The RGB LED strip light proved to be one of the most popular products at LEDcentre. Its wide range of application allows customers to use more of their imagination, decorate and create new moods in their homes or businesses to their own tastes. The most common application in businesses can be found in bars, clubs, restaurants or stage lighting for bands. Besides commercial use, household application is also very common in the kitchen or living room for instance, where mood lighting is often used. When it comes to mood lighting, and picking colours, the user’s imagination is the only limit. Both in household and commercial uses, the RGB LED strip is applied to enlighten edges of furniture, worktops, to give a touch of colour to walls, corridors, columns, steps and staircases, illuminate audio visual systems, is used as a party set or background setting for bands.
The two basic components to operate RGB LED strip lights are the RGB LED strip (obviously) and a matching RGB controller. All RGB LED lighting systems require a controller, with which you can determine the colours displayed. The number of effects you can achieve with your RGB LED string depends both on the tape, and the controller you apply it with. The simplest RGB LED tape has a fixed set of colours that can be displayed in a pre-programmed sequence.
Once you decide on going for RGB LED strip lights, the technical details you have to pay attention to are the following. LED strip lights often do not operate at mains, but are low voltage lights. If so, you need a transformer to connect them to the mains, or you can operate them with batteries of the adequate voltage. LEDs require transformers specially dedicated to them, so electronic transformers are not suitable, for instance, and also the majority of LEDs require stabilized constant voltage powering. Voltage tolerance may also have significance if you operate the lights from a battery or an engine (power supplies need to be stabilized, so this problem doesn’t occur with them). On boats, yachts or caravans, Voltage increases when the engine is on, for instance. If you would like to apply any low voltage LED lights of this kind, always check the voltage tolerance of the light among the technical details. When you decide on the strip light, pay attention to the followings: the size and performance of the light-emitting diodes included in the strip, the technology of the LEDs (low power, SMD power or high power), the light emitted, its IP rating, the direction of the light or the diodes, and its coverage. Also, obviously, the range of effects you will be able to achieve with the RGB LED tape depends on the knowledge of the strip, so check what colour range it provides, or if they can be used with DMX RGB controllers (which provide a full range of mixing colours and widest range of effects).
The technical details of the controller are also significant. The controller determines the performance of the strip lights it can directly be connected to. For example, if the controller is suitable for let’s say 140W performance, and the performance of the RGB LED strip light you will use is 7W per metre, than you can connect 140/7=20 metres of strip lights to it. If you wish to control more than that, but synchronized together; you will need an RGB amplifier that forwards the signal of the controller. However, since the power that can run through the RGB controller is fixed, the amplifier needs to be powered directly from the transformer or the battery. The connection mode of the LEDs you have will determine the connection mode of the controllers you can use. RGB LEDs have four pins. Three of these pins are for the colours (RGB), the pole of these pins determine the type of connection. If the LED light or strip light has three positive and one negative pins, the connection is common cathode. If it is the other way round (three negative, one positive), the connection mode is common anode.
How does RGB LED technology work?
RGB LEDs basically contain three LEDs used in one. The combination of these three colours covers the full spectrum of colours. The RGB controller works with PMW (pulse-width modulation), which means – at a certain frequency – it turns the LEDs on and off fully (this is exactly the same technique single coloured LEDs are dimmed). If you turn the blue LED off completely for instance, the red and green will create a yellow light together. The colour can be manipulated with the frequency of the individual LEDs on and off modes. If you add a bit of blue to this yellow, you will receive a lighter green shade. To create a single colour output the frequency of the full LED must be over 50Hz.
So, what is the full range of effects possible with RGB LED strip lighting?
The simplest RGB LED string lights have a pre-programmed set of colour they can emit ranging from four to 16, and the colours rotates according to these programmes. The range of colours displayed can be widened with the knowledge of the strip and obviously the knowledge of the controller. RGB LED ribbons which allow DMX controllers can display several million colours. Besides the regular RGB LED strip lights which can emit several shades of colours, but only one at a time, exist the multiple colour strips – also called magic LED strips or pixel LED tape lights. This type of RGB LED rope light requires a special RGB controller. RGB LED strip lights are most often sold with the controllers suitable for their operation, or there is a list of recommended controllers indicated at the strip light’s description. Controllers can basically be manual, automatic, semi-automatic, pre-set sequence or DMX.
Besides the most commonly used pre-set sequence RGB controllers, a popular solution for creating your own effects is DMX controllers, which allow users a wide range of settings of the brightness, the colour and the pace of colour changing of the strip light. DMX controllers allow you to set the level of brightness, usually have a range of colours over several millions, different speed of display or colour change, this speed can often be set to follow the rhythm of music. With this wide range of possibilities to create your own, unique lighting, only your imagination is the limit.