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5 ways to use LED strip lights around your home | Popular Science

Lighting affects us both physiologically and psychologically. We may take it for granted at times, but it’s all around us. Stores, workplaces, restaurants, and every flick of a light switch in our own homes all bathe us in a glow that can change our mood.

While we have limited control over the light design we encounter while out and about, we can match the lighting in our homes to the rhythm of our days, providing soothing calm when it’s nighttime, or an energy boost when we need it.

In a 2015 study conducted at a Netherlands elderly care center, researchers found accent lighting could help cheer patients up or reduce anxiety. Brighter lights with cool blue accents had an uplifting effect, while dimmer lights with orange hues in the same room created a cozy, calming ambiance.

If you’re looking for your next DIY project, search no more—enhance your space with mood lighting for an aesthetic upgrade that can also improve your mood, sleep, and productivity.

Customize your home with LED lighting

You’ve likely noticed colorful mood lighting on Twitch streams, in showroom kitchens, and at museums. It’s fairly easy to recreate these same emotion-altering effects at home with the help of LED lights, which also happen to be what the pros use.

Light-emitting diodes (the words behind the LED acronym) are not only more energy-efficient and longer-lasting than incandescent bulbs, they’re more versatile, too.

[Related: There’s a lot to learn about how blue light affects our eyes]

Easy-to-use rolls of LED strip lighting open up a multitude of mood lighting options for the home DIYer, with RGB LED strip lighting adding even more customization potential. LEDs produce light when an electric current passes through a microchip (instead of heating a metal filament), and the RGB version mixes red, blue, and green chips to produce light in a wide range of colors.

To level up your light design, try installing LED strips in these five places around your home.

1. Under cabinets

As the name implies, under-cabinet lighting illuminates areas underneath your cabinetry. It’s most often used under a kitchen’s upper cabinets, and is partly responsible for making you swoon over showroom kitchens. 

Lighting the underside of a cabinet can create a better-lit workspace, whether that’s a cutting board on your kitchen counter or a notepad on the alcove desk you use to work from home. 

This task lighting will prevent you from straining your eyes, and these accent lights can also illuminate the space without you having to flick on brighter overhead bulbs when it’s time to wind down. Good for your sleep, and energy-saving at the same time.

2. Along toe kicks

We’d all be hunched over floor-mounted cabinets if not for that little bit of kick space providing room for your toes. 

Using LED strips under your lower cabinets will illuminate that foot-friendly area and give your kitchen a nice glow. Plus, these lights will help you avoid stubbing your toes during a midnight trip to the fridge.

Try using RGB LEDs for toe kicks that shine with vibrant color. Set the lights to a red hue and skip feeling your way around the bathroom, eyes closed, mummy arms outstretched, in an attempt to stop yourself from fully waking up. 

3. Under shelves

Lighting the underside of your shelves can spotlight figurine collections, books, and other knickknacks that make your home yours.

Shelves may also cast a shadow on your alcove workspace or standard desk, so light them up just as you would wall-mounted cabinets. The same goes for kitchens with open shelves instead of cabinetry.

[Related: Stop blaming blue light for all your problems]

Laundry rooms, which tend to be in dark closets, garages, or basements are a great spot for shelf-mounted LEDs. If you have a shelf over your washer and dryer, try lighting the underside for better sorting and detergent pouring. If they’re front-loading stackables in a closet, just place the strip lighting on the ceiling like you would under a shelf.

4. Under the bed 

Placing lights under a bed can provide a comforting night light in a kid’s room. In your own bedroom, it can create a cozy ambiance if you use amber hues or other warm tones. If your home organization projects are still a work in progress, under-bed accent lights can also help the room feel more put-together than it actually is. 

Using color-changing LED light strips gives you the opportunity to create a lounge feel with purples, greens, or any color you can create.

As in other lighting locations, RGB accent lights will give you options to switch up your lighting come evening by adjusting brightness and color. 

5. Behind computer and TV screens 

Bias lighting on the back of your computer or television screen can help relieve eye strain while simultaneously making images more clear. You can easily achieve this glowing effect by placing a strip of LED lights on the top, bottom, and down both sides of the screen.

For gaming or working at night, you might want to try RGB LED strips to change up the color for your desired vibe. Go for pure white if you’re a creative, though—other hues could affect your ability to accurately perceive colors. 

[Related: A cheap set of LEDs is the best way to upgrade your fancy new TV]

It’s tempting to immediately run out for some LED strip lighting, but there are a few things to consider before you start filling your shopping cart.

Decisions to make before you buy

First, figure out if you want plain white LEDs, RGB strips (for color), or RGBW lights (for both color and clean white light), and choose your desired brightness. Pro tip: RGB lights can produce white, but only by turning all three colors up to their brightest setting. While this is a close approximation, it’s not the same. 

Think about how you want your lights to look. Depending on the features in the roll you’re buying, the colors may change by the section, or the whole strip may have to be set to the same color. Like holiday lights, some will let you program motion while others remain static. 

As the price range varies, so does the manner in which you can control your lighting. At the budget-friendly end, most light strips are programmed via remote control. For a few more customization options, such as brightness, you might want app-controlled lights. You’ll need Bluetooth for most, or you can use Wi-Fi and integrate them with a smart home device like Amazon Alexa

You’ll also need some supplies in addition to your lights. To connect your LED strips without soldering, you’ll need solderless clamps, or connectors. These can join two strips or connect one strip to wiring. This wiring, or low voltage cable, will in turn connect strips to your 120-volt AC power supply, which converts to 12-volt DC power. To diffuse your light, you can pick up LED light strip channels. 

Make sure to measure how long your run of lights needs to be, too, so the rolls of strip lighting you buy don’t fall short or leave you with too much left over. Some people find it helpful to draw a diagram that maps out their lights, connection points, power supply, and outlets.

If the installation step makes you a little nervous, try checking out the websites of LED lighting suppliers. They usually have a section on their website dedicated to detailed tutorials. 

With these tips in mind, you’re well on your way to an elevated space and mood.



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