LED tape has dozens of applications and there are hundreds of suppliers. Finding the particular one you want can be a nightmare.
Generally, tape has two main uses: functional, to provide extra lighting in a space, or decorative where you want to improve the visual appearance. In this review, we are concentrating on tape to suit these common applications. Choice then becomes a matter of high lumen output per linear metre or excellent colour rendering.
Some LED tape emit more light per metre of length than a fluorescent tube. And the actual illumination level achieved can be even greater because the light from the tape is emitted in one direction rather than the 360 degree illumination we’re used to from a fluorescent tube.
If you want a high-output tape, a guide figure would be to look for those that emit more than 2,000 lumens per metre. Of course, higher output means higher power consumption. Some tapes which emit 3,000 lm and consume over 30W per metre.
However, you need to think about what surface these tapes will be mounted on and the location. LEDs don’t like high temperatures and so the tape should be fixed to a good heat sink like a U-shape aluminium extrusion.
Low wattage tapes are not so demanding in terms of dissipating the heat and you may not need a heat sink. You should follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. As an example, one of the manufacturers reviewed says that any tape running at more than 10W/m should be mounted on an aluminium profile.
Remember that you get more lumens per watt with cool-colour-temperature LEDs and therefore more lumens per metre. The disadvantage is that at low levels of illumination, maybe from dimming, the light from cool LEDs can look dull and ‘grey’.
For retail, hospitality and residential applications, colour rendering is usually more important than maximum light output.
Generally, for indoor applications, you should use tape with a colour rendering index, CRI, of 80 or more. However, you tend to achieve a better quality of light when the CRI is greater than 90. It just feels better. Some interior designers and lighting specifiers look for a high proportion of red light in the LEDs because it makes people’s skin look better. You can check for this aspect by looking at the R9 value in the LED technical specification sheet. A higher value means more red.
Colour temperature, how ‘warm’ or ‘cool’ it appears, is important. Warmer colour temperatures, such as 2700K or 3000K, work well for residential and low illumination locations. But if you are backlighting a sign or trying to imitate daylight with a false skylight or window, then 6000K may be more acceptable.
If you are considering using tape, ask for independently verified test data.
Try a working sample. Ideally, do a small trial in the actual application.
If you are using a lot of tape, check the efficacy, which is measured in lumens/W. Poor quality tape is often inefficient. Similarly, make sure the electronic driver has a high power factor.
Most of the suppliers below make both high output and high colour rendering tape; some even combine the two in one tape.
One final point is to check the distance between the LEDs. The smaller the distance, the more uniform is the line of light.
Enlite LEDLine Pro
This tape is really useful in that it combines both high output (2,400 lm/m) and good colour rendering (CRI of 90). One of its main applications is in the retail sector. It is available in 3000K and 4000K. A wide range of diffusers, channels and accessories is available for this 12mm wide, 22W strip. This really is a tape for all applications.
Hi_Line high efficiency HEB
We were asked to look at this product as being a high efficiency, budget range tape. It runs at 14.4 W/m and delivers approximately 2,280 lm per metre 2700 and 3000K. Slightly more for the 4000 and 6000K versions.
This means that the claimed overall efficacy is around 158 – 160 lm/W. The CRI is >80.
They also offer a high colour rendering tape at the same power rating which delivers a CRI >90. Here, the efficiency is said to be 92 - 100 lm/W.
Both tapes are rated IP00.
iGuzzini Underscore 15
This tape is supplied in a loose, transparent, rectangular section, flexible silicone sheath. It gives extra protection to the LEDs and means that you can achieve IP65 (with suitably sealed end caps). The sheath also means it is easier to wipe away dust. The tape we tested emits 1,680 lm/m with CRI of 90 and runs at 19W. iGuzzini recommends that it’s fitted on a 15mm-wide aluminium strip or channel.
Integral LED Spotless
This tape is called Spotless because the LEDs are very close together, just 3mm apart, and so it produces a continuous line of light without any bright spots or shadows. It delivers a respectable 1,550 lm/m with a CRI of 90 at 4000K. The cut points are only 20mm apart so you can make the tape almost exactly fit its location without any shadows at the ends.
LED-Flex Lumen Line 240
What makes this tape different from its competitors is the extremely high colour rendering index, a CRI of 97. It is also available in a very warm 2100K and 2300K as well as 2700K, 3000K, 4000K and 6000K. Depending on the colour temperature, you can achieve up to 1,845 lm/m. There are 240 LEDs per metre and so the lit effect is much more even than most. It’s also worth mentioning that there is another version of this tape which produces 3,000lm/m albeit with a CRI of 80.
Led Linear Nexus LD40
The LD40 is the most powerful and has the highest lumen output in the LED Linear Nexus range. It’s rated at 40W/m and emits a whopping 4,500 lm/m at 3000K. You can achieve an even higher light output with the cooler versions. All this is achieved with a CRI of 95 across the whole range from 2200K to 5000K. The Nexus also has a strong red (R9) value. Lower wattage versions down to 5W/m and 650 lm/m (at 3000K) are also available. LED Linear says that the extremely good thermal conductivity between the LED chip junction temperature and the supporting heat sink profile is the reason it can offer such high outputs with a rated life (L90.B10) of 60,000 hours.
Osram make an absolutely huge range of tapes to suit just about any and all applications. The particular one we have chosen here is an unusual combination of a really warm 2000K and yet it produces 2,500lm/m at 29W. The colour rendering index on this tape is over 80 but many other versions with higher output, 3,000lm/m, or higher CRI are available.
Overled Flex 605
We reviewed this tape because it uses the Seoul Semiconductor SunLike LED chip. This chip is claimed to have spectral characteristics close to daylight and thus can be used in human centric lighting applications. The CRI is greater than 95 and a the TM-30 colour fidelity is 96. Depending on its colour temperature, the tape produces typically 1,250 lumens/metre. An interesting feature of its construction is that the PCB is gold plated. They claim this makes the tape more resistant to humidity and other adverse environmental conditions.
We chose this tape because of its high light output; it’s the highest we’ve seen. The 2700K version emits 3,000 lm/m and the 4000K emits 3,380 lm/m. At these ratings, the tape has a CRI greater than 80. They also make tape with a higher CRI, 90, but this has a lower lumen output.
Xicato XLT Artist series
Xicato is renowned for high colour rendering LEDs and the company recently introduced an equivalent LED tape. It achieves a CRI of 95 across all the colour temperatures of 2700K, 3000K, 3500K and 4000K. The R9 value is 95 and none of the other 14 CIE Ra values drops lower than this. If you are used to the American TM-30 colour system, this tape has a colour fidelity of 95 and colour gamut of 102. What this means is that is that the colour rendering is about as perfect as you can get. This range of tapes emits 720 lm/m and is rated at 7.2W/m. The five-year guarantee also includes any variations in colour shift.
- See the latest LED tape at the LuxLive 2019 exhibition. The show takes place at ExCeL London on Wednesday 13 November and Thursday 14 November 2019. Entry is free if you pre-register. For more info, click HERE