Product Reviews, Retail

Reviewed: Flexible IP-rated LED tape

Many of the tapes reviewed here are square or rectangular in section rather than just flat ribbons, but all of them are IP-rated. 

Many of the tapes reviewed here are square or rectangular in section rather than just flat ribbons, but all of them are IP-rated. 

It’s worth remembering that a lot of tape is sold for indoor use such as cove or undershelf lighting. 

Uncoated LEDs are difficult to clean; cloths snag on them and, as we all know, LEDs are easily damaged by any kind of dampness or humidity.

IP-rated tape is generally smooth and it also protects the LEDs from moisture and dust. 

When I spoke to tape manufacturers, just about all of them asked me to emphasise the importance of proper installation. 

It is fairly easy for manufacturers to make a flexible tape which is resistant to IP66, IP67 or even submersible, IP68. 

But if you want a durable, long-lasting installation, there are two aspects that need to be properly considered. The first is the electrical connection. This is often the cause of ‘tape’ failure. 

The electrical connection should be as good, or better, than the IP rating of the tape. 

If your tape is IP67, you need an IP67 or IP68 electrical connection. 

Reputable suppliers will have a connection kit. This is often a small box which is filled with resin. 

Another solution uses a special crimp with thermoplastic gel. 

You make the connection in the usual way and then apply a hot air blower which melts the gel inside. 

If you know the exact lengths of tape you require, some manufacturers will offer to supply a factory connected flying lead. This is almost certainly more reliable than a joint made on site.  

The other issue is heat dissipation. The temperature of the pinhead-size junction point on the back of the LED chip determines the light output and, more importantly, its life. 

Some tape only consumes a few watts per metre and there shouldn’t be any problems. 

Higher wattage tape, say 20W/m, might require the tape to be bonded to a backing strip made of aluminium. If in doubt, ask the manufacturer.
Again, you will get a more reliable product if you ask the supplier to bond the tape onto the backing strip. 

For colour-critical applications, you need to know that the sealant used to give the tape its IP rating usually makes the LEDs look slightly cooler. 

A nominal 2700K indoor strip might look closer to 3000K in its IP version. If in doubt, do a trial. 

It is important to mention that the tapes reviewed are just a small selection of what is available. One supplier I know keeps 100 different types in stock. 

Atmospheric Zone Pro strip
The IP67-rated Pro Strip has a loose silicon jacket rather than the LEDs being encapsulated by a silicon covering.  Atmospheric Zone says that this helps to distribute the heat away from the LEDs and allows a degree of air circulation within the sleeve. The sleeve is algae resistant and UV stabilised.The Pro strip ranges from 5W to 20W and is available from a warm 2100K to a cool 6000K with a colour rendering index (CRI) of over 92. Single colours are also offered. Having 120 LEDs per metre means that the light output is uniform even when mounted close to the reflecting surface. At these higher power ratings, Atmospheric Zone says that heat sinking is essential and it offers a range of products to suit. It also offer a bespoke cutting and jointing service. 

*** 

iGuzzini Underscore InOut Sidebend
iGuzzini has a large family of outdoor tape and LED extrusions under the general names of Linealuce and Underscore. We chose this Underscore IP68 strip because it can bend sideways. The sample we had was just 10mm wide and 22 mm high and the 2500K light is emitted from the ‘milky finish’ (iGuzzini’s description) polymer upper surface. The appearance of this upper face is totally uniform so it achieves a smooth line of light. However, from the side you can see the individual LEDs and so the tape works best in an extrusion or recessed. Not only is it IP68, it is also salt water, UV and solvent resistant and can operate in temperatures from -30 to 45C. 

**** 

Integral-LED
This is a flat, IP65 tape which has one of the highest efficiencies (in lm/W) around. The cool 6500K version delivers 900 lm/m running at 11W. The beam angle of 115 degrees is slightly narrower than most so it would suit locations where you want a lot of light from a confined space. This is helped by it being able to operate at 60C. It would therefore suit warm humid locations such as swimming pools. One possible disadvantage is the rated life of 15,400 hours. 

*** 

LED Flex Hydro Line 120
This is a really slim IP67 tape measuring just 12 mm wide and 4 mm high. It is also nicely constructed; the white polymer extrusion is very smooth with crisp edges and the resin filling over the LEDs is exceptionally clear. The version we looked at has a CRI of over 97 and consumes 10W/m with an output of 677 lm. The rated life is better than most at 50,000 hrs at an ambient of 45C. 

**** 

LED Linear VarioLED Hydra
This strip has a superior colour quality and longer life than most of its competitors. The CRI is up to 95 and it has a strong red component, R9, of 70. It also scores highly with the TM-30 system with a fidelity of 91 and colour gamut value of 100.  LED Linear claims the rated life is over 60,000 hours (L80/B10), due to the ceramic LED packages which ensure good heat dissipation. It’s rated at 5W and 490 lumens per metre. 

**** 

Ledvance LS SUP-800
This is the lighting designer’s flexible friend. If you can’t find a suitable tape in the Ledvance range, it probably doesn’t exist. Ledvance offers a Value/Eco option, a Performance mid-range and Superior versions, hence SUP. This IP67 version emits 800 lm/m with a CRI of over 90 and runs at 9W/m. As well as a really warm white 2000K to ultra-cool white 6500K and colour tuneable versions, Ledvance offers red, green, blue, yellow and orange. Most tapes are top bending but Ledvance also offers side bending tape. The appearance of our sample was a totally (really totally!) uniform line of light. For retail applications, the company has a tape with a CRI of over 90. If you want serious light output, some versions emit 4,000 lm/m. 

***** 

Vexica Flexi Light
It’s worth having a look at the Vexica range because there are some interesting products that you may not see elsewhere. One that caught our eye had individually addressable RGB LEDs inside. This means you can have different colours along a single strip. You could even get the colours to chase up and down the tape. There is also a strip which will bend both sideways and up/down. For this review we looked at the FlexLight. This can be a side or top bending, IP67, polyurethane PU resin strip measuring approximately 15 mm square. It has a couple of nice features: One is that the light is totally uniform without any spotting. The other is that the ends are chamfered rather than cut square. This means you can achieve continuous lines of light without any shadows at the joins. 

****