Smart light strips aren’t just useful if you want to pimp out your man cave or gaming room. You can also use them to create beautiful aesthetics in your home. For some projects, you will need longer light strips and may want to extend the strips you already have.
You can extend smart strip lights (with some exceptions). You can use connectors or solder them together. Some lights can be connected in series, with a limit to how many strips you can connect. Parallel connections are usually recommended. There is a lot to consider before extending your strip lights.
If you want to cover a space with a long smart strip light, it is worth doing some research before buying lights. Often you can avoid a lot of hassle by buying the right products from the beginning. But if you have already bought a strip light, you can usually still extend it easily. Either way, this post can help you decide on the best and safest way to extend your light strip.
- Should I Extend My Smart Light Strip in Series or Parallel?
- How Do I Extend My Smart Strip Lights?
- Can I Connect Two Strip Lights From Different Brands?
- Can I Connect a Color Strip Light to A White Strip Light?
- How Many Light Strips Can I Connect?
- Which Smart Strip Lights Are Easiest To Extend?
- Home Streamliner's Take
Should I Extend My Smart Light Strip in Series or Parallel?
Parallel connections are more difficult to set up, but they are usually safer. Series connections can lead to a voltage drop. In most cases, connecting up to three light strips in series is considered safe. However, it depends on the power output of the lights and the output of the power source.
Series circuit connections
In a series circuit, components are connected end to end. This means that there is a constant current throughout the circuit. The voltage is shared between the components (in this case, light strips).
The more strips you add in series, the more likely it is that the power supply will not be able to support the strips. This is because the voltage is divided between the strips.
Some brands outright recommend not to connect their lights in series. Govee has stated that connecting their strip lights in series can result in a voltage drop. This can cause the lights to show different colors than they should. They recommend rather using two light strips in two different power plugs.
Note that you can connect two 16ft Govee lights by placing the power source in the middle. You will still get a 32ft strip but the lights are connected in parallel.
Other brands have produced light strips that can be extended easily in a series circuit. For example, Philips has produced 1m extensions for their 2m Hue Lighstrip. (Note that these do not exist for outdoor Lightstrips). These can be connected to the first strip by popping pin-adaptors together. You can connect up to 10m of these lights.
Parallel circuit connections
In a parallel circuit, each light strip is directly connected to the power source. The current is divided between the strips. The voltage will be equal across each strip.
There is a potential problem with connecting your strips in parallel. If two strips are connected in parallel and one strip fails, the current will double in the second strip. This can burn out the second strip. This issue will be reduced if you have many strips connected in parallel.
If you would like to find out more about LED Strip lights and why they might burn out, feel free to read this helpful article.
You can create a parallel connection by placing a power source in the middle of two light strips.
How Do I Extend My Smart Strip Lights?
There are three main ways in which you can connect your smart light strips. You can use connectors or cables, or you can solder your strips together.
When extending smart strips, it is important that the controller works. It is the controller that connects the light strip to your phone app. If the controller cannot control the whole strip, you will not be able to control the strip with your phone. This renders the “smart” strip pretty useless.
This is why it is best to extend smart strip lights with extensions from the same brand. The extensions should also be the same type (for example RGB or RGBW). By using manufacturer-approved extensions, you can use one controller for the whole strip.
Connecting two smart light strips with a connector
Some smart light strips can be bought with matching connectors. For example, extensions of the Philips Hue Lightstrip come with clips on the ends.
In other cases, you will have to buy a connector to link two light strips together. In this case, I am referring to a small, usually plastic, clip that joins the two lights together. These clips are often inconspicuous in a smart light strip setup.
Before you buy connectors, consider this:
Which connector should I buy?
Strip lights have thin cables running through them which carry current to the LEDs. These wires are connected to little soldered copper pads at the ends of the light strip. The number of pads depends on how many wires are running through the strip.
In a basic white light strip, there are usually only two wires. Such a strip will have two copper pads at the end.
An RGB light strip usually has four wires, one power wire and one wire each for blue, red, and green lights. Such a strip will have four copper pads at the end.
Some smart light strips have even more wires, and thus even more copper pads. This is because they have more functions. The Philips Hue Lightstrip, for example, has six copper pads at the end.
Light strip connectors have little pins on them which allow them to join two light strips. Each pin connects to one copper pad on the strip.
In terms of RGB and RGBW light strips, the order of the copper pads is also important. For example, if the strip has the pads in the order R, G, and B, the connector needs to have pins in the same order.
It is important to check how many copper pads your light strip has at its end so you can buy the right connector. For example, an RGB strip will probably require a 4 pin connector. A regular white strip will probably need a 2 pin connector.
If you want to extend Philips Hue Lighstrips, you can also make use of the product range from Litcessory. The connectors and extension cables were specifically made to extend the Philips Lightstrips.
Make sure that you buy the correct Litcessory products. Philips makes two versions of their light strips. There is a version with the standard 6-Pin V3 or a version with the Micro 6-Pin V4. Check before buying a connector.
Linking two light strips with a connector
Open up the connector clip and place the ends of the light strip into it. You need to align the pins in the connector with the copper pads on the strip.
Make sure that you align the positive pole of the strip with the positive pole of the connector. The same applies to the negative poles. The poles are usually marked on the strip and connector.
When you close the connector, make sure you hear a click. If you don’t, check that the strip is correctly aligned. Don’t try to force the connector shut.
Cover the connector with a heat shrink cover or insulating tape to protect it. There are different heat shrink covers for indoor and outdoor use. Make sure you use the correct one.
Connecting two smart light strips with a cable
If you want to join two smart light strips, you may want to have a space between them. Connectors with extender cables are practical in this case.
An example is if you want to place a strip around a corner. You can stick one strip to one end of the corner and the other strip on the other end. You can connect the two with a connector set joined with a cable. You can link a connector to each strip, allowing the cable to run around the corner.
Another example would be if you are running lights along your kitchen cabinets. Suppose you have a space between your cabinets, for example above your oven. You can use a connector set with a cable to join the light strips on each side of the space. The cable can run along the space (or along the wall in the space). The strip lights can be connected, but no random lights are shining in the space above your oven.
Take note: there are limits to how many strip lights can be connected. In the case of Philips Hue Lightstrips, this is 10m. If you add connectors with cabling, the cable length should be included in the maximum 10m length.
Connecting two smart light strips with a soldering iron
To solder two light strips together, you first have to remove the plastic covering the ends of the strips. Once you have exposed the copper pads at the ends of the strips, you can solder them together.
Make sure to solder the right connection pads together. For example, if you are connecting two RGB cables, make sure to connect the R pad on one strip to the R pad on the other strip.
You can cover the joint with a heat shrink cover or insulating tape to protect it.
Benefits of soldering two light strips together:
- soldered joints are often more stable than connector clips. If you want to place your light strips in an area that is difficult to access, like on your ceiling, this is practical. You won’t have to climb up to reconnect the clip connector if it becomes loose.
- Strips that are mounted on aluminum frames can’t be connected with clips. Soldering is thus the better option.
Can I Connect Two Strip Lights From Different Brands?
If you have the option, rather use smart light strips from the same brand. It will make your life easier in the long run. It also improves the chances that you can actually control the light strip with your phone app.
You can connect two strip lights from different brands if they both have the same voltage. They must also be the same type (for example both RGB strips). You can use a connector or solder the strips together. To use a connector, the two strips must have the same number of copper pads on their ends. For RGB wires, the order of the colors must also be the same.
If you connect two lights strips with different voltages, they will get damaged.
You should also check that your strip lights have the same voltage as your power source. For example, you shouldn’t try to use a 12V strip light in a 5V power source.
Can I Connect a Color Strip Light to A White Strip Light?
RGB or RGBW (color) strip lights can only be connected to a white strip light by soldering them together. This is because the color and white strip lights have different numbers of copper connections. You can solder the power wire on the white strip light to the power wire on the RGB or RGBW strip light.
However, this will not work with smart light strips. The controller of the strips requires the same type of strips to be connected.
Your best option is to connect two identical smart strip lights in terms of brand and type.
How Many Light Strips Can I Connect?
The longer a wire is, the higher its resistance. This is why there is a limit to how many wires you can connect in series. Increased resistance can lead to increased heat.
If you connect more strip lights than your power source can handle, you could cause a fire. You could also damage your strip lights.
Firstly, you need to consider the power output of your strip lights. Your strip lights should not use more than 80% of the power your power supply unit can supply.
If you want to connect your light strips in series, you need to check how many watts per foot the strip uses. This should be given in the manufacturer’s manual.
You also need to check how much power your power source unit provides.
You can use the following calculation to work out how long your light strip can be in total:
X = total power your power source can supply
Y = the length of one strip
Z = the watts per foot of your strip
- Work out 80% of X.
- Multiply Y by Z.
- Divide the answer in step 1 by the answer in step 2.
This will tell you how many strips you can use for that power source.
If you want to use more strips in series, you will have to use a bigger power source.
Make sure to check the product manual as well. Most manuals will give an indication of how many strips you can use with the given power source.
If you need a longer length of smart strip lights than the limit allows, you can group different strips. This lets you control the strips together, even though each extended strip will need its own controller.
Find more nifty tips about Group Control for Smart Lights from this helpful article we wrote.
You can connect more strip lights using a parallel connection for the same power supply unit.
If you want to light up the edge of your ceiling, you should run two lines of strip lights from your power source. Place the power source in one corner of the ceiling. Then run one line of strip lights along two sides of the ceiling. Run a second line of strip lights along the other two sides. This is a more energy-efficient option than creating a daisy chain around the room.
It is also possible to connect strip lights in parallel by using 2-in-1, 3-in-1, or 4-in-1 splitters.
The type of light strip can also influence how many you can safely connect in series. RGB or RGBW light strips have to power three or four times as many bulbs as white light strips. They thus use three or more times more power to light up.
You should thus, in theory, be able to link more white strip lights together in series. Check the watts per foot usage of the strip to confirm this.
The quality of light strips also affects how many you can connect in series. Cheap LED strips often use thinner material. If this material heats up under high currents, it is more likely to burn. This can be a real fire hazard, especially if your strip lights are mounted on wooden surfaces.
Which Smart Strip Lights Are Easiest To Extend?
Some smart strip lights come with a kit that allows you to extend and cut them easily. I have already mentioned the Philips Hue Lighstrips and the Litcessory product line.
If you have not bought strip lights yet and you want to cover a long area, these may also be a good option.
The Maxonar Wi-Fi Enabled LED Strip Lights
These light strips come with a full DIY kit that lets you cut, connect and extend them.
LIFX Lightstrip Color Zones
You can buy these strips in a length of 40 inches or 80 inches. Then you can add 40-inch extensions up to a length of 33 feet.
Nanoleaf Essentials Lightstrip
The starter kit for these lights includes a controller, power supply, and a light strip. The strip can be either 40 or 80 inches long. Extra strips can be added to a total of 10 meters.
Home Streamliner’s Take
I think that the easiest option to create a project with smart light strips in your home is to buy a starter kit. If you choose a brand of smart light strips where you can buy extension pieces, you shouldn’t run into issues.
There are many places in the smart home setup where you can save some money. In my opinion, extending smart light strips shouldn’t be one of these. Especially if you’ve never held a soldering iron!
If you already have other smart home devices, check if the strips you want to buy are compatible with them. Also, make sure that you can use one app to control your strip lights and your other devices.