[Maker’s Note] A Must for Christmas: LED Strip Light

by Yun-Han Lin

In December, people can see Christmas decorations everywhere, whether in school or work space. The easiest way to have decorations is to just put on some lights. As we are in the holiday season, here is a brief comparison between regular Christmas lights and LED strips!

Before we start, here is the cool Christmas tree from last year with 500 LED bulbs independently controlled using Raspberry Pi.

Common Christmas lights

Usually, they are ready for use after purchase. The gap between the bulbs is large, which is suitable for a large space. The lights also come with a controller for users to pick color combinations or flashing patterns.

Basic model: single-color string

This model comes at the lowest price, with only one color, and all light bulbs are either turned on or off at the same time. The most it can do is to go on and off like breathing light. The good thing is it is simple to use and it fits almost all occasions. The disadvantage is that it is not easy to adjust its length or make other connections, where the positive and negative ends can be confusing.

Basic model: multiple single-color string

This model is a bit more complex than the previous one. There is more than one color and the light can flash separately, like the light people often see. The design brings together three groups of single-color strips, where each color goes on and off at its own pace. The disadvantage is that the wires are thicker and bulky.

Advanced model: RGB light string

All the bulbs are no longer in one color, but the RGB (red-green-blue) lights comes with variations. Same as the first basic mode, the bulbs are strung on the same wire, so the bulbs light up and dim at the same degree.

Universal model: the rare WS2811/WS2812 strip

This model is compatible with most devices, while it also comes at a higher price. The problem is that it is not easy to buy in Taiwan, but can only be found on Taobao or Amazon. This model features a chip on each piece of LED light, allowing users to make changes to color on every individual unit.

Common strip lights

Strip lights are available in most electronic part shops in Taiwan and they are often used in DIY projects. Users can cut the strips into preferred length, which makes good lighting in various room settings.

Basic model: single-color strip

It is the most common type of LED strip that can be bought. It comes in only one color and is turned on and off through the switch controlling the positive and negative wires. The strip is usually cut into sections that are 2 to 3 cm long each. There are various types with different specs, so make sure you know the intended specs before buying.

Advanced model: RGB light strip

Similar to the previous one in design, but only with the single-color bulbs replaced with RGB LED chips. Like the single-color model, the chip comes in 5V and 12V. Yet, it is harder to connect the wires. Generally, there are four wires: three for the RGB signal transmission and one power line.

Universal model: WS2811/WS2812 light strip

Just like the string model, the WS2812 specs is compatible to most devices and the color of each chip can be changed independently. It is pretty easy to find in Taiwan. There is also the WS2812B type, with a black strip, so that when the light is off, the whole strip is not as visible around the work pieces as the white one.

Notice:

1. Important! Make sure you check the current for your device

LED light strips are handy, and one strip is usually 5 m long, which is suitable for projects of a larger size. Although the LED light chips consume little voltage each, the energy consumption is still considerable with are over hundreds of chips lighting at the same time.

2. WB2812 controlling requires a function kit!

The control of each individual chip on WB2812 is a bit more complex, so it is recommended to use it with an Arduino kit. The two most common kits that you can find on the Internet are FastLed and NeoPixel. The following are some articles and videos for your reference. These all take some time to understand, so the first two basic models are recommended, should you want no trouble or have little time.

WS2812 Strip Light 101:https://yunlinsong.blogspot.com/2018/08/arduinows2812.html

WS2812 Strip Light Tutorial (English):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhYu0k2woRM

WS2812 Strip Light Tutorial 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdYCzQksdxw

WS2812 Strip Light Tutorial 2: http://www.taichi-maker.com/homepage/reference-index/arduino-library-index/fastled-library/

WS2812 Strip Light Tutorial 3: https://www.bilibili.com/video/BV1iv411W7BU/

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