Should you have decided to apply LED strip lights for your next project, or you’re almost ready to wire everything together? If you have many runs of LED strips and want to connect them to a single power supply, you may be wondering whether they should be connected in series or parallel.
Image source: Yeelight
When you just need to connect one LED segment to the matching power supply wires of the same color, the LED strips come with markings that indicate which side to connect the positive and which side to attach the negative (ground) wire. If you have two or more LED strip sections and are unsure how to connect them, keep reading to find out if you should connect LED strip lights in “series” or “parallel”!
Sidenote: From an electrical standpoint, the names “series” and “parallel” are actually wrong! We use these terms in this text to keep things simple, but we put them in quote marks for accuracy. Please see the article’s conclusion for a more detailed explanation.
Image source: LEDsupply
Wiring LED Strips in series and in parallel
How to Join LED Strips in “Series”
The idea of connecting two LED strip components in “series” is perhaps the most obvious and straightforward approach. Consider it as hooking one end of an LED strip to the next. If you just need to cover a short distance, solderless connections may be beneficial, or you can span a longer distance with copper wires cut to the exact length you want. On longer runs, keep a watch out for voltage dips, but otherwise, all you have to do is connect the positive/negative copper pads of one LED strip piece to the positive/negative copper pads of another.
This is a quick and simple approach since it does not necessitate the creation of a separate wire connection to the power source. You’re just allowing for a “jump” between two sections of LED strip.
The disadvantage is that this increases the possibility of extra voltage drop, resulting in lower light output among the LEDs farthest from the power supply. The reason for this is that connecting the LED strips in “series” permits the electrical current to travel just one direction. The initial few inches of an LED strip installation must carry all of the electrical current for the whole installation, which might function as a bottleneck for current flow, reducing the voltage and current that reaches the further LED strip sections.
How to Connect LED Strips in “Parallel”
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The alternative to connecting multiple LED strip sections together is to wire them in “parallel.” This method involves creating independent runs of LED strip sections, each of which is wired directly to the power source.
Because they are attached directly to the power supply, this decreases the amount of current that must run through any given LED strip segment. This can considerably reduce the risk of voltage drop.
The biggest downside of this strategy is that it will necessitate a bit of extra wiring. The main issue is that most power supply devices only have one of each positive and negative output wire, therefore connecting to more than one LED strip section will need splitting that output into many wires.
Specialized wire splitter terminal blocks are available for this purpose.
Another issue is that certain LED strip portions may be placed a long distance from the power supply. Long wire lengths may not only be an extra expenditure in these instances, but they must also be of suitable gauge. Otherwise, voltage loss in the cables may occur before you even reach the LED strip portion.
Why are the Terms “Series” and “Parallel” Technically Incorrect?
Many consumers use the term “series” to refer to the process of joining several LED strip sections end-to-end, also known as daisy-chaining.
Some of our more astute readers may have noticed that we put the term “series” in quotation marks. The reason for this is that the term “series” is technically inappropriate when referring to this setup.
Why is this Wrong, and Why is it Significant?
This is due to the way LED strip lights are constructed, as well as the underlying electrical principles. LED strips are long and come in a series (in the non-engineering meaning of “one after the other”), but they are really made up of numerous parallel branches, each with three LEDs for LED strips rated at 12V, or six LEDs for LED strips rated at 24V).
In other words, the three LEDs are linked in series, while the three LED groups are interconnected in parallel. This allows us to simply cut the LED strip lights into three LED intervals. When you cut an LED strip, you are just lowering the number of parallel branches. When you connect an LED strip end-to-end, you’re merely putting back more parallel branches.
We believe it is critical to explain since genuine electrical series connections alter the needed input voltage.
When people discuss wiring LED strips in “series,” they nearly usually refer to connecting LED strip pieces end-to-end. The LED strip input voltage remains constant when connected in this manner. In other words, you may utilize a 12V power source to power a 4-ft length of 12V LED strip lights that are daisy-chained with another 3-ft piece of 12V LED strip lights.