Troubleshooting LED Strip Lights
LED strip lights are the go-to lights for straight lines, right angle corners, and subtle under lighting. Their simpler and often plug-in installation process makes them less daunting to budding DIYers and decorators than their rope light siblings. Yet even LED strip lights have their quirks and common issues. The following table outlines some of the most frequent causes of strip light failures followed by more in-depth explanations of two tricky situations and how to resolve them.
|Light Came On—Then Stopped||Dimmer connection is loose or using the wrong dimmer||Check connections and your dimmer’s spec sheet for compatibility|
|Won’t Light Up||Strip light isn’t turned,on or plugged into the wall; loose connections; batteries are dying or dead||Check connections or replace batteries|
|Won’t Light Up (Hardwire)||Loose wires; too much,insulation||Check wire connections; make sure insulation is stripped at least half an inch on the ends|
|Flickering||Power supply voltage is too low; batteries to your RGB controller are dying||Check that the voltage of the lights and driver match; replace batteries|
|Won’t Flash or Chase||Lights are connected to a dimmer (Dimmers prevent strip light from flashing or chasing)||Disconnect the dimmer from the circuit|
|Light Is a Different Color at the End of the Strip||Voltage drop||Split up your strip light, run with multiple LED drivers. Max of 16 feet per driver|
|Light Is a Different Color at the End of the Strip (Hardwire)||Crossed wires||Check for correct wiring. Hot and neutral wires should never touch|
|RGB Strip Light Stays One Color||Reversed polarity (connected backwards)||Flip your strip light around and reconnect it|
|Hot to the Touch||Power supply voltage is too high|
Bad Pin Connection
If your LED strip light fails to turn on at all, then check your pin connections. Most likely, the pin is not inserted correctly. In rare cases, the pin is faulty. These tiny connectors are rather delicate items so you have to be very careful when inserting them. You could easily make the pins crooked or even break them if you use too much force.
A bad pin connection also includes a backwards connection or reversed polarity. Typically one side of the strip light carries a positive charge, noted by a single dashed line, and the other side has the negative charge, usually noted with the manufacturer logo. The arrow on your connectors should point to the plus sign on your strip lights. RGB or color-changing LED strip lights are particular susceptible to this reversed polarity problem. If your RGB strip lights won’t change colors try flipping your strip light around and reconnecting it.
Incorrect Power Source
Make sure to double check which power source your lights require. LED strip lights are available in 12 or 24-Volt versions. A 12-volt strip light is typically used for short runs, such as for automotive vehicles or motorcycles, which is how many people are able to skip installing an LED driver and hardwire the lights to a 12-Volt DC battery. 24-volt strip lights are better for slightly longer runs, commonly in homes for under cabinet and staircase lighting or in RVs. Under powering your lights, such as using a 12-Volt driver for 24-Volt strip lights, is likely to cause your lights to flicker, dim, or not light up at all. Vice versa, overpowering your rope lights will make your lights hot to the touch, ultimately causing the wiring to fry and your lights to fail. The driver or transformer’s output voltage must match the input voltage needed by your strip light.
What is the maximum run length for LED strip lights?
The maximum run is 16 feet for 12-Volt strip lights. Generally speaking, the max run for 24-Volt strip lights is also 16 feet. Although, you might be able to squeeze out another foot or two of length because of the higher voltage.
Are LED strip lights weatherproof?
Many LED strip lights are not intended for outdoor use. All LEDs are sensitive to the temperature of the surrounding environment, so endless days in triple-digit heat will cut your lights’ lifespan short. Lights should be IP65 rated or higher if you want to put them outside. Install strip lights in indirect or covered locations like eaves of your roof, deck railings, or under a set of outdoor stairs. Even then, most strip lights will not be able to handle 3 months of the rainy season or being near your pool 24/7. However, waterproof LED strip lights are able to be submerged in up to 6 feet of water because of their IP68 rating. To maintain that rating, make sure you use the coordinating connectors and cables which create an airtight seal that prevents water from entering and interfering with your lights.
Can I cut waterproof strip lights?
You can cut waterproof strip lights, but they won’t be waterproof anymore. Cutting them will void the UL and IP ratings, and there’s no guarantee that you can reseal the cut end well enough to avoid water seeping into your connection. The connectors for waterproof strip lights have been designed and thoroughly tested for extended exposure to moisture.