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Tips for Installing LED Strip Lights

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Congratulations – you've made the choice to install LED strip lights, however, if this is something new to you, you may well find it a little daunting. Installing anything electrical can be tricky, but with innovative self-adhesive LED tape, it'll be a breeze! Here at Arc LED we offer a wide collection of commercial grade, IP or non IP rated, warm white, colour changing and CCT strip lights & more to suit all interiors. There are so many options when it comes to lighting, however, we believe LED strip lighting is the real must-have for 2018. 
Now you've made the choice to use this style of modern lighting, we thought we would lend a helping hand to help you feel confident when installing – or just get a better idea about LED strip lights!
          Arc LED RGBW Tape Green Arc LED 2835 LED Tape Arc LED 5050 LED Tape Warm White

Cutting LED Tape to Your Specifications

There are hundreds, if not thousands of different types of LED strip lights available on the market, and most have different cut points. They can vary from as little as every 25mm to 166mm depending on the style of tape and the colour output. Usually, RGBW has the larger distance cut points as there is more technology and bigger chips to fit between each point. You'll notice each point is marked by a line in the middle of the solder pads, 4 for a single colour, 8 for RGB and 10 for RGBW. 
If you have bought LED tape in a reel length of 5 metres, but need 3 smaller lengths, all strips can be cut to your specifications – just make sure you follow the cut point lines that are already distinguished on the tape!
           Cut Points on 9.6W IP20 LED Tape Cutting IP20 LED Tape
When it comes to cutting IP rated (waterproof) LED strip lights you need to reinstate the IP rating using a hot glue gun, heat gun and clear heat shrink. Once you cut through the silicone on a waterproof strip light, you immediately lose the IP rating. When installing this type of lighting in areas which will come into contact with water, it is vital that you make sure the strip is completely sealed before installation. Here's a quick guide to regaining waterproof standards:
  1. Cut a small amount of heat shrink to the required size and slide to the point which needs waterproofing.
  2. Use the glue gun to fill the heat shrink at the cut point which needs to be resealed.
  3. You then need to use the heat gun to tighten the heat shrink around the glue and strip light to reseal the LED and give it back it's original IP67 rating.
IP Rated Tape - Not Cut Soldered IP67 Tape

Before Heat Shrink

Heat Shrunk Example

How to Solder LED Strip Lights

Once you have cut your strip lighting to the required lengths, you will need to solder the cable to the pads in which you cut previously. When cutting the LED tape, always make sure you cut across the pads in half leaving a semi-circle shape on either side – this makes things much easier when it comes to soldering. Cable is needed to create a starter lead to wire back to the driver or controller. It can be any length you require to suit all installations.
Before you solder any LED tape, it's important to have the correct tools in order to do so. We recommend using any 30-60W soldering iron with a capable temperature between 250-450 degrees Celsius. It's always best to use a more powerful tool than one which isn't powerful enough. This not only saves time but also avoids damaging components in the LED strip. The same goes for using a soldering iron that is too hot, it can also damage the tape. So get some expert advice before forking out on a machine that's not suitable! 
  1. Choose the correct solder: We only use lead-free solder here at Arc LED. It has a higher melting point, less susceptible to mechanical fatigue and provides a more reliable joint. Lead is also extremely toxic and can cause many harmful effects. 
  2. The next step is to tin your wires. To do so, simply heat your soldering iron to the correct temperature and apply a small amount of solder directly to the stranded wires. You'll know this is complete when your wire is now silver in colour and no longer appears to be stranded.
  3. Once your cables have been tinned, you now need to tin the copper dots on the strip light. Similar to the previous step, apply a small amount of solder directly to the copper dots on the tape. Make sure you don't apply too much causing the dots to overlap, as this will cause problems when it comes to turning on the tape such as colour mixes.
  4. After you have tinned both your cable ends and copper dots on your strip lights, you can fix the cables to the LED strip. To do so, place the individual wire to a single copper dot and place the soldering iron over both. This will heat both previous solders enough to melt and become one.
  5. Test! You've done the fiddly part – now it's time to enjoy your new lighting (hopefully). Once your masterpiece is dry, connect to a relevant power source and test the connection. If this fails, it could be down to what is known as a 'cold solder joint'. 
Luckily for those of you reading, if you're not too confident, don't have the time or simply prefer someone else to do the work for you – we have our very own Bespoke Soldering & Cutting service. You can read more about it here.

Lead Free Solder Non Tinned Cable Ends Tinned Cable Ends RGB Soldered

Using Self Adhesive LED Tape

All of the LED tape lights supplied here at Arc LED have a strong, self-adhesive backing as standard. Advances in technology mean that LED strip lights have now become extremely small and light, so we are confident our self-adhesive backing will leave you stress-free when it comes to installation. Here are a few tips to make sure you get the best results:
  1. When you have decided exactly where your LED tape is going to be fitted, clean the surface and make sure it is completely dry before removing the backing and pressing it onto the chosen surface.
  2. Once you have peeled the backing and secured the first piece of tape, press firmly along the tape in the empty areas especially where there are no resistors. This will ensure your strip lights stay secure for longer and no damage is done to the LED chips.
Using the standard self-adhesive backing is perfect for when the LED strips are on a flat surface facing towards the ceiling, but you might find it's not quite strong enough for more complex jobs. If you are working on a job where the LEDs will be mounted vertically or facing towards the floor, we recommend using a small amount of hot glue every 300mm or so to give it that extra stick. You only need to use a very small amount and ensure it doesn't spill out from either side of the tape or onto the chips which could affect the whole run of tape.
You will also find many foam backing tapes which can be purchased as extras when selecting most LED strip lights. This is a slightly more durable and stronger backing, which can be used in applications where the surface is uneven or to hold more weighted IP rated tapes in place for longer.


Sharing is Caring!

If this guide has helped you to install your new LED strip lights, why not share it with others? Share to your Facebook or Twitter pages and help spread the word! If you are still wanting more information, we are always here to help. Give us a call on 01752 917447 or email us on for further information.

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