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Choose between 12V and 24V LED strip lights

All you need to know about 12 vs. 24 Volt LED strips

It is a great debate: What should it be, 12V LED vs. 24V LED strip?

Depending on your project, you might want to use a 12V or 24V LED system. Here is our guide to show you which one is best for your next low-voltage lighting design.

When to use 24V vs. 12V LED strips?

The 12V vs. 24V lighting systems debate has been out there for a long time, and this is irrelevant to LED color options or the white color temperature. The difference between 12V and 24V LED strip types available on the market is significant, but one of the most important decisions you'll need to make is whether to go with a 12V or 24V strip for your low-voltage lighting project. Here are the main considerations when choosing your LED strip:

Maximum run length for 12 vs. 24 Volt LED strip

When it comes to 12 Volt vs. 24 Volt LED strips, one of the main differences between the two is the fact that the 24V strips can be run for longer distances than the 12V strips can due to voltage drop. Voltage drop is the gradual decrease in voltage along a circuit due to the resistance of the copper conductors. Because 24V LED tape requires a lower current (see the next paragraph) for an equivalent power output, its voltage drop is proportionately less. Therefore, if your project requires a very long run of LEDs from a single power connection, we would recommend that you use 24V strips. However, for some projects 12V LED strip is more appropriate (for example, automotive or marine applications).

Amperage required – How much power can you put through your LED controller?

LED controllers are typical rated according to their maximum current. Since 24V LED strips require less current than equivalent 12V LED strips, 24V LED strips are superior in terms of demands when connecting them to a controller. You can power twice as many feet of 24V LED strips using the same controller receiver based on its current rating.

Cut length

When choosing between 12V vs. 24V LED strip lighting, the cut length is an essential factor to consider. 12V LED strips usually have half the distance between cut points compared to a 24V strip. This can be important for some applications, such as bathroom niches, under cabinet lights, or display monitor backlighting where you would prefer to cut to a very accurate length of strip. If your project requires a longer run of strip lights, 24V tape will be more suitable. 24V LED strips are perfect for applications where you don't have to worry about tight spaces.

To summarize the difference between 12V and 24V strip...

  • 24 Volt lighting systems are what we recommend in most applications unless there is a particular call for a 12V power source or cut length constraints.
  • Higher voltage systems = less current load on the LED strip PCB and supply wiring.
  • When running longer lengths, such as in the case of long linear outdoor lighting applications, 24V strips would mean fewer power supplies and connections.

Frequently asked questions

Q: Does voltage determine the light output of the LED strip?

A: Many people believe that the voltage affects the lighting fixture’s brightness but the reality is that there is no difference in brightness between a 12V and 24V LED strip light; the voltage does not determine the light output.

Q: Are 12V And 24V strip lights compatible?

A: No, 12V strips can get excessively hot within a few seconds of being connected to a 24V power supply unit. Simply put, connecting 24V to the 12V LED strip copper pads could cause the LEDs to burn out due to over-voltage.

If you try to do the reverse and connect a 24V LED strip to a 12V system, it will either not turn on at all or have a dimmed appearance. This applies to any 24V lights on a 12V system, not just to LED strips. We always advise verifying that the power supply's requirements for the voltage match the voltage of the LED strip.

Q: 12V vs. 24V LED tape light – Which is better?

A: You should now have a good understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of 12V vs. 24V LED strip lights. If the cut length isn't a concern, 24V strips are ideal because you can spread them further. If your project requires shorter cutting increments due to spatial issues, 12V strip should be your go-to option.

Using a 24V LED strip vs. 12V can dramatically reduce the amount of wiring required, saving you money in the process. Increasing the voltage causes a reduction in the current flowing through the system, meaning you can use thinner wires that are less expensive. And you require fewer supply connections for the same size installation.

Q: Are all LED lights low voltage?

A: LED lights come in two versions: a line-voltage version that can be directly operated on a 120V mains supply and a low-voltage version that can be operated on a 12V or 24V power supply. Line voltage LED lights come with their own integrated power supply unit, so they can be connected directly to an outlet without any extra power supply needed. 12V and 24V lighting systems need a transformer or LED 'driver' for operation. But this is not necessarily a disadvantage – they have high efficiency meaning a longer lifespan, and you won't be dealing with hazardous voltages.

Q: Are all LED light strips compatible?

A: LED strip lights are a great way to light up a space, but not all LED strip lights are compatible with one another. Even though you can easily connect two LED strip lights together, it is important to ensure that the voltage of the strips is the same and that the polarity is matched.

Q: Are all LED lights 12 volts?

A: The answer is no – and in fact most of our LED strips are 24V. We carry a few models in 12V, and then there is our Visive range which is 48V LED light strip for very long installation. Each has its own pros and cons.

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