four things to watch out for when buying your strips.

Four Quality Characteristics You Should Look For In LED Strips

LED strips with fewer chips per metre can create an unsightly 'light cone'

1.) Number of LED chips and distance between them:

One of the first things to look for when buying an LED strip is the number of LED chips on the strip and the distance between the chips. The RGBW and Warm White LED strips that we sell in our online store have more than 300 LED chips per five meter strip, whilst the RGBW strip has 300 chips per 16ft. It is not uncommon to find less than half this number of chips in cheaper strips of the same length.

So what’s the problem?

When the chips are too far apart, not only does it affect the luminance, it also causes an unsightly light cone.

The lack of ‘natural’ luminosity in cheaper LED strips is often artificially increased by using LEDs supplied with higher amperage. As you can imagine, this has a negative effect on the life of the LEDs.

Cheaper LED strips, as you might expect, not only have fewer chips along with their length but even then those sparingly placed chips aren’t quite up to scratch, so they end up failing prematurely. It’s a bit of a false economy, rather like buying ‘basic’ chocolate chip cookies… you have to eat at least two to stand any chance of getting a decent amount of “chocolate”!

These are our experiences of working with LED strips, but in order to give our theories some empirical grounding, we’ve taken three LED strips of various qualities and prices and put them to the test. These strips were:

  • A cheap warm white strip
  • A cheap RGB strip, and…
  • A quality RGBW strip.

So let’s take a look at our findings:

Comparison 1:

Warm white LED stripRGB LED stripRGBW LED strip
  • Smaller LED chips
  • Non-uniform brightness of individual chips
  • Coating is cracked
  • Unpleasant odor even when not in use.
  • One chip for each color
  • Smaller chips than RGBW
  • Chips further apart than RGBW
  • Coating singed after use (partial brown discoloration)
  • One chip for RGB
  • Separate chip for warm white light
  • Brighter appearance
  • Greater luminosity, as chips are closer together and of higher quality.

Why the separate chips for RGB and warm white in the RGBW strip? The reason for this is so that a truly white light can be achieved (RGB LED strips can only create a cool, slightly blueish light.)

Here’s the evidence:

Comparison 1 is on the right, whilst comparison 2 is on the left in the photos below:

Higher quality LED strips will be safer and last longer

Comparison  2:

For this test, we looked at the difference between the cheap RGB strip and the more expensive RGBW when creating a blue hue.

RGB LED stripsRGBW LED strips
  • Again, we see that the chips are much smaller.
  • The greater distance between the chips has resulted in light cones.
  • The chips are nowhere near as bright as their RGBW counterpart.
  • Larger chips
  • 1 RGB chip can create all 3 colors, thus reducing the distance between each chip.
  • This gives a much more luminous appearance.
  • The RGBW strip combines warm white and RGB in one, which means brighter lights and a much warmer white color.

Poor quality LED strips often have a thinner copper conductor track.

2.) PCB track

The conductor track connects each LED chip and is used to run power to each chip. Since the track is made of copper, which is one of the more expensive elements of the strip, savings are made by cutting back on the amount of copper used.

This results in a thinner conducting track, which leads to poor heat dissipation and as a result, the LED strips fail much earlier. Look for LED strip lights with larger, thicker copper tracks, as they will be much more durable. You’ll find that better quality LEDs dissipate heat more efficiently and the strips do not bend as easily.

Look for LED Strips with high quality, appropriate resistors

3.) Resistors:

Cheap LED strip lights are equipped with smaller resistors to provide a better luminous result. This puts an additional burden on the LED chips and consequently shortens their lifespan. Higher quality LED strips have the appropriate resistors, so you get a longer lasting strip with excellent luminosity.

High quality LED strips have a stable, odourless coating

4.) Coating:

As you can see from our photos, the cheaper warm white strip has several cracks along its length from cheap, brittle coating. Aside from looking awful, this creates an issue as the parts are exposed – not exactly safe!

High quality LED strips have a stable, odorless coating, even when they’re in use and the coating is being heated. Cheap LED strips are not for sensitive noses, as we found out during our test. The noxious wafts of cheap plastic could be smelt long before the strip was switched on…is it really worth it?!

On a more serious note, consider the IP rating of your LED strip light. We sell LED strips with three different IP ratings: IP20, IP65, and IP68, which are classed as not protected, splash-proof and waterproof, respectively.

If you’ve opted for ‘waterproof’ LED strips in the garden, for example, and your coating gets cracked…how waterproof will they be then? With a high quality strip, you’re getting a much better, more thorough coating which will see you through years of use.

We hope this blog has been of some use in helping you choose the appropriate LED strips for your install. Our recommendation (obviously): Choose the RGBW LED strips in our webshop! Our LED strips are rigorously tested for use in smart homes – not only by machine, but by us! We use our LED strips in our own homes, so if they’re not good enough for us Loxonauts, they don’t make it to our webshop!

Don’t forget to check out our other blog on how to Install and Create Install and Create Ambient Lighting with Led Strips and Spots!

If you’re still a little unsure or have further questions, send us an email to [email protected]!

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