An LED light strip is a long circuit board with surface-mounted light-emitting diodes (SMD LEDs) that give a warm glow to any room. The strips are also known as LED tape or ribbon lights and usually have an adhesive backing for easy installation.
The best LED light strip can be used for many different interior design projects, including recessed lighting, backlighting a television, or illuminating kitchen countertops with under-cabinet lighting. The LED light strips below are some of the best in their respective categories, selected for quality, functionality, and attractive design.
- BEST OVERALL: Govee 32.8ft Smart LED Strip Lights
- RUNNER-UP: Nexillumi 50Ft LED Strip Lights
- BACKLIGHTING PICK: PANGTON VILLA LED Strip Lights
- MOTION-ACTIVATED PICK: Cotanic 70 LED Closet Light
- COLORFUL PICK: Govee Dreamcolor LED Strip Lights RGBIC
What to Look for When Buying LED Light Strips
Before purchasing an LED light strip, keep these 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 you will install your LED light strip before deciding which product you will use. Some designs meet specific purposes, such as step lighting or television backlighting.
This specialization differentiates them from the average LED light strip. For example, a product intended for backlighting a TV may come with four pre-cut pieces and television-specific syncing options, which change color to mimic the colors on the screen.
Other location considerations are water-resistance for patio use, dimmer compatibility for bedroom LED light strips, or motion-sensing LED tape for the hall, bathroom, or stairway. Even a more generic installation location like a wall or ceiling warrants some consideration before purchasing so you don’t end up with a specialty product that isn’t meant for where you intend to place it.
Light strips come in a variety of lengths, from one foot to 32 feet on average, depending on their brightness and purpose. 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 in length, with 300 LED lights. High brightness LED light strips will have the same number of LED modules, but will only measure up to 16 feet in length. However, most flexible light strips can be cut using scissors to shorten if necessary. Or, if you need longer LED tape, you can connect pieces to customize your desired length.
Most light strips feature a flexible circuit board to bend around corners or run over curved surfaces. Some LED light strips are so flexible you can bend them 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 one foot in length, and significantly brighter than the average light strip. They can also feature motion-sensing technology, making them ideal for lighting stairs.
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 one meter.
Brightness can be challenging to figure out on your own, and some manufacturers don’t include this information. By taking note of the LED density, you can find the average brightness of the light strip. 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 run up to 32.8 feet.
- High density (HD) light strips provide an average of 1080 LM and need 40 watts of power, with 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. The soft glow of an average incandescent lightbulb is a cool temperature of 2,700K, while natural daylight is much warmer, averaging 6,500K. However, this is only a factor for light strips with a single color option.
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, power adapters plugged into wall outlets, or you can hardwire them 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.
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.
You can now get light strips that connect to Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, remotes, or mobile phone apps. With these controls, you can adjust the brightness and color, program the lights to sync with your music, or set schedules for when you wake up, arrive home from work or go 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 purchase, you want it to be a high-quality product. These LED light strips are some of the best available, based on the above buying factors, price, effectiveness, and reputation.
These LED strip lights from Govee feature almost 33 feet of bright, 1,080 LM lighting with up to 16 million color options to choose from through the Govee home app.
The light strip can also connect with Amazon Alexa and Google Home to give you voice control over your lighting. You can turn the lights on or off as you walk 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 your smartphone to set a schedule for operation, or enjoy the sound-responsive microphone which prompts the LEDs to change color with music beats, handclaps, and other sounds.
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 to get fully customizable color selection, response to music beats, and brightness optimization. A remote with the same functionality is also included for those uncomfortable with smartphone applications.
Designed for TV backlighting, this kit from PANGTON VILLA comes in four strips with adhesive backing for simple application. The 540 LM lighting is perfect for setting a mood behind your television while you play your favorite game or curl up to watch a scary movie.
You won’t need to worry about wattage requirements because the light strip connects directly to your television through a USB port. If your TV does not have a USB port, you can plug an adapter (included) into the power outlet. Choose between 16 different colors or dim the lights with the included remote control.
Keep in mind that this light strip kit is only for televisions or computer monitors, and won’t be a great option for any other type of lighting.
The Cotanic 70 LED Closet Light 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 ultra-thin design is perfect for dark hallways or a set of stairs to provide lighting during the darkest hours while remaining unobtrusive to your feet. The glare-free diffusion plate makes it an ideal nighttime guide, preventing you from being blinded when it automatically activates.
This high-density LED light strip is a color lover’s dream, with millions of hues available through a customizable color palette. The light strip can be controlled through the Govee home app to light up multiple colors simultaneously on the same strip. You can even sync the lighting to ambient audio using the built-in microphone.
However, the simultaneous multi-color lighting feature means that the flexible LED light strip cannot be cut to fit like other flexible light strips, so proper measurement is important.