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How to Create a Large LED Light Installation

For safety reasons and because of the nature of LED light fixture design, LED Strip Lights, Light Bars, and Module Light strings have recommended limitations for the length of run. But it’s relatively easy to make a safe but effective large LED installation by keeping the following things in mind.

1) Observe run limits for your LED fixture.
You’ll find the run limits of feet and fixtures for all our strips, bars, and module lights on the respective product pages. (A “run” is defined as a section of LED strip light or daisy-chained group of fixtures that are running continuously from a single power source.) Observing run limits will result in a safer installation, and help prolong the life of the lights. (Although 12V LEDs can operate in a range of about 10V to 14V, less or more voltage will drastically reduce the life of the bulbs, and cause them to be dimmer than normal.)

2) Don’t overdrive a 12V power source.
A 36W Plug-In Adapter, for example, should be used to power less than 36 Watts of LED light. Powering more than an adapter is rated for will cause the adapter to overheat, which can create a fire. We recommend using only 80% of a power supply’s capacity, which protects against power surges.

3) Use the right amount of power and the right gauge wires to avoid voltage drop.
The wire gauge indicates the thickness of a wire. A lower number is heavier, and a higher number is lighter. The wire gauge of 12V power wires and parallel run wires is also a factor in large installations. (See the first diagram below for an example of a parallel run.) When lighting is at a certain distance from its power source, something called voltage drop occurs. “Voltage drop” is the gradual diminishing of voltage along the length of the wire as electricity travels away from a power source. Voltage drop happens when a light or appliance is located far from the power source.

You can avoid voltage drop by using a voltage drop calculator, which helps you find the right wire gauge based on the number of fixtures in your installation, how they are spaced, and the distance between the power source and the fixtures. We recommend these voltage drop calculators of the many available online: http://www.nooutage.com/vdrop.htm and www.csgnetwork.com/voltagedropcalc.html. Consult your local fire code for additional information about permissible limits on home or commercial electrical wiring.

4) Supply sufficient power.
Another way to get power to a distant fixture is to use a power supply with a higher wattage than necessary. Supplying more power at the source means more will reach the fixture after traveling through the wires. In general, for optimum performance we recommend that a driver not be loaded to more than 80% of its full capacity.

5) Get creative!
Fortunately, there are several ways to install LED lights in large installations that are safe and efficient, just by placing power supplies and using additional wiring. The wiring diagrams below show examples of how to make large installations. Our example wiring diagrams use strip lighting, but the same layout ideas apply to LED light bars and other LED fixtures.

large-installation-flexible-led-strip-light-parallel-run-diagram-2

An example of how to install LED strip lights in a very long, continuous straight line, as you would in a hallway or along a large wall. This type of installation is called a parallel run. Wire gauge here is given as en example; consult a voltage drop calculator and building codes for wire recommendations.

 

large-installation-flexible-led-strip-light-room-diagram-4

An example of how to install LED strip lights in a large room. Note the two ways of powering multiple sections of strip with one source: 1) Placing the power source in the middle of two runs, with runs going in opposite directions; 2) Placing the power sources at opposite ends of the two sections so that the runs join seamlessly in a corner.

14 Responses

  1. Admin says:

    The parts sound correct, however you will need to factor in the watts per foot of the strip. Multiply 16.4 feet x 5 (runs) x wattage per foot of the strip you will use. Make sure the power supply is rated higher than the total. Check the tech specs of a PS before purchasing, as some of our supplies are recommended to be loaded only to 80%.

  2. Rex says:

    Hello I made a bus shelter poster light box using 5 led strips that are 16.4 ft each. Each strip is on its own run using either 18 to 20 gauge wire. That would mean I need a PS with an output of 150 watts and 12 volts. Is my math correct?

  3. John says:

    Hi, I’m in the same boat as Kevin. The problem for me is how to run the RGB controllers in sync?
    -Do I have to connect one RGB controller to each 16 feet run?
    -Is one RGB controller able to control more than one 16 feet run?
    If possible , how many?
    - And last but not least: Do RGB controllers come in different Amperages (like drivers) (2 to 6 amps per “channel” – practical examples please.
    Thank you in advance. Great informative site!

  4. Admin says:

    You’ll want to connect each section using a Strip Light Bending Extension, see here – http://www.elementalled.com/clicktight-strip-light-bending-extension.html. However, you need to watch out for the wattage limit on your power units if connecting several units to the same power source. Calculate the total by adding up the number of watts each piece of strip consumes and be sure it is 20% less than your power unit max for optimal performance.

  5. kevin says:

    Hi i am doing a job at my house with rgb led strips, they come in 5 meter rolls with remote and power units with each roll. i am getting 13 rolls because i need 65 meters for my job, how do i connect them all together to run the same colour and to work using one remote.i have a 26 meter, a 18 meter,a 16 meter ,a 4 meter and a 1 meter runs to do because its going around walls.thanks

  6. Mahmoud Fawaz says:

    Dear sir
    Please inform me how to install LED ligjt in to building and all accessories need and relay and DMX need and how to program and control the full design and play it
    Please send me catalouges and information and line diagrames

  7. Admin says:

    Greetings Emmett,
    Thank you for contacting Elemental LED. In regards to your boat please note that our rule with strip is you wouldn’t want to exceed more than 16.4 feet of continuous light strip so I would recommend that you break that loop into 3 smaller runs which would be ok. If you have any additional questions please do not hesitate to contact us here by phone, chat or email.

    Sincerely,
    Corey
    Elemental LED Customer Service
    877-564-5051 | answers@elementalled.com

  8. Emmett Conrecode says:

    Ok I’m running a 3/8 12v DC loop around a 16ft boat in the bumper rail replacing the nylon rope. So the run will be 46ft or so. If I connect the (+) and (-) at both ends the effective run would be half that at 23ft and thus under the 30ft run max. Can’t think why this wouldn’t work. Thoughts?

  9. Ilona says:

    Hmm, this question requires a bit more digging. Someone on our customer service team will write you at the email address provided to get some more details on your setup.

  10. matt says:

    connecting 6-8 strips outside for landscape lighting. I am guessing i need a 600W transformer which has two 300W zones. there are 3 separate areas: 60′, 60′ and 10′ approximately. Not sure how to go about this. Advice?

  11. Andreas says:

    thank you for a really helpful article. one question though. how about if i wanted to install a dimmer ‘in the middle’ of the installation of figure no2. i would like to achieve central dimming of the whole installation as one. thank you

  12. VR says:

    Hi,
    Thanks your for a wonderfully informative website. I am thinking of building a large “wall of LEDs” installation where multiple LED strips would be stacked right next to one another (I’m thinking of ordering 6 LED strips). I have a 12V driver that has the required amperage rating. The whole setup would be mounted on sheet aluminum and placed against the wall. I wanted to ask you about heat dissipation: would you recommend having additional heat sinks, or would sheet aluminum be sufficient? How would I know if I have heat buildup that will fry my LEDs?
    Thanks!

  13. Ilona says:

    We recommend a run limit of 16.4 feet because of the gauge of the wire used in the strip light itself, and the parallel runs of LED strip–each with a homerun back to 12V power–are a way to get around this. You can use another manufacturer’s 12V driver, but it must be 12V DC, and our LED products should never be connected directly to 120V AC power.

  14. John says:

    Can I run two lengths of 2 16ft light strips one way round a room and the same the other way around a room from a industrial adapter and hard wire it to my house power?

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