What Makes A Good LED Strip?
It’s often difficult to tell the difference between top quality LED strip lighting and cheap imitations at a first glance. Like most things however, you usually get what you pay for. Wondering why the cost price can vary by a factor of 10 between suppliers? Read on..
Let’s consider the components. first the PCB. A cheap LED strip will use a single layer PCB for both power and logic and whilst this will work, it’s capacity to manage heat will be limited. This is important as heat is something that will reduce the live of an LED, a well designed LED strip will have no problem operating for many years, whilst one with poor thermal management will begin to fade and fail after only a few months.
The other issue is known as voltage drop. There is a proven relationship between the thickness of the conductor and the way in which the voltage falls over distance. This is known as voltage drop and manifests itself in the LED’s becoming less bright along the length of the LED tape light. A narrow PCB has less conductive area than a wide one and will not provide even light over long lengths.
Within our range the minimum we use is a double layer PCB with many using a triple layer. The ProStrip120 LED strip range uses a triple layer 10mm wide PCB and so has a maximum run length of 10m whilst the TradeStrip120 LED Strip uses a double layer 8mm PCB and is only rated at 3m maximum – this illustrates the difference. It’s usually easy to tell the difference – if the LED strip feels thin and flimsy then it’s a single layer. A triple layer tape will feel much more robust.
LED Chip Quality
Other considerations are the quality of LED chips used – unbranded LED’s will be less reliable and less consistent in colour whilst those from a reputable manufacturer should be able to offer a minimum 2 year warranty. Beware of anybody offering a 1 year warranty – these are the lowest quality products. Our DBX LED strip range uses chips from Seoul with a 5 year warranty whilst uses use EPISTAR and have a 3 year warranty.
The adhesive tape is also worth considering – if it uses a 3M branded tape then it should be OK, the best products will use what is known as VHB (Very High Bond) tape – this is usually red and noticeable thicker than standard backing tape. VHB tape does what is says on the tin, it provides an extremely strong bond which will stand the test of time.
If the tape has no markings then it will be a cheap generic type and unlikely to offer good performance.
PCB Width – 8mm is OK for less powerful LED strips, 10mm is better for higher power.
PCB Thickness – for longer runs uses a thicker PCB.
Warranty – look for 3 years minimum
Adhesive Tape - Should use a 3M Branded adhesive backing tape
LED Chip Type - LED should be made by a branded supplier EPISTAR, Seoul, CREE, OSRAM, NICHIA are all good.
What do we recommend?
All of our LED strip ranges have been developed for maximum reliability but if you're looking for a top-spec, commercial grade product have a look at our ProStrip Commercial Grade LED Strip >