Growing plants indoors, whether traditional house plants, herbs, flowers, or vegetables, is fun and relaxing year-round. However, one of the biggest dilemmas when growing indoors is proper lighting. How do you get the right light to your plants if you don’t have huge south-facing windows? I found the best answer by far is by using LED grow light tape strips.
I have seen these on the market for a while but honestly, I was a bit intimidated by them. The clips, dimmers, colors, timers, and adapters all seemed overwhelming. Boy, I was wrong!
One day out of sheer frustration while trying to get a plant to grow without the right light I gave in and order a roll. Now I am hooked!
The LED grow light tape is so easy to use and can go just about anywhere. Since I discovered these light strips I have changed all my other lighting to various LED grow light tape strips.
To clarify I am talking about the roll of LED lights that come in lengths that are typical 16.5 ft long and have an AC/DC adapter. You can get them in all kinds of colors and brightness levels. I use only the lights that come within the true grow light range. They can be either full-spectrum white or a red/blue color.
How to choose the right light
In this article, I will tell you my perspective on the pros and cons of using LED grow light tape strips. And most importantly some tips and tricks I have learned along the way.
As I have said there are many options available. I use only the 2 leads, self-adhesive, (ugh more about that later), waterproof tape. I choose this kind because I wanted to learn the basics before I get to the more complicated 4 lead, dimmable versions. Being a plant person I use the waterproof kind for obvious reasons.
How to use the LED grow light tape strips
First, decide on where you need lighting.
The tape is very narrow, about a 1/4 of an inch. It can be put in any direction. You can put it vertical, or horizontal. It can arch over or bend forward. Keep in mind this lighting does not bend at flat angles without extra work on your part. We will talk about how to do that later.
When you have the spot for your light tape picked out, just measure the length you need. You can cut the tape to fit your space. Most tape will give you cut areas every 4″.
Prepare to solder your light tape
When you cut your tape make sure that you cut the copper makers as equal as possible. You will need cooper spots on any end you solder so leaving as much as you can on every piece is important.
If you are using waterproof LED grow light strips then you will have to remove the waterproofing. Do this by carefully using a utility knife to make a cut where you want the covering to end. Then take the knife and separate the waterproofing from the light strip.
If your LED grows light tape came with a pre-soldered plug then you are set to go. If not then you need to solder an end to connect to your power supply.
How to solder LED light tape
It is pretty easy to solder these tape pieces. With a little practice, you can solder and wire on in less than a minute.
You will need a soldering iron. They are available pretty cheaply. Also, you will need solder.
The trick to soldering is to put a bit of solder on both surfaces before you try to join them together.
Going distance between light strips or at flat angles
Use 16 or 18 gauge wire to attach to the LED tape. You can run long or short distances and do tight angles by attaching a length of wire to the ends of two light strips.
Caution! There is a positive and negative side to the lights. They are well marked. When you run a wire from one strip to the other make sure you keep the positive and negative sides consistent on all your strips.
After you solder, tape the connects with electrical tape.
Soldering to add a plug to your light strips.
Some tape will come with one end wired for a plug. Use that to your advantage when laying out your lighting design.
If you need additional plugs you can order the plugs with wire on them. They will solder to the end of your tape strip easily.
Soldering to make electrical connections with LED grow light tape is super simple.
You can run several pieces together or just use one piece. As long as the negative and positive sides are wired together you can run pieces together by wiring one piece to another or by using barrel plugs to connect the strips.
Putting up LED light tape
Now that you have the perfect size pieces and you have a plug on one end you need to put the tape up.
All the different brands of tape have some kind of peel and stick backing. The theory is that you pearl back the paper, stick it to where you need the light and it will stay. No! They always fall down!
Some brands will include small plastic track pieces along with the stick back. I find these hard to use and they make the tape not sit flat.
Other brands come with little single screw clips that go over the light strip tape. These are the ones that I find most useful. I like them because you can add the clips to both ends over the wire light connection points. This will help stabilize the wire connection. It also will help keep the wire in place a the point of most stress, where the weight of the wire can “pull off”. If your lighting does not come with these or even if they do, I highly recommend having extra on hand.
AC/DC adapters for plugging in your LED grow lights
You can not wire your lights to a standard plug. They need an adapter to convert from the power type. LED grow lighting has two typical choices for ac/dc adapter connectors.
You can get wired plug connectors for LED lighting that has a USB connector. These are convenient as more homes are being wired with UBS outlets right in the walls. You can also use any universal USB connector that you have already.
The more standard connector in use right now is still the barrel connectors. These are connectors the ones used in a typical laptop adaptor design. You wire a female barrel connector to your lights then plug it into an ac/ad brick that will then plug into an outlet.
Caution About Adaptors for LED grow lights!
Regardless of what style of plug you use make sure the actual ac/ad converter is sized properly. The lights you choose will have the specificities about what they need.
If you are buying an adaptor separately or using one you have already check the numbers. Having an undersized adaptor can cause big problems.
If you plug your LED light strips in and they start then your power supply is undersized. Continuing to use that power supply can damage your lights.
Check your power brick. If it is hot then stop using it! The brick is either damaged or undersized.
This can cause a fire!
Never just buy a cheap adaptor! Make sure it is the right adaptor for use. Follow the specs on your lights.
Using manufactured connectors for your grow light tape
I don’t use any of the clips and connectors that are on the market to connect light tape. There are lots out there and I have tried many of them.
They, in my experience, are hard to use. These connectors can be pretty pricey and often just don’t give you a good connection.
Try soldering. It is not hard. Soldering is cheap, easy, and cost-effective.
Watch my video for a good step-by-step view of the process.
This is all based on my own experience. Please let me know about your experiences.
And as always, if you found this helpful please like, comment, and subscribe to my email.
Check out one of my other posts like “how to grow herbs from supermarket herbs”