How To Cut LED Strip Lights
Can You Cut LED Strips?
Cut zones are visible along the length of LED strip lights. Distances between cut zones typically range from 1.5 cm to 10 cm. Considerations must be made over performance and power supply when deciding LED strip light length. A failure to alter tape length using the designated cut zones will affect unit efficiency.
In this guide, we will cover the main issues surrounding the length of LED strips.
How to Cut LED Strip Lights
The incorporation of cut zones means you can safely alter the length of your strips using scissors. Look for the highlighted cut zones between groups of LEDs to find where to cut.
Different LED strips offer different distances between cut zones. The following table illustrates the distances between zones:
100 mm between cut zones
= 30 LEDs per meter
50 mm between cut zones
= 60 LEDs per meter
25 mm between cut zones
= 120 LEDs per meter
15 mm between cut zones
= 240 LEDs per meter
As we can see, if you wish to cut your strip to within 15mm of the desired length, you will require an LED strip containing 240 LEDs per meter.
For less accurate tasks, where being within 100 mm of the desired length will suffice, you require an LED strip containing 30 LEDs per meter.
What If I Cut the LED Strip in the Wrong Place?
LED strips come in a variety of lengths. Spaced evenly along the strip, you will find cut zones (clearly indicated - sometimes with dotted lines - across the width of the strip).
The cut lines exist in designated zones for a reason. Each zone provides an option to cap the circuit (i.e., the electric ‘loop’ will be complete when it terminates at the cut zone).
If you cut in the wrong place, which is to say, outside of the cut zone, you are effectively ending the electric loop mid circuit. The power supply will not light any LEDs between the last cut zone on the strip and the cut you have made.
To avoid any unlit LEDs at the end of your strip, always use the cut zones provided.
How to Connect Your LED Strip
After you have cut your LED strip to size, you must choose how to connect the unit to a power supply. There are two options:
- Clip-on Connector
The benefit of choosing to power your LED strip via a clip-on connector is you do not require any tools.
LED strips sourced from a professional vendor will typically come with a clip-on connector.
The short wire connector consists of an input socket at one end (which attaches to the LED driver) and a thumbnail size clip at the end that connects to the LED strip.
Your LED strip will display plus and minus signs next to each cut zone. Align the LED strip so that the ‘plus’ copper touchpoint connects to the visible red wire inside the clip-on connector. The black wire should meet the minus side of the strip.
Close the clip, give a small tug to make sure the join is solid, and you are ready to power your LED strip.
- Solder Your Connection
The benefit of soldering your LED strip to the connecter is that you ensure a join that cannot easily come loose.
Simply solder the red wire part of the connecter to the ‘plus’ copper touchpoint on the LED strip, and solder the black connector wire to the ‘minus’ copper touchpoint on the LED strip.
Connectors typically come in standard 8mm and 10mm widths. If you find that your LED strip does not fit your connector, speak to a specialist LED supplier for sizing advice.
How to Choose a Power Supply for Your LED Strip (By Length)
When choosing how to power your LED strip, we recommend following the 20% rule. For example, if you wish to power a 48W LED strip, we must first calculate 20% of 48.
20% of 48W = 9.6W
Added together, 48W and 9.6W give a total of 57.6W. From the answer, we can infer that by following the 20% rule, a 48W LED strip requires a power supply above 57.6W. Therefore, a 60W supply is ideal, although a higher wattage power supply will also work.
In practice, we also need to consider maximum strip lengths, based on the voltage of your tape. To look at this closer, we will use a 12V strip and a 24V strip as examples:
- Max. recommended strip length at 12V = 5 meters
To increase the strip length beyond 5 meters may mean a voltage drop and increasing dimness towards the end of the tape. Staying within the maximum range of 12V over a 5 meter run ensures unit efficiency.
- Max. recommended strip length at 24V = 8 meters
To increase the strip length beyond 8 meters may mean a voltage drop and increasing dimness towards the end of the tape. Staying within the maximum range of 24V over a 8 meter run ensures unit efficiency.
Cutting your strips in line with the above recommendations on length should result in optimum unit performance.