LED tape has lots of uses. Perhaps the most common is cove lighting where you want to provide a glow of light around a room. You will also find them under stair nosings, kickboards and the bottom of kitchen cabinets. Backlighting signs and artificial skylights are other common applications.
Colour temperature is important. If you are backlighting a sign or trying to imitate daylight, then 6000K may be acceptable. You also get more lumens per watt with cool LEDs. The disadvantage is that at low levels of illumination, the light from cool LEDs can look dull and grey. Warmer colour temperatures like 2700K or 3000K work better for residential and low illumination locations.
There are a lot of suppliers offering LED tape, although not all were keen to send us samples for these reviews – some have new products coming out very soon and didn’t want us to review something that will soon be superseded, while a couple of quite large suppliers just didn’t want their products compared to their competitors. So hats off to those who were willing to have their products tested and scrutinised independently for the benefit of Lux readers.
If you are considering using tape, ask for independently verified test data. Also, get to see a working sample. Preferably, do a small trial in the actual application.
One final point, choose the correct power supply for the tape. Some of those sent with the LED tape samples had low power factor or were ‘lossy’.
We sent four 500mm-long samples to the Lighting Industry Association Laboratories and tested the tape for colour temperature, colour rendering, lumen output, wattage and power factor.
When you look at the results, it’s worth remembering that most suppliers have a range of tapes with different electrical and lighting characteristics. The data below is only for the tape tested.
Always follow the manufacturers’ recommendations for installation and fixing. All the samples used double sided tape. High power (watts per linear metre) tapes might have to be fixed to an aluminium extrusion to dissipate the heat.
The power consumption and power factor shown are based on the power supply sent to us by the manufacturer or supplier. If you have a large amount of tape to install, you might want to consider using a better power supply with a higher power factor.
We tested Aurora’s ST224W, which is its bestselling strip. A useful feature is that the LEDs are only 8mm apart and you can cut the tape every 50mm, so it is ideal for signs and displays. The tape itself is 8mm wide and requires a 24V DC supply.
- CCT 6074K
- CRI (Ra14) 72
- Output (lm/lin m) 814
- Power (W/lin m) 14.4
- Efficacy (lm/W) 57
- Power factor 0.72
This is similar to the Aurora in terms of spacing, luminous efficacy, voltage and width. It is slightly cooler in appearance and has a slightly better colour-rendering index. The power supply is a combined three-pin plug and transformer, which may account for the lower power factor.
- CCT 6611K
- CRI (Ra14) 82
- Output (lm/lin m) 726
- Power (W/lin m) 13
- Efficacy (lm/W) 56
- Power factor 0.46
This tape is available in 2700, 3000, 4000, 5000 and 6500K versions, so you have a much wider choice than with other suppliers. It also had the highest efficacy of those tested. The tape is usually supplied on a reel, although our sample was fixed in a compact aluminium extrusion. As ever, the quality of Osram’s technical data is superb. Our only quibble is that the Osram power supply had a power factor of 0.46.
- CCT 3877K
- CRI (Ra14) 85
- Output (lm/lin m) 614
- Power (W/lin m) 9.2
- Efficacy (lm/W) 67
- Power factor 0.42
This tape runs at higher power than the others and you get more light output per metre, but not per watt. The LIA Labs measured this tape at almost 26W/m using the power supply that was supplied with it, although Tryka claims it can achieve 14.4W/m with a different power supply. The tape has an excellent colour-rendering index of 94. At 4230K, this would be ideal for coving where you also want to provide a low level of good quality background lighting.
- CCT 4230K
- CRI (Ra14) 94
- Output (lm/lin m) 1440
- Power (W/lin m) 25.9
- Efficacy (lm/W) 56
- Power factor 0.46
The original print version of this article (Lux Hospitality Special, February 2015) included a photo caption implying that LED tape was used for cove lighting in the foyer of the Hammersmith Apollo. In fact Radiant Architectural Lighting's 3D LED Flex product was used for this project.