Re: 12 Volt LED [i]Strip[/i] Lights
We’ve recently acquired several 3528 and 5050 strips RBG LED strips from several different vendors, so I thought I’d share some info that might be useful.
Although the RGB 3528 strips are usually cheaper, be aware that they are made up of separate red, green, and blue LEDs. This means that if you’re running any color besides red, green or blue, you will see multiple colors simultaneously lit up on the strip. The 3528 strips [i]can[/i] produce various color shades with a remote control… but, only when the light that you see is reflected, and the LEDs on the strip are not directly visible. For bikes or costuming, the 3528 may be less than ideal, but they could work well for under-vehicle lighting or backlighting a sign from a 90-degree angle.
On the 5050 strips, every LED is a RGB LED. The color that you select on the remote will appear on every LED in the strip when looking directly at it.
5050 strips generally consume more power, and both the 3528 and the 5050 will consume more power when color variations (anything besides pure Red, Green, or Blue) are used.
LED strips are usually sold in 5 Meter lengths, with either 150, 300, or 600 LEDs per strip. There are waterproof and non-waterproof versions available. Be sure that the strip you order specifies waterproof, is the type that you expect (3528 or 5050), has the number of LEDs that you expect, and is labeled as “RGB” if you want multiple colors.
Many sellers don’t include an AC (or DC) adapter with their 24 or 44-key Remote + controller. I picked up a bunch of random AC adapters at Good Will, and then cut the AC end off, so that they can connect the LED controller to a 12 Volt (8xAA) battery pack. It seems to work well, but don’t expect stellar battery life off of portable batteries. Also, be aware that the controllers that come with the common remotes are only capable of powering one 5 Meter strip of LEDs, without an additional power source. (I fried a controller by (briefly) powering a 10 Meter strip off of a 12V battery pack)
The adhesive backing on most LED strips is pretty weak. I wouldn’t rely on it to hold very well under hot dusty conditions. Double-sided 3M Automotive tape works EXTREMELY well for securing the strips, but can be a bit expensive.
Strips can be cut and spliced at pre-etched cut points, but it is kind-of a pain in the ass. I haven’t mastered this one yet. My best advice is to be sure to scrape off all the plastic coating over the traces before soldering or using quick connects. If you're soldering wire, only strip as much as needed, and make sure that the bare wire is tinned or tightly wrapped to prevent any loose strands from touching adjacent wires or traces on the LED strip. I recommend reinforcing ALL soldered points with 3:1 heat shrink w/ glue… but, be sure to test the primary strip colors both before and after heat shrinking. Don’t leave the heat gun blasting on the strip too long, or you will damage the strip. (I’ve connected strands that worked perfectly before heat shrinking, but certain colors wouldn’t light after) The pre-made quick connectors work “okay” for splicing sections (certainly faster than soldering individual wires), but they are fairly flimsy. YMMV.
I hope this helps!
TL;DR 3528 strips use separate red, green, and blue LEDs to make other colors; RGB 5050 strips can light any color on every LED.