A Guide to Waterproof LED Strip Lights

ip68 pu waterproof led strip lights

LED strip lights are a popular choice for adding lighting to a space. They are available in various colors and can be installed in several ways. One thing to consider when purchasing LED strip lights is whether or not they are waterproof. Many types of waterproof LED strip lights are available on the market, so it is important to know which type will work best for your needs.

What is an IP rating?

An IP rating, or Ingress Protection Rating, is a number assigned to a piece of LED strip to indicate the level of protection it offers against solid foreign objects and liquids. The rating is typically represented by two numbers, the first showing the protection against solid objects and the second against liquids. For example, an IP68 rating means the equipment is completely protected against dust ingress and can be submerged in water up to 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes.

ip rating chart

When do we need waterproof LED strips?

We don’t always need waterproof LED strips. If you are starting, you may not need them yet. Most basic LED projects can be completed with non-waterproof LED strips. However, if you are working in a damp environment or plan to use your LED strips outdoors or underwater, waterproof LED strips are a must.

led strip pool lighting

How many different waterproof grades of led strip lights?

There are a lot of different waterproof grades of led strip lights. It cannot be evident for beginners to know which one to choose. There are five waterproof grades: IP20, IP52, IP65, IP67, and IP68.

The grade you need depends on how you will use the led strip lights. If you use them for indoor decoration, then the IP20 grade will be fine.

IP20 none waterproof

IP20 is the lowest grade and is not water resistant at all. It is only meant for indoor use.

ip20 led strip structure

IP52 silicone coating

ip52 led strip structure

Waterproof process: 

Add a layer of silicone to the LED strip light bead, but the other side is a bare PCB. IP52 LED strips can be dustproof, but the waterproof performance is poor.

Application: 

Suitable for dry or wet areas, such as living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms. Not recommended for use in areas where water will be splashed.

Color shift: 

Compared with the color temperature of the LEDs, the CCT of the finished product will become higher. For example, when producing 3000K IP52 LED strips, we cannot use 3000K LEDs, but only use LEDs with a lower CCT than 3000K, such as 2700K LEDs. 

Brightness loss:

~10% lumen loss.

Dimensional changes: 

Compared with the IP20 LED strip, the width has not changed, but the height has increased by about 1.5-2mm. Therefore, when we choose LED aluminum profiles, we do not need to consider additional width.

IP65 silicone tube

ip65 led strip structure

Waterproof process: 

Add a silicone sleeve to wrap the LED strip by artificial or silicone extrusion. IP65 LED strips are dustproof and waterproof.

Application: 

Suitable for wet or splashing areas, such as Kitchen, bathroom, eaves. Since the housing is hollow, it is not recommended for outdoor use.

Color shift: 

Basically, there is no no color shift.

Brightness loss:

~5% lumen loss.

Dimensional changes: 

Compared with the IP20 non-waterproof LED strip, the width and height of IP65 silicone tube LED strips are increased by about 2mm. When selecting LED aluminum profiles, you must take into account this increased size.

IP65H heat shrink tube

ip65h led strip structure

Waterproof process: 

Add a heat shrink tube to wrap the LED strip. IP65H LED strips are dustproof and waterproof, the same as the IP65 silicone tube LED strip.

Application: 

Suitable for wet or splashing areas, such as Kitchen, bathroom, eaves. Since the housing is hollow, it is not recommended for outdoor use.

Color shift: 

Basically, there is no no color shift.

Brightness loss:

~4% lumen loss.

Dimensional changes: 

Compared with the IP20 non-waterproof LED strip, the width and height of IP65H heat shrink tube LED strips are almost not changed. 

IP67 full silicone encased

ip67 silicone encased led strip structure

Waterproof process: 

Wrap the LED strip with a hollow silicone tube. Then, the hollow silicone tube is filled with silicon to create a sealing effect.

There is another way to make IP67 LED strips, that is silicone integration extrusion.

Application: 

Suitable for outdoor usage. However, because of the large molecular void of silicone, it is easy to seep water after a long time. As well as silicone it is not resistant to chlorine corrosion and is easily damaged. So it is not recommended for underwater use.

Color shift: 

Similar to IP52 silicone coating LED strips, IP67 full silicone encased has the color shift, and the color shift’ degree is greater. For example, using 2700K LED beads, made into an IP52 LED strip, the color temperature may be 3000K, but made into an IP67 LED strip, the color temperature may be 3500K.

Brightness loss:

~15% lumen loss.

Dimensional changes: 

Same as IP65 silicone tube LED strips, the width and height of IP67 full silicone encased LED strips are increased by about 2mm.

IP67 nano coating

ip67 nano led strip structure

Waterproof process: 

By spraying a very thin nano-coating on the surface of the LED strip. The obvious disadvantage is that the IP67 nano coating LED strips cannot be cut.

Application: 

Suitable for outdoor usage, underwater use is not recommended.

Color shift: 

No color shift.

Brightness loss:

~2% lumen loss.

Dimensional changes: 

No dimensional changes. The nano coating is very thin, so the IP67 nano coating LED strip looks the same as the IP20 non-waterproof LED strip.

IP68 full PU encased

ip68 led strip structure

Waterproof process: 

Wrap the LED strip with full clear PU glue encased.

PU is short for Polyurethane.

Application: 

Suitable for outdoor and underwater usage. Because the molecular gap of PU is small, it will not penetrate water, and it is resistant to chlorine, acid and alkali, so it is suitable for use underwater.

Color shift: 

Similar to IP57 silicone full encased LED strips, IP68 full PU encased has the color shift.

Brightness loss:

~15% lumen loss.

Dimensional changes: 

Same as IP67 silicone full encased LED strips, the width and height of IP67 full silicone encased LED strips are increased by about 2mm.

Confusion Between IP52 and IP65

Many other factories in the market mark the silicon coating LED strip as IP65. I’m afraid that’s not right because IP65 means it can be used in splashed places. But the back of silicon coating LED strips are exposed PCB, and the back is not waterproof. Incorrect use will cause damage to the LED strip.

The common material to make waterproof LED strips

The most common materials used to make waterproof LED strips are Epoxy resin, PU glue, and Silicone.
What is the difference between them? Let’s take a quick look.

Epoxy resin

Epoxy resin has the advantages of low cost, good workability, and low toxicity. Therefore, it is a popular waterproof material for most cheap LED strips on the market. However, it has a fatal flaw in its molecular structure.

Firstly, it has poor thermal conductivity, which will reduce the life of the light bar.

Secondly, the epoxy resin quickly turns yellow after half a year, and this yellowing will affect the color temperature of the strip.

In addition, epoxy resin cannot withstand high and low temperatures. It is easy to harden and crack when the ambient temperature is below 0°C.

PU glue

The cost of PU glue is higher than epoxy resin. It’s yellowing resistance, low-temperature resistance, and better thermal conductivity. However, it is toxic. Polyurethane adhesive will produce some small molecule compounds after curing. These compounds smell bad and are not suitable for health.

Secondly, it is not resistant to high temperatures. Do not use the adhesive strip with PU adhesive in places with an ambient temperature higher than 80 ℃.

Silicone

Silicone is the most costly. It is an environmentally friendly material with the advantages of PU glue and epoxy resin.
First of all, the heat resistance and low-temperature resistance are excellent.

The ambient temperature of -50°~300° will not affect its structure and performance. We can use the silicon LED strip for saunas and refrigerators.

Secondly, the silicone glue will not turn yellow after a long time. This also ensures the long-term stability of LED strip color temperature. It is essential for high-end lighting projects such as hotels and yachts.

Due to the good thermal conductivity of silicone, it promotes the heat dissipation of the LED strip. However, we need to add aluminum channels for high power (over 20 W/m) strip lighting for thermal control.

ItemEpoxy ResinPolyurethane GlueSilicone
CostLowHighHighest
Temperature resistance0-60℃
Harden in low temperature
-40-80℃
Performance remained stable
-40-220℃
Performance remained stable
Heat conductivityLowHighHigh
YellowingObvious after half a yearNoNo
ToxicityLowHigh, bad smellNo
Light transmission rate92%95%96%

What is silicone integrated extrusion?

Silicone integration extrusion is when the LED strip lights and solid silicone are extruded together through a mold and are shaped by high-temperature vulcanization.

silicone integrated extrusion

Advantages of silicone integrated  extrusion

Compared with the traditional waterproof process, the silicone integrated extrusion process has obvious advantages.

Infinite length

Through the silicone integrated extrusion process, the waterproof LED strips we produce can be infinitely long. Through the traditional waterproof process, the longest waterproof LED light strip is generally 10 meters.

High productivity

Most of the processes are automated in the silicone integrated extrusion process. And silicone can be cured by high-temperature vulcanization in just a few minutes. The traditional waterproofing process is done manually, and it takes up to 1 day for the silicone glue to cure naturally.

Better waterproof performance

Silicone The silicone integrated extrusion process uses solid silicone, which has better physical properties and is not easy to break. Combined with the one-piece injection-molded plug, the waterproof performance of the LED strip lights is better.

silicone injection plug endcap
Silicone injection plug endcap

Process of silicone integrated extrusion

Compared with other traditional waterproof processes, the silicone integrated extrusion production process is more complicated and is mainly divided into the following four steps.

Step 1. Mixing silicone. The raw material of silicone is solid. Before production, we need to repeatedly knead the silicone with a machine to make it soft and remove the steam drum.

Step 2. The extrusion process begins with installing rolling LED strips on the payoff frame. These LED strips are adjusted and sequenced using an adjustment table.

Step 3. The LED strip and silicone are then passed through the holes in the pre-assembled die, activating the operating button on the electronic control box, which starts the machine to wrap the silicone onto the LED strip.

Step 4. The machine extrudes the silicone-coated LED strip and passes it through the vulcanizing oven, where the product is gradually vulcanized and shaped. The temperature inside the oven is kept moderate to avoid burning the LED beads. After vulcanization, the led strip is put out by a tractor.

Tips for using waterproof LED strip light

Cutting and joining LED Strip with connector

Cutting and connecting LED strips with LED connectors is very simple and easy.

Soldering and sealing waterproof LED Strips

Welding LED strips is more complicated, and you need to learn professional knowledge.

Installing waterproof LED strips

The steps for installing waterproof and non-waterproof LED strips are the same. But it should be noted that the waterproof LED strip is relatively heavy. You can not only rely on double-sided tape but also need to use the installation clip.

FAQ

Yes, after cutting, it needs to be resealed with glue and endcaps.

Yes, but you need to use IP65 / IP67 LED strip lights.

Yes, but you need to choose the 24Vdc  IP68 LED strip lights.

Yes, you can. When you’re done soldering, you need to reseal the LED strip with silicone and plugs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, LED strip lights are a great way to light up any space, and with the correct waterproofing methods, they can also be used outdoors and underwater. By reading this article, you can be sure that your LED strip lights will last for years.

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6 Responses

  1. I am looking for a submersible LED light strip. Your article was very informative.

    Is there a 100ft color changing wifi led strip?

  2. Hi, I’m interested in waterproof LED strip lightning ip68 rating to put around underneath the pool coping. Require about 25m. RGB.

  3. Hola estoy buscando una tira de led para un pasillo exterior donde le cae la lluvia y el riego del jardín

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