How to Install LED Strip Lights: Your Ultimate Guide

Posted by Birddog Lighting on Nov 14th 2018

How to Install LED Strip Lights: Your Ultimate Guide

Want to learn how to install LED strip lights?

Did you know that residential LED products use 75% less energy than incandescent lamps? They also last 25 times longer. How does that affect you?

Well, let’s look at the big picture. By 2027, widespread use of LEDs could save the U.S. 348 TWh. That’s equivalent to a total savings of $30 billion.

When you install your strip lights, our country is one step closer to achieving that goal. Plus, you’ll have a reason to throw another house party.

We’ll make a bargain with you. If you take care of the installation, we’ll take care of the instruction. Below, we’ll outline the steps required for DIY LED light strip installation.

Read on to discover more.


This guide assumes that you have experience working with 120v power connections. If your uncomfortable working said connections, contact a local electrician for assistance.

Things You’ll Need

Below is a list of basic tools you’ll use for the project:

  • Lighter
  • Wire stripper
  • Power adapter
  • LED light strips
  • SPST toggle switch
  • Heat shrink wire tubing
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Scissors (or knife) to cut the power cable
  • 3-prong AC power cable (for harvesting and rewiring)
  • Basic multi-meter to determine proper wiring on AC power cable

Note: if you’re confused about with LEDs to buy, read LED rope vs. strip lighting. It’ll give you a better idea of what’s available.

Power Supply: Choose a power supply that’s specifically built for the setup you have in mind. If possible, choose one manufactured by the same company that makes the LED strips you’ve chosen.

We’re using a 12V 18W power supply with a three wire input. The three wires have standard AC connections (for the U.S.). The first wire is the ground; the second, live; the third, neutral.

Power Cable: Choose a three-prong AC power cable that you can destroy. One customarily used for monitors is a good choice.

Prepare the Power Cable

You need access to the wires in the power cable. To expose them, cut off the end of the cable. Leave as much usable cable behind as possible.

Then use the wire strippers to cut through the wire’s plastic outer molding. Give yourself enough wire length to work with, but not so much that you’ll end up with exposed wire in your finished product. 2 1/2 inches should suffice.

Now, remove the casing. If you pull on the free end of the casing, it should slide right off the cable and expose the three wires inside. Remember to be gentle. If you pull too hard, you may destroy the wires.

Untwist and separate the wires inside. Pull them apart, so two wires form a “V” shape, and the other cuts the shape in half.

You then need to identify which is your ground, live, and neutral wire. The wires should be color coded:

  • Ground: Green or Bare Copper
  • Neutral: White or Grey
  • Live: Black, Red, White with Red or Black Tape, Blue, or Yellow.

If you used a monitor cable, you will likely find a green, a white, and a black wire.

Next, use the wire stripper to cut off a half inch of the casing, exposing the raw wire underneath.

Arrange the Shrink Tubing

The shrink tubing will cover the live wires to act as an insulator. The goal is to cover each individual exposed wire. Then, cover all three for additional protection.

It works best if you use small tubing for the wires and large tubing for the cable. Cut three pieces of small tubing. Each should be 2″ long.

Then cut a piece of large tubing that’s 6″ long. Slide the large tubing over the three exposed wires. Continue until it covers a section of the cable above the wires.

No part of the tubing should be touching the wires at this point.

In a similar fashion, slide one of the small pieces of tubing over the neutral wire. Push it further up the wire until it’s past the exposed wire. Follow the same procedure for the ground and neutral wires.

Solder the Wires

Grab your solder, soldering gun, and power supply. The power supply should have a cable with three exposed wires coming out of it, very much like the one you just created. Follow the chart above to discern which wire is the ground, the live, and the neutral wire.

Match each with its counterpart on the power cable. Ground to ground. Neutral to neutral. Live to live. Now solder each together with its counterpart.

When you finish, slide the small tubing down to cover the freshly soldered neutral wires. It should cover the entire exposed wire. It will replace the casing you stripped off earlier.

Now, shrink the tubing with the lighter. Shoot for a tight fit.

When you finish, follow the same procedure with the ground and live wires. Then, wrap up by covering all three with the large tubing. It should cover all the work you’ve done so far.

When you shrink it into place, you should see two black cords separated by your large tubing. The rest of your handy work should be hidden.

Strip the LED Wires

Get out your LED lights. Now strip the cable and wires in the same manner you used on the power cable. You’ll find only two wires inside the outer cable. Strip each wire, leaving 3/4″ of exposed wire.

Do the same to your toggle switch, leaving two wires. The exposed parts should only be 3/4″ long. Your goal is to wire the toggle switch directly to the LED plug.

You’re going to follow the same procedure you used to cut and place each shrink tube. Then, you’ll solder each of the wires to its counterpart. Finally, you’ll cover the exposed wires with the tubes and shrink it into place.

When you’re finished, plug in the power supply and test the LED strip.

Mount the Lights

This last part is actually the easiest part. Start by measuring the length of the light strip you’ll need. You strip will have guides written on it, telling you exactly where you can cut it. Cut the side you need.

Then measure out two pieces of double-sided adhesive to cover the underside of your adapter. Remove the non-adhesive tape to expose the sticky adhesive and stick the power adapter in the location you desire.

The back of your strip lights has a similar, strong adhesive. It’s also covered with a non-adhesive tape. Remove it, and stick your lights to the location you desire.

Double check to make sure your lights work, and you’re done. Great work.

After Your “How to Install LED Strip Lights” Guide

So, are you ready for your next lighting project? After you discover how to install LED strip lights, it’s simple to repeat the procedure. They’re excellent under shelves, desks, and entertainment coves.

Keep up the good work so that we can hit the goal of $30 billion by 2027.

If you found this information helpful, take five minutes to browse our library of all things LED.

So long and good luck!