How to Use LED Strip Lights

April 10, 2017Allison Murray
LED Strip lights are so cool but how do you use them? See exactly how they work and what you need to add these to your craft and DIY projects!

LED Strip lights are so cool but how do you use them? See exactly how they work and what you need to add these to your craft and DIY projects!
Guys, it is still early morning and it has already been one of those days. Ugh. I wake up and go through my emails on my phone, like I do every morning when I see an email about how almost $700 has been taken from my PayPal account. I go to my app so that I can get the info to contact them and let them know I got one of those phishing emails only to find about $700 has LITERALLY been pulled from the account by, get this, the Jamaican equivalent to the IRS. Or so the vendor name says. Um, what? So I literally sit and worry my hands watching the clock until it says 7 a.m. central so that I can call and try and get this worked out. After talking with them it seems like all will be well in due course and I’ll get my money back eventually. Still sucks, but okay. Things are going to be okay.

But then I notice that a HUGE chunk is gone from my checking account, which is a completely different thing. WHAT THE EVER LOVING HECK IS GOING ON TODAY?!? Apparently my health insurance auto pay went on the fritz and made multiple charges in a row. At least after talking to customer service these payments have already been attributed to my upcoming monthly premiums so I don’t have to make an insurance payment for a good while. Which is great and all, but I didn’t anticipate that money being gone. Ugh. So now I have a significant portion of money that I don’t have access to the same week I have a check fat check zooming its way to pay my taxes. 

And also Rob convinced me to let him make me an appointment to see an acupuncturist for pain management and we go this afternoon and I’m wigging because NEEDLES. Flipping out over here, people, flipping OUT.

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Now while it is totally not the same, a few weeks back when I made my new PVC light box/tent/thingamajig Rob and I were trying to figure out how to use these gosh dang mother flippin’ LED strip lights. And in the trying I also FLIPPED OUT. Apparently everybody assumes that you’ll figure it out so directions are difficult to come by. I went to sites trying to find directions, YouTube videos, the lot and we wound up stumbling our way through making it happen. Why in the world does nobody show you how these things work? I mean, they are SO COOL, and there are SO MANY creative possibilities for DIY and craft projects with these puppies. 

So maybe I’m a moron and everybody else actually can figure these guys out with no help, but maybe I’m not. Either way, today I’m going to give some info I wish I would have known before we started using the LED strip lights.

For this project I am using:

I have also since found and purchased a set with the LED strip lights and an adapter together here.

FIRST AND FOREMOST PLEASE DO NOT WORK WITH THESE LIGHTS WHEN THEY ARE PLUGGED IN. ALWAYS UNPLUG THEM WHEN WORKING WITH THEM.

LED Strip lights are so cool but how do you use them? See exactly how they work and what you need to add these to your craft and DIY projects!

This is super important so we’re going to open this tutorial to let you know that MOST of these lights do NOT come with the a power adapter. The VAST majority of what you find online will require this additional purchase to be able to actually use the lights. Please read the product description well to make sure you get everything you need in one order. Currently this listing does have an adapter included, but things change so still be sure to check you’re getting both lights and an adapter whether included or purchasing each item separately.

The power supply linked in the supply list for this project can ALMOST connect 2 – 16.4 foot long strips. I don’t understand power and capacity to explain why it can’t power all of that length but just know that you might need more than one adapter if you plan on using more than 1 strip of lights for your project.

LED Strip lights are so cool but how do you use them? See exactly how they work and what you need to add these to your craft and DIY projects!

So basically what you have are these strips that look all crazy and gadget-y that come on a spool. On the spool is one super long, continuous strip of LED lights. Every three lights there are these copper pill shaped pads with a line through them. Most will have a pair of scissors placed on this line. This is where you cut your lights if you need to.

LED Strip lights are so cool but how do you use them? See exactly how they work and what you need to add these to your craft and DIY projects!

Putting the lights back together can be kind of a bear. If you know how to solder, which I don’t, it is supposedly easier to connect the lights together that way. Without the ability to solder you can still cut and reform the strips using solderless plastic snap connectors.

I received 2 straight connectors with all of the lights I have purchased so far, but you can also purchase T shapes, L Shapes, X shapes to help you configure the lights as you need them. 

LED Strip lights are so cool but how do you use them? See exactly how they work and what you need to add these to your craft and DIY projects!

Maybe we’re complete idiots, I just don’t know, but we could NOT figure out what to do with these things. After some finagling we found that each of the connectors have 2 flaps that will open up. As it turns out you need to only open the outer flap to access these little silver bits. Unfortunately I don’t have a technical term for these pieces, sorry guys.

These flaps are super difficult to open and I wound up having Rob pop them open for me with his crazy strong fingernails. When he isn’t around I have to pop them open with a tiny flat screwdriver. These little doors literally latch down when closed and that’s why they are so hard to open in the first place…

LED Strip lights are so cool but how do you use them? See exactly how they work and what you need to add these to your craft and DIY projects!

Okay, so remember this?You’ll be starting your lights with this black connector on the end. It will already be that way on the spool plus you will probably get a second spare one, also.

LED Strip lights are so cool but how do you use them? See exactly how they work and what you need to add these to your craft and DIY projects!

This is the power connector that will attach to the adapter so the lights light up.

LED Strip lights are so cool but how do you use them? See exactly how they work and what you need to add these to your craft and DIY projects!

When you’ve figured out the length you need cut your lights to size but ONLY cut on those little lines over the copper pads. Now look closely at the strip. To the right of that cut line it shows a positive and negative symbol. See those? On both sides of that cut line, that is the positive or negative connection. This is important because the receptors on the clips are specific to positive and negative and will only work if properly placed.

LED Strip lights are so cool but how do you use them? See exactly how they work and what you need to add these to your craft and DIY projects!

Though you cannot see it in the pictures here, on the little doors there is  a positive and negative mark that shows which way you’ll need to insert the strip for the connection to work. These marks are white on white and difficult to see without good lighting, FYI.

LED Strip lights are so cool but how do you use them? See exactly how they work and what you need to add these to your craft and DIY projects!

On the side of the connector is a little groove that is the same size as your strip lights. You’ll push the LED strip into this area and it will guide the piece to fit inside neatly. Once closed, the door will clamp down and hold the pieces together. This is not a super amazing hold. If you pull on the strip you can yank it out of the connector so take care to work gently with your connections.

LED Strip lights are so cool but how do you use them? See exactly how they work and what you need to add these to your craft and DIY projects!

The strips have a sticky back so that you can easily attach them to stuff. With the protective piece of paper I found that the strip was too thick to actually fit inside of the plastic connectors. To avert this I’d peel back the paper just enough to be able to easily insert it into the the connector. Now the sticky business  now out in the open makes it super difficult to actually slide the strip in, so I’d use my finger and push on the adhesive a few times to dull the effects of the sticky.

LED Strip lights are so cool but how do you use them? See exactly how they work and what you need to add these to your craft and DIY projects!

Remembering that there is a specific way to place the positive and negative parts of the strip into the connector, begin to slide the strip in under the grooves and the silver receptor things. See how you can see the copper above? You need the silver to completely cover the copper.

LED Strip lights are so cool but how do you use them? See exactly how they work and what you need to add these to your craft and DIY projects!

Here you can see when the strip is properly placed. Snap the door shut and this connection is made.

To save yourself a headache I’d really, really suggest connecting your lights to a plugged in adapter after every connection to make sure that everything is working properly AS YOU GO. Because you’re totally not working with these things while they are already plugged in, right? Because we’ve already strongly discouraged that, but we’ll do it again just in case…

FIRST AND FOREMOST PLEASE DO NOT WORK WITH THESE LIGHTS WHEN THEY ARE PLUGGED IN. ALWAYS UNPLUG THEM WHEN WORKING WITH THEM.

Once you get everything connected in the configuration that you need you can attach the lights to your project. Because I had so many connections and directions  I used blue masking tape to help keep things in place until I could get around to removing the paper from the back and actually sticking them in place. 

Now, in all honesty after I finished my PVC light tent project I realized that, for the most part, I could have just stuck the lights onto my PVC and twisted the strip around as needed to cover the entire frame. In a few spots I’d still need to cut and reconnect but I could have used far less making things easier. You see, sometimes the strip will slide out of the connector, especially if it’s in an area that you might wind up touching a lot (like the front sides of my light box where I do occasionally disconnect a strip). Once a connection is broken, every light beyond that connection will not receive power so it will not work. 

Before cutting anything, take a good look at your project and do your best to limit the cuts and connections you make if the possibility of disconnection is likely, like for my lightbox that is used daily and moved often. If I was adding them, for example, underneath my kitchen cabinets I wouldn’t worry about it because chances of the connections being messed with to disconnect is highly unlikely.

So that’s how you work with LED strip lights and solderless connectors. It’s pretty easy and maybe I’m the dippiest dipstick on the planet because I couldn’t just instantly flesh out how they worked, but if you’re just as dippy as me and needed help, I hope these directions for how to use LED strip lights works well for you. Feel free to hit me up in the comments if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to help you out!

LED Strip lights are so cool but how do you use them? See exactly how they work and what you need to add these to your craft and DIY projects!

Written by Allison Murray - Visit Website

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