Flexible LED Ribbon/Strip for Shack Lighting …

LED_LIGHT

One of the things I’ve been meaning to do for the last couple of years is put some low voltage lighting in the shack in case of a power failure. I’ve had some success with this using various LED lanterns and battery operated LED lights that stick to the bottom of a shelf. While these options worked, I was really only able to get enough light to illuminate my immediate work area. I wanted to get something that would do at least a decent job of lighting up a small room. If I could manage it, I wanted to be able to use the lighting source on a regular basis and not just when the power went out.

I was listening to Episode 79 of Ham Nation, titled “How is Your Microphone Cable,” when I heard Gordon “Gordy” West mention flexible LED ribbons that were about 16 feet long and ran on battery power. I don’t remember the site he mentioned on the podcast, but I do remember visiting the site while listening. The price seemed to be a little high to me, though I thought I could find a practical application for it, so I decided to a search on Amazon to see what I could find. I was pleasantly surprised with the options I was presented with.

The LED ribbons that I was looking at come in 16 foot ribbons. Depending on what you want, you can get 300 LEDs on a 16 foot ribbon or 600 LEDs on a ribbon. You can even get different colors. The price will vary depending on what you want. There are a few caveats, however, which I will attempt to explain.

At first, I decided to get 600 LEDs (warm white) on a ribbon. Upon closer inspection, I realized that I would need at least — and this is one of the caveats — 48 watts DC to run the lights at their full brightest. It was hard to find an adequately powered AC-to-DC transformer at a price I wanted to pay, so I decided to go with the ribbon containing 300 warm white LEDs. This ribbon only required about 25 watts DC, and I was able to find a suitable transformer at a very reasonable price.

Another caveat is that not only does the number of LEDs require more or less voltage to operate, different colored LEDs MAY require more or less voltage to operate as well. You really need to look at the item specifications before ordering.

A third potential caveat, which should come as no surprise, may be the AC-to-DC transformer. The one I use is incredibly noisy on the HF bands. If you run on battery power, you’re home free.

Here is the link for the LED Strip/Ribbon light that I purchased off of Amazon. I’m sure there are other places that you can get these, so you’re not limited to just Amazon.

Here is the link for the AC-to-DC transformer that I purchased on Amazon. Again, you don’t have to limit yourself to just Amazon, and there certainly may be better transformers out there.

Installing the LED strip/ribbon is fairly straight-forward. Simply peel the paper off the back of the LED ribbon to expose the adhesive and stick it to whatever you’d like. I put mine up on the wall near the ceiling. As for the power lead: I used the lead from an old wall wart that I wasn’t using anymore and put that in line between the transformer and the LED ribbon. Obviously, you can make your own but I just had one laying around. I plugged the transformer into one of those remote controlled light switches so I wouldn’t have to plug and unplug the transformer every time I wanted to use it.

So, how does it stack up? After nearly 18 months of being up in the shack, which gets rather warm, the LEDs are still attached to the wall. There are some areas where the adhesive backing has worn off but you can get some double-sided tape and reapply it. As for the amount of light they emit? Let’s put it this way: I can read my handwritten notes or a book comfortably in the shack with just the LED strip light. I can also see the buttons on my HF rig (they are not backlit) with ease. If I had to guess — and it’s just that, a guess — I would say it’s equivalent to a single 40-watt light bulb, maybe a little less. I ran the 300-LED strip/ribbon on a 7 amp-hour battery and noticed that the LEDs started to dim right after about 6 hours. The nice thing about a 7 amp-hour battery is that you could charge it on a solar panel during the day if you had an appropriate sized panel and enough sunlight, then use the battery during the evening hours until you turned in for the night.

So, if you’re looking for emergency lighting for your shack or any room in your house, give the LED ribbon/strip a look. It’s really qute inexpensive and you really can’t go wrong.

73 de Andre
KC0MMY

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