Why Not To Use CAT5 Cable For RGB LED Strip
We have been made aware of a number of instances in recent months where CAT5 network cable has been used in wiring up RGB LED strip lighting systems. On the one hand we can understand this logic as the cable is inexpensive, comes in long runs and has sufficient cores to operate all of the required lighting channels. However, we advise strongly against this for a very important reason.
CAT5 is designed as a data cable and as such is not able to handle the higher current loads found in larger installations.
The major problem is the current carrying capacity of the cable. CAT5 is designed as a data cable and as such is not able to handle the higher current loads found in larger installations, each strand is rated at approx 0.6amps. In a high power RGB installation, for example 24v 60 LED strip, the current could be as high as 0.62 amps per metre (assuming all channels are on). Given our recommendation of a maximum 5m run length, this means there could be around 3amps being carried by a cable rated at only 0.6amps. At best this will cause heating of the cable which can lead to cable failure, at worst it could catch fire. We cannot therefore recommend using CAT5 cable in any LED Strip installations.
Searching online you are likely to find people on forums claiming "We've done it like this and it's fine", clearly they know something about physics that we do not! Ultimately it's down to you but if you're an electrician, consider why you use different cables for lighting and ring mains, same issue! Why then would you ignore the current ratings of the cables on a low voltage lighting circuit?
Recommended cables for RGB LED strip
For a safe installation you need a cable that can handle around 3 amps per core, we would recommended a cable guage of AWG16 or AWG17 which provide a good balance of cost, weight and capacity.