Over the years, I have used many types of LEDs, but the most commonly used and cheapest, is standard 5050 LED strip. It comes in a variety of colours, and RGB multicolour.
However the cheap strips, as in, $15 for 5m, always run on 12v.
I have in the past used a number of different methods, starting off with a 9v battery, then a pack of AA cells, at one point I even carried around small SLA cells! (heavy omg)
More recently, I have been using 3s lipo packs, however these can be dangerous if damaged, and require a special charger to charge up.
I normally use a Turnigy Nanotech 3S 1.6Ah battery, I have a few of these laying around that I keep at storage voltage.
The problem with Lithium batteries is that, while they are usually stable, when they do become unstable, they go out very violently.
I have recently been contacted by a group of cosplayers that want to add LEDs to their Hyperdimension Neptunia cosplays, and were wondering how to power the LEDs, so im going to revisit this as there must be a better way.
When I added lights to my friends Ahri tails, we used my nanotech batteries the first round, but more recently, her friend made her a pack that takes three 18650 cells,
this is certainly easier for her to charge, and swap out the batteries, but I felt it and it was pretty warm, so kinda scary, to be fair though, her tails have almost 10m of LEDs in them, so it’s probably drawing some 6-10ish amps from those poor 18650s continuously.
Another option is to use 5v LED strips, i’ve got a meter of this and tested it, and its just not as bright … its probably the best option as of typing this though as power banks can be purchased cheap in sydney (~$12 for 4000mah one from a reputable shop)
There are alternatives worth looking into, such as a custom 18650 case, or this thing over here
The other things that are available are these:
I have used these in the past, but knowing what I do now about Lithium, I wouldn’t touch these with a 10 foot pole. There may be no protection inside, they may not be balance charged, and they probably don’t even have voltage cutoffs… very dangerous and scary..
As it stands, I still recommend to go with a 3S Lipo pack.
You will need a few things:
- Battery – 3 cell Lithium Polimer, capacity of your choice
- Low Battery Alarm – Tells you when the battery is flat
- Balance Charger – Important to prevent boom
- Flameproof bag – Important to store the batteries
- Power supply for charger – Your LED Strip MAY come with one that works (12v 2A+)
Here are the ones I recommend:
Low Battery Alarm:
Please take good care not to damage the Lithium batteries, if they feel warm, turn it off for a bit and let them cool down.
To connect the LED strip, you will need a XT60 connector to solder onto it, these are ~$8 for a 5 pack.
Feel free to contact me with any questions and I will do my best to answer.
Part 2: Which LEDs do I get?
There is different types of LEDs, Ive briefly mentioned them above, the main ones are: single colour, RGB multi colour and these come in both 12v and 5v.
For the above power solution that I recommended, you want 12v leds.
Which ones you get depends on your needs.
Some colours are available as is, and if the colour you want is available standalone, I suggest this as it will be less messing around. So if you need pink LEDs, and you find pink LEDs as well as RGB ?? Go with the pink ones.
If you need a colour you cant find, or want to be able to change, go with the RGB.
They also come in two sizes, if RGB, please try to always get 5050 LEDs, and avoid the smaller 3528 where you can. as each light can only be one colour, so for the RGB, you have a red light, a green light and a blue light every 3 lights. It results in a weird christmas light effect that looks terrible:
With 5050 RGB LEDs, each light has three tiny lights inside, so each actual light on the strip will be the colour you want.
For controlling them, if its single colour, you just need to give it power. If its RGB, most will come with an InfraRed (IR) controller, which is probably good enough, but there is also wifi and bluetooth controllers available.
You also want to check how many LEDs per meter there are. Most strips will come with 300 LEDs but some come with 150, this results in the lights being very far apart from each other and it doesnt look nice. so make sure its at least 300 LEDs.
To get really fancy, you can get what are known as addressable LEDs, but this is pretty advanced and needs a tiny $3 computer to control them. The most common type is WS2812b / WS2811 AKA Neopixels.
The only problem I have run into with these is the extremely high current draw (I usually use the 144LEDs in 1meter!!) and that if one LED dies, all the ones after it stop working.
There is another less common type, WS2813 that has an extra data wire in it, so that if one light stops, the others still work, but I have not played with these yet.
The benefit of these lights is each light can do something different, and you can have some really cool effects like breathing, fading along, rainbow chase, or a larson effect.
These are what I use in the LED clothing that I make.
For most effect lighting, the standard strip lighting works well enough.
For single 12v colour LED strips expect to pay around $10-20 delivered
For RGB 12v expect around $15-30 delivered
for WS2812 5v expect around $8-20 per meter
5v LEDs are similar pricing to above, but you get only 2-3 meters instead of 5 (it’s still heaps!!!)