How do I Install LED Strip Lights?

July 28, 2022

Looking to add life to your home with color changing LED strip lights? All you need is the lights and knowing how to install them!

Installing LED Light Strips at Home

LED strip lights are a fantastic way to add life to your home. You can transform white walls and dark corners into colorful glowing hues of sunset orange or fluorescent blue. You can set up a relaxing atmosphere for reading or create your own nightclub feel for a house party.

Having LED lights set up around the house allows you to play with your environment however you’d like. You can have your own flexible LED strip lights, like the famous LED light strips from TikTok, in your own home! What’s even better is that setting up these custom LED strip lights by yourself is quite easy to do!

Choosing the Right Lights

As you choose the lights you want for your home, there are a few factors you want to keep in mind. Make sure to find a quality product that meets your needs. Start by choosing where the lights will go, then answer some basic questions:

What is the length of the total area I want to cover? Is it indoor or outdoor? Is there an electrical outlet I can easily plug the lights into? Will 3M tape be enough to hold the strips or should I prepare to do some drilling? Do I want one color or the whole spectrum? Do I want to buy the individual parts or a product that’s ready-to-use? Do I want the lights to work with my Alexa or Google devices? Do I want a company that has their own app so the lights are even easier to use?

How to Set Up LED Strip Lights?

Once you find the right product that meets all of your needs, it’s time to get started! To begin, you’ll need the LED light strip, a power supply, a controller, and some LED wires or solderless connectors. Some companies provide an LED strip light kit that comes with everything ready to go. If you plan on doing it all yourself there are some details you’ll need to know before making any purchases, we’ll discuss these below.

Power Supply

The power supply connects directly to the outlets in your home and converts the high AC voltage, likely 110V or higher, to a smaller DC current of 12V or 24V, depending on your lights.

Generally, 12V light strips will work for up to 16.4ft (5m) while 24V light strips can run up to 32.8ft (10m) in length. You don’t want to connect more light strip segments to a single power source. Doing so could cause the lights at the end to become weaker or even get damaged due to Voltage Drop and Electric Power Overload.

Voltage Drop and Electric Power Overload

Voltage Drop occurs as the power goes through the strip and lights each individual LED light. As the power goes through each light it decreases slightly. If you have a 12V strip and go beyond the 16.4ft (5m), brightness in each new light decreases. Not only does the lack of power become visible to the naked eye, it could ultimately damage the strip itself.

Electric Current Overload occurs in a similar fashion. Even with current controlled light strips, where the energy is distributed evenly, once the strip goes beyond its capability, the demand for energy builds until resistive heating eventually damages the lights.

If you want to install a longer series of lights, you need to install additional electricity feed points. This can be done quite simply. You can either purchase several strips and plug them in at different sockets or install additional energy feeds at points where you’ve cut the strip, like the corners.

RGBIC Strip Light Remote Controller

LED Controller

The controller adjusts brightness and color settings for your lights. The specific controller you buy will depend on the kind of lights you have. Single color lights will just need a basic on-off controller, if at all. Meanwhile, RGB and RGBW lights will need a different controller altogether to adjust both the intensity and different color modes.

If you choose to purchase your own parts, just make sure the controller can handle the power demand of the strips you’re connecting. To calculate this simply check the specifications of the product. It should tell you the voltage of the strip and wattage per meter (3.28ft). Calculate the total amount of wattage of all your strips and get a controller that has a capacity of 15-20% higher than the highest demand you’ll require.

For example, say you buy 24V strips and each meter (3.28 feet) requires 18 watts. If you want to install the lights in a room with four walls, each about 15ft (~4.5m), you’ll need to prepare for 60ft (~18m). At 18w/m (~5.5w/ft), that’s 324 watts. To calculate the current in amperage (A), simply divide the total watts by the voltage. 324w divided by 24V gives us a current of 13.5A, then simply raise each total by 20% to avoid buying a controller that will be used to its maximum capacity. Ideally you should only ever require 80% of its maximum.

Now you know you need to purchase a power supply and controller that can handle 24V, 400w, and a current of 16A. Knowing these three will make it easy to find what you need. Also, ensure you get a controller that matches the type of lights you have. A controller used for single color lights will be different from one for RGB or RGBW lights.

LED Wires and Solderless Connectors

Once you have the power supply and controller sorted, you just need wires or solderless connectors to join the strips. LED wires require a little soldering but are a good way to connect your LED strips. However, if you can use solderless connectors it’ll make it even easier. See the How to Connect LED Strip Lights Together section below for more information on how to use these.

How to Connect LED Strip Lights to Power Supply?

Connecting the strip lights to the power supply is a fairly simple procedure. If you are using single color LED strips and don't need a controller then just connect the positive + and negative - ends of your light strip to the corresponding poles on the adapter. Do not mix these up as this will damage your lights.

Then, simply plug the male connector of the power supply into the female connector of the adapter. Now you can plug the power supply into the wall outlet to start using the lights.

If you are using lights that require a controller, then connect the adapter to the corresponding positive + and negative - poles of the controller instead. Then connect the positive + and negative - color ends on the other side of the controller to each of the corresponding ends on the LED strip light.

How to Cut LED Light Strips?

Question: Can You Cut LED Strip Lights?

It depends. Some LED light strip kits come with everything ready-to-use. Cutting these, especially if these are RGBIC lights with integrated chips for controlling your lights, could damage them beyond repair AND void your warranty! Check the specifications on the product you’ve purchased before making any modifications (and then double-check just to make certain!)

If you wish to cut your own lights and piece them together then make sure you buy all your individual components with the correct specifications.

In the event that you do decide to opt for cuttable lights, here’s what you need to know:

As you’re laying down your LED light strip, you’ll arrive at natural stopping points. These could appear when you’re going around corners in a room or want to end a segment of lights. Cutting these strips can be really easy, all you need is a pair of scissors.

Find the cutting lines along the strip. These have copper pads that run along it. Copper pads work as connection points between strips. Cut right down the middle of the copper pads so you have the same amount of copper pad on either side of the cut.

The number of pads will depend on the strip. For single color strip lights, you’ll see two electrical polarity marks + (positive) and - (negative). For adjustable strip lights (like RGB and RGBW) the marks are usually a positive mark + and color marks. The color marks are negative polarities and labeled by their color: B (Blue), R (Red), G (Green), and W (White).

Note: Before cutting your light strips be sure to read the instructions of the product you purchased. Some brands provide ready-to-use lights that shouldn’t be cut at all.

How to Connect LED Strip Lights Together?

Depending on your light strips, you’ll either need to solder them or clip them together with solderless connectors.

If you’re soldering them then simply make sure the LED wires are all soldered to the corresponding pads on each strip. Positive + to positive + pads and negative - to negative - pads, whether that’s a single negative - pad or several color pads.

If you’re using solderless clips then make sure you buy clips with the same number of pads as the strip lights. Whether that’s two, three, four, or five pads, make sure the connector has the same number.

Then, simply loosen the lock pad on the connector; peel off a small section of the 3M double sided tape behind the strip; insert the light strip into the connector making sure the pads line up with their corresponding conductor pins; and close the lock pad to secure the strip in place.

Repeat the process on the other side with the other light strip segment. Double-check to ensure all poles are aligned with their corresponding partners. Mixing up the poles and attaching them to the wrong polarity could damage your light strips. Also, if you are using commercial outdoor LED light strips then make sure you get the corresponding connectors for them.

How to Hang LED Strip Lights on a Wall or Ceiling?

Depending on the placement of the lights, there are two possible ways of mounting these. You can either use 3M double-sided tape or mounting brackets, for which you’ll need a drill. The tape will suffice if it’s on a flat surface.

For irregular surfaces or mounting on walls or ceilings the brackets are preferable. For the “peel and stick” method with the 3M tape, make sure to prepare the surface by clearing it of any dust before sticking. Then peel back the tape one or two feet at a time and carefully place down the strip. Peeling in small segments allows less room for error.

Don’t apply too much pressure to the lights when sticking them down to avoid damaging the lights. Only press down on the intervals between the lights.

For the brackets, prepare for drilling by measuring and marking where you want the holes to go. Then drill the holes, position the brackets, and place the strip in place. Brackets will hold the strip firmly and is preferable for outdoor areas, as poor weather conditions could rip the strips away from their glue.

Once you’ve mounted your lights, just plug the power supply into the electrical outlet and start playing with your new LED strip lights!


Foreword on Installing LED Strip Lights

Having read through this guide, you should now have an understanding of how to install the lights and how their individual components work. It’s not the easiest process but once you’re informed it isn’t quite as daunting, either.

As you browse through the different brands and products available on the market, make sure you’re taking into account your individual needs. The type of lights you want, the length you’ll need, and the specifications of the products you’ll need to make it happen.

If you’d like an easy-to-install option, consider brands like Govee. Govee has been “Making Life Smarter” since November 2017. They create cutting-edge LED lights and smart home devices with a customer-obsessed mindset. Committed to unparalleled R&D, they are a leader in the strip light industry.

Govee provides easy LED strip light kits that come with their power supply, controller, and lights in a single package, ready for you to install them. They offer smart LED light strips that can pair up with your smart home devices and that even come with an easy-to-use app filled with presets! So, you can change your environment with the press of a button and even sync the lights to the beat of the music you’re listening to!

Purchasing all the components and setting up your own lights can be a challenge worth pursuing. For anyone that isn’t looking to take an arduous odyssey to buy and get their lights set up, however, Govee is a fantastic option.