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A Guide to Colour Changing LED Strip Lighting

January 26, 2021

Advice Centre > LED strips > LED strip types > A Guide to Colour Changing LED Strip Lighting

LED lighting has been around for a long time, but thanks to recent advances in technology the popularity of LED strips has rocketed. The strips comprise a flexible circuit board populated with rows of individual LED lights. Most strips have an adhesive backing, and many are designed to be easily cut to an appropriate length to fit into bespoke spaces.

In addition to classic LED strip lighting, there are many colour changing options now on the market. If you’re considering installing this kind of smart lighting, there are several things to consider.

In this guide, we’ll explain the difference between some of the main types of colour changing LED light and technical factors to bear in mind before making your purchasing decision. As well as outlining some of the benefits and main uses, we’ll also show you some of our best Colour Changing LED strip lights. Click on one of the links below to jump to that section:

RGB and RGBW

There are two main categories of colour changing LED light strip: RGB and RGBW. An RGB LED strip light has three different types of light-emitting chip: red, green, and blue. They are sometimes referred to as three-in-one LED and can create a rainbow of different colours by blending light from all three chips. They can be used to create an ambient effect by uplighting or downlighting specific areas, or fitted inside the lettering of signs and decorative light features.

An RGBW strip includes a fourth chip, which generates cool white light. These more versatile four-in-one LEDs can be used to create standard non-coloured lighting, so can be a useful option if you need to switch from decorative to standard lighting. They are a great choice for venues where you need to create a day-to-night transition.

Benefits and main uses

One of the main benefits of any kind of LED lighting is that it is an extremely energy-efficient way to provide a dynamic light display. They have an incredibly long lifespan, so don’t need changing as regularly as standard light bulbs.

You can create a great ambient effect with colour changing LED strips, as they come in multiple colours as standard to complement a range of themes and décors. This type of smart lighting is a popular choice for wedding and events venues, as they can cycle through colours to create a party mood or be colour-matched to the theme of the party.

The light strips are flexible, both in terms of the length and the way they can be fitted. You can find durable options that are the perfect fit for letter signs.

Key things to consider

If you’re shopping around for the right colour changing LED strip, or know exactly where you want to install your light strip but aren’t sure of the specifications you need, here are a few things worth considering:

Where do you want to use them?

Certain light strips are suitable for outdoor use, but most will still specify that protection from the weather is necessary. Also exercise caution if you’re choosing lights for a wet, steamy environment like a bathroom. Check the specification carefully to ensure that they are waterproof—look for an IP rating of 65, 66 or 67.

How are they installed?

Different light strips have different fixing mechanisms—consider whether you need a strong adhesive, or a more moveable light strip if you want to change its location at a later date.

Also consider how many strips you need, as some colour changing LEDs will be available in one-metre lengths, whereas some will only be available in five-metre strips. You can cut these down to size but should consider where the cut points are, as this will dictate how precisely you can cut the strip to fit the space available. The width is important too; standard strips are around 10mm wide, but some wider and narrower options are available.

Voltage and wattage

Most colour changing LED strips operate at 12 volts of direct current, but some 24-volt options are available. It’s also worth reviewing the wattage—good brands should show you the lumens and wattage per metre at full power, so you can judge the energy consumption and brightness of the light bulb.

Product in the We Love LEDs range

There is a range of great colour-changing LED light strips available—here are some of the most popular choices:

Great for illumination and decorations, the 10mm wide Tuneable 60 strip light is available in one metre or five-metre lengths and is tuneable from pure white to warm white. It has a chip of each colour which can be blended using a tuneable controller.

Designed specifically for illuminating built-up channel letters, moulded letters and flat logos, the S-Type 48 RGB light strip is an economical and flexible way to light up your signs which can bend around corners.

For a water resistant option, why not look at the Water Resistant 60 RGB strip. These are IP65 rated, meaning they are protected from dust and splashes in areas such as kitchens and bathrooms but can’t be submerged or used under running water.

For decorative, dynamic lighting, the Pixel 60 in a flexible five-metre reel and the Pixel 60 RIGID in a rigid one-metre length will help you create a vivid display.

Frequently asked questions

How energy efficient is LED strip lighting?

LED strip lighting is significantly more energy-efficient than many other lighting sources. Experts estimate they can use up to 85% less energy than traditional light bulbs, and 15% less than compact fluorescent lamps.

LEDs only have a positive lead (anode) and a negative lead (cathode) and do not need to be earthed as they are low voltage. Don’t forget that LED light strips have an extremely long life expectancy, saving you money on replacements and maintenance.

How do you stop your LED lights from glowing?

There are a few different reasons you may notice your LED lights ‘glowing’. One of the most common reasons is that you are using a dimmer or remote control set up—which isn’t completely cutting off the current to the strip, even when it’s in ‘off’ mode. To remedy this, a separate hard switch could be installed.

The lights may glow for a few seconds as the power supply releases the last of its energy on turn off. Alternatively, there may be issues with your wiring—for example, if the neutral wire is not bonded to the earth, or if the earth wire is at a very high resistance, there may be a residual current that remains in the strip. If there is another cable running very close to the wiring for your LED strip, this can also induce a very small current, thus illuminating the strip. In these cases, it’s best to consult an electrician.

Are LED strip lights considered safe?

Yes, LED strip lights are safe. However, they need to be installed and used properly. It is always best to consult a qualified electrician when installing any lighting that is mains wired.

How bright are LED bulbs?

LED light bulbs intended for general use around the house usually have a wattage between 5W and 15W. These will typically emit between 300 and 500 lumens. If the lights are outdoor then these floodlights can emit in excess of 20,000lm.

Are warm white LED lights bad for your eyes?

The lights are not bright or powerful enough to cause permanent damage to your eyes but it is recommended that you don't have too much direct exposure to the light for long periods of time.