The Best LED Light Strips of 2021

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Best LED Light Strips Options

Photo: depositphotos.com

An LED light strip is a long circuit board with surface-mount device light-emitting diodes (SMD LEDs) that provide a glow to any room. The strips are also known as LED tape or ribbon lights and usually have an adhesive backing for easy installation.

Some of the best LED light strip options can be used for many different interior design projects, including recessed lighting, television backlighting, or kitchen countertop illumination with undercabinet lighting.

We tested each of the light strips on this list to see how they performed. Each one was selected based on quality, functionality, and attractive design. In addition to evaluating how well the light strips worked, we looked at the strength of adhesives, app functionality, brightness, and installation ease. Keep reading to see which lights shone above the rest.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Govee Smart LED Strip Lights
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Nexillumi 50Ft LED Strip Lights
  3. TV BACKLIGHTING PICK: PANGTON VILLA Led Strip Lights
  4. MOTION-ACTIVATED PICK: Cotanic LED Closest Light, Motion Sensor Lights 

ALSO TESTED:

Philips Hue Light Strip

Photo: Stacey L. Nash

What to Look for When Buying LED Light Strips

There are many features to consider when shopping for an LED light strip, from color and size to intended use and brightness. Before purchasing an LED light strip, consider keeping the following factors in mind to ensure your choice meets or exceeds your expectations for the intended application.

Location of Use

It’s essential to determine where the LED light strip will be installed before deciding which product to use. Some designs meet specific purposes, such as stair lighting or television backlighting. Because of this specialization, they are different from the average LED light strip. For example, a product intended for backlighting a TV may come with four precut pieces and television-specific syncing options that change color to mimic the colors on the screen.

Other location considerations are water resistance for patios, dimmer compatibility for bedrooms, or motion sensing for a hall, bathroom, or stairway. Even a more generic installation location like a wall or ceiling warrants some consideration before you make your purchase so you don’t end up with a specialty product that isn’t meant for where you intend to place it.

Length

Light strips are available in a variety of lengths, typically from 1 to 32 feet. The brightness and intended purpose usually correlate to their length. For example, LED light strips intended for television backlighting or use on stairs tend to be shorter for easier installation.

Low-brightness LED light strips can be up to 32 feet long with about 300 LED lights. High- brightness LED light strips may have the same number of LED modules, but they’ll usually only be about 16 feet long. However, most flexible light strips can be cut using scissors to accommodate small areas. If longer LED tape is needed, pieces can often be connected to customize to the desired length.

Flexibility

Most light strips feature a flexible circuit board that can bend around corners or run over curved surfaces. Some LED light strips are so flexible that they can be bent up to 90 degrees without damaging the circuit board.

However, as the power of an LED light strip increases, the flexibility decreases, with some light strips being completely rigid in design. These inflexible products tend to be much shorter, sometimes only 1 foot long, and significantly brighter than the average light strip. They can also feature motion-sensing technology, making them ideal for lighting stairs.

Brightness

The brightness of an LED light strip is measured in lumens per meter or LM and is dictated by the density of the LED lights within 1 meter.

Brightness can be challenging to figure out, and some manufacturers don’t include this information. By taking note of the LED density, the average brightness of the light strip can be found. Average light strips come in two densities: standard density (SD) of 30 LEDs per meter (9.1 LEDs/foot) or high density (HD) of 60 LEDs per meter (18.3 LEDs/foot).

Standard-density (SD) light strips produce an average of 540 LM and need 27 watts of power. They can be up to 32.8 feet long. High-density (HD) light strips provide an average of 1,080 LM and need 40 watts of power and come in a maximum length of 16.4 feet.

Color and Color Temperature

The color of a light strip is critical to keep in mind. Some light strips come in only one color, while others can have color selections that range in the millions. The color option that you choose is entirely dependent on your personal preference.

Color temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin (K) and describes how warm or cool a light’s color appears, and lower numbers indicate warmer color temperatures. The soft glow of an average incandescent light bulb is a warm temperature of 2,700K, while natural daylight is much cooler, averaging 6,500K.

Wattage

Wattage is a measure of how much energy the light strip requires to function at its optimal brightness. If a light strip requires more energy than the power source is capable of providing, it won’t work correctly, often producing a much weaker light. LED light strips operate using batteries, using power adapters plugged into wall outlets, or being hardwired directly into the home’s electrical system.

LED light strips with lower brightness requirements, such as a 540-LM strip, will also have reduced wattage requirements. As brightness demands increase, power demands also rise, with a 16.4-foot, standard-density light strip requiring 27 watts of power and a 16.4-foot, high-density LED light strip requiring 40 watts.

Operation

In years past, LED light strips were hardwired into the electrical system to work with a light switch or plugged into a power outlet and controlled with a button. However, LED light strips have come a long way from their original design.

Light strips are available that connect to Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, remotes, or mobile phone apps. With these controls, the brightness and color can be adjusted, the lights can be programmed to sync with music, or schedules can be set for waking up, arriving home from work, or going to sleep.

LED light strips that connect with smart-home ecosystems like Amazon Alexa or Google Home can even be controlled using voice commands, while more straightforward options with just one color may only have a remote to turn the light on or off.

Our Top Picks

No matter what type of LED light strip you need, a common goal is to find a high-quality product. To make the search easier, we tested a variety of LED light strips, and based on our testing, we chose the following options as some of the best available based on the above buying factors, price, effectiveness, and reputation. Organized by type, one of these may be what you need to light up your home.

Best Overall

The Best LED Light Strips Option: Govee Smart LED Strip Lights
Photo: amazon.com

The Govee 32.8-foot smart LED light strip has almost 33 feet of bright 1,080-LM lighting with up to 16 million color options through the Govee home app. The light strip can also connect with Amazon Alexa and Google Home to provide voice control over lighting. Turn the lights on or off while walking into an area, or even control the color settings without lifting a finger.

It comes in two flexible 16.4-foot rolls and requires 40 watts of power for optimal functionality. Use a smartphone to set a schedule for operation, or enjoy the sound-responsive microphone, which prompts the LEDs to change color with music beats, hand claps, and other sounds.

In our testing, we found that this Govee light strip balanced a little of everything, from adhesive strength to color options and scheduling. We tested these lights under kitchen cabinets, and we found that they were bright enough to be used as task lighting. The app had excellent connectivity, great schedule options, and lighting choices based on scenes or manual preferences. Govee got extra points for providing support clips that adhere or screw in to hold the heavier parts of the electrical cord if needed.

Product Specs

  • Total Length: 32.8 feet on 2 by 16.4-foot rolls
  • Control: App, remote, and electrical cord control
  • Maximum Light Level: Medium

Pros

  • Easy-to-set-up app
  • Versatile lighting options (scenes, voice, music)
  • Excellent connectivity
  • Lots of length for the price
  • Includes support brackets

Cons

  • Somewhat limited color selection
  • Voice and music setting aren’t great


Best Bang for the Buck

The Best LED Light Strips Option: Nexillumi 50Ft LED Strip Lights
Photo: amazon.com

Nexillumi’s 50-foot Music Sync LED Light Strip uses 540-LM LED lights for the perfect room or entertainment center accent. Two flexible 25-foot light strips are included, along with several straight and L-shaped connectors so that the light strip can be cut and applied anywhere.

The lower brightness of these LEDs means that only 27 watts of power is required for the best light output. Download the Ehome Light app for fully customizable color selection, response to music beats, and brightness optimization. A remote with the same functionality is also included for those who are uncomfortable with smartphone applications.

We tested these lights in the kitchen. The Nexillumi’s strips aren’t coated, but that made them lighter, which helped the adhesive keep the strips in place under the upper cabinets. While they don’t put out much light, it’s enough to provide accent lighting and improved visibility. The app worked well, but the remote wasn’t the best. We found that the remote had to be pretty close to get it to work, and sometimes it didn’t work at all.

Product Specs

  • Total Length: 50 feet on 2 by 25-foot rolls
  • Control: App, remote, and electrical cord on/off
  • Maximum Light Level: Low

Pros

  • Lightweight strings
  • Adheres well
  • App works well
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • Low light level, even on max
  • Remote didn’t work well
  • Voice setting required being close


TV Backlighting Pick

The Best LED Light Strips Option: PANGTON VILLA Led Strip Lights
Photo: amazon.com

Designed for TV backlighting, the Pangton Villa LED TV backlight with remote comes in four strips with adhesive backing for simple application. The 540-LM lighting is perfect for setting a mood behind a television while playing a favorite game or curling up to watch a scary movie.

No need to worry about wattage requirements because the light strip connects directly to a television through a USB port. If a TV does not have a USB port, plug an adapter into the power outlet. Choose from 16 different colors, or dim the lights with the included remote control. However, keep in mind that this light strip kit is only for televisions or computer monitors and probably won’t be a great option for other situations.

The Pangton Villa LED Strip Lights easily adhered and never lost their grip during our testing. They provide dim accent lighting, which is perfect for backlighting a TV. The remote control isn’t hard to use, though it’s kind of a guess as to what each button does. The light strips are broken into sections with flexible connectors, so they can be adapted to fit a TV. We found this feature to be helpful during installation.

Product Specs

  • Total Length: For 40- to 60-inch TVs
  • Control: Remote control
  • Maximum Light Level: Low

Pros

  • Versatile installation options
  • Easy to control using remote
  • Fun color choices and lighting patterns

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with an adapter


Motion-Activated Pick

The Best LED Light Strips Option: Cotanic Motion Sensor LED Closet Light
Photo: amazon.com

The Cotanic LED Motion Sensor Light Strip isn’t flexible like most other light strips. It provides a 10-foot area in which the motion sensor can detect movement and automatically turn on the LED light strip. After 18 seconds of inactivity within the 10-foot range, the light strip shuts off. The high-density light strip can be attached or removed from its magnetic mount for easy recharging through a USB port, eliminating the need for electrical wires.

The ultrathin design is perfect for dark hallways or a set of stairs to provide lighting during the darkest hours while remaining unobtrusive to feet. The glare-free diffusion plate makes it an ideal nighttime guide, preventing users from being blinded when it automatically activates.

This light was a conundrum in our testing. We tested it in an office, attaching it to a hutch above a desk. For the first few days, the motion sensor didn’t work. It has three settings—on, off, and auto. No matter how much walking, flapping, or waving we did, it wouldn’t turn on when it was set on auto…that is until about 5 days into testing. Suddenly, the motion sensor worked and did so beautifully for the next week.

Despite sensor issues, this light’s design was one of our favorites. It attaches via adhesive-backed magnetic brackets. Pop the light out of the brackets to charge it, and it can attach to any magnetic surface. We loved the bright light and would replace a desk lamp with it to save space.

Product Specs

  • Total Length: 15.96 inches
  • Control: Manual on light
  • Maximum Light Level: Medium

Pros

  • Easy installation
  • Magnetic attachment and removal
  • Rechargeable
  • Convenient size

Cons

  • Motion sensor didn’t work at first (but then it did)
  • Short charging cord


Also Tested:

We also tested the Philips Hue Bluetooth Smart Lightstrip and Monster 6.5-Foot Multicolor LED Light, but neither passed testing. The Philips offered the brightest and highest-quality lights we tested. Unfortunately, this product had serious Bluetooth connectivity issues that made it unusable. Check out our full review here.

The Monster light strip had adhesive problems. First, the backing would only partially come off, rendering a quarter of the light strip nonsticky. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t get the rest of the backing off of one section. Finally, we installed the rest of the light strip, but it fell down within 24 hours. We even tried supporting the rest of the strip with a support clip from another light strip, but the lights still fell. A poor adhesive made these lights unusable.

Our Verdict

Govee makes high-quality, reliable light strips. The Govee Smart LED Strip Light came in as our top pick because of how simple it is to control, its easy connectivity, and the millions of colors available to choose from. While the others on our list worked well, this one was our favorite.

How We Tested the Best LED Light Strips

We tested light strips according to an established rubric that included criteria for illumination, installation, performance, and durability. After rating the lights on a scale of 0 to 4, we calculated their rating.

Light strips were installed in a kitchen or onto a TV, based on the design. Manufacturer installation and operation instructions were followed. Testing took place over a 2½-week period to give us a more accurate view of the light strips’ functionality and adhesive strength. We connected the lights to their accompanying apps and tested the features to find out not only their usefulness but also their functionality in everyday life.

According to each product’s features, we set lighting schedules, created lighting themes, and varied how and when the lights were used. By installing the lights in real-life situations, we were able to get an idea of how well they functioned overall as well as which individual settings worked best.

FAQs

LED light strips come with many pros and a few cons. If you’re still unsure whether they’re the right lighting solution for you, the answers to some of the most common questions below may help. Keep in mind that there are many different types, styles, strip lengths, and even weights to consider. Certain circumstances, like slow internet speeds or the setup parameters within a home, can affect how well the lights work, too.

Q. Are LED light strips safe?

LED light strips are safe as long as they’re installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For example, indoor lights shouldn’t be installed outside, and some lights should not be installed where they can get wet.

Q. How long can you run LED light strips?

LED light strips can run for hours on end without being shut off. They get warm, but they’re designed to underdrive the LEDs, which means they don’t overheat.

Q. Do LED light strips have to be plugged in to work?

Yes, you have to leave LED light strips plugged in for them to work. We did test one battery-operated cordless model, but it was a short 16-inch strip.

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Timothy Dale is a freelance writer, specializing in the home repair and construction niche. He spent his post-secondary years working in the plumbing trade, while completing degrees in English Literature and Psychology, before taking on a Project Management position that ended up lasting 10 years. Mr. Dale has worked in residential plumbing and carpentry over his time as a Project Manager and also spent a year of his career in the commercial and industrial sector.