Understanding The Different Numbers Used In LED Strip Lights

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When shopping for LED strip lights, you’ll regularly come across numbered terms such as 3020, 3528, and 5050. So what do these numbers mean, and why are they important in your buying process? This simple explanation will help you in understanding the different numbers used in LED strip lights.

First, a basic understanding of how the strips themselves are constructed. The LED chips are mounted onto a thin, flexible metal strip that acts as a heat sink, drawing heat from the light chips and allowing them to remain cool during operation. This construction accounts for the “SMD” you’ll often see in strip light specifications, which stands for Surface Mount Device. The four-digit designation refers to the dimensions of the chip itself, in millimeters. A 3528 chip, for example, measures 3.5mm by 2.8mm, while a 5050 chip is 5.0mm by 5.0mm square. These different sizes dictate how many chips can be placed on a strip, which in turn determines its particular light qualities. Each has its benefits, so let’s break them down one at a time.


The 5050 chips that Flexfire LEDs uses are actually composed of 3 light diodes, a construction sometimes referred to as a tri-chip. With 3 diodes, a 5050 chip will be brighter than other chips with one individual diode. But while a tri-chip is theoretically three times brighter, their larger size means fewer of them will fit onto a strip’s PCB (Printed Circuit Board). It also means they will generate more heat, requiring a thicker PCB to act as a heat sink. Finally, a tri-chip can be constructed with different types of diodes in the same chip, generating unique visual results. The three diodes can be combined to create millions of different color combinations, making them an excellent choice for RGB lighting installations. To summarize, all things being equal, a 5050 chip is ideal for areas that will be subject to higher amounts of ambient light, and is the best choice for multi-color RGB applications. See the images below for a few examples of how 5050 LED strip lights can be used.

Flexfire LEDs ColorBright Strip Lights


Flexfire LEDs ColorBright LED Strip Lights

Conversely, 3528 LED strip lights use one individual diode in each chip. Being smaller, more of these chips can therefore be packed onto a strip, allowing for much greater overall light output than a comparable strip of 5050 chips. The number of LEDs per foot is therefore a key indicator of brightness, and an important consideration when comparing LED strip lights for purchase.


Smaller Chips = Even More Light

Cutting edge R&D means there are now Flexfire LEDs strip lights featuring 3020 and even 3014 chips. Our UL Listed UltraBright series LED strip lights are available with 600, 700, or even an astonishing 1020 chips per reel, the brightest found on the market today. These high-density LED strip lights are brighter, more efficient, and ideally suited for single color applications in all sorts of residential, commercial, and industrial applications. This series includes our High CRI LED strip lights, which in addition to these brightness and efficiency benefits will also render highly natural, vivid color anywhere they are used. Below are a few examples of how these smaller chips can be used.

Flexfire LEDs UltraBright Strip Lights

Flexfire LEDs UltraBright LED Strip Lights


Key Considerations

If you’re considering the use of LED strip lights in your next installation, here are a few questions you should be prepared to answer:

1. What are the main objectives for this lighting installation? I.e. is it task or accent lighting? Single color or RGB? Indoor or outdoor?

2. Will you want to attach a dimmer?

3. How bright do you want the light?

4. Is true color and thus high CRI an important feature?

Next, when comparing brands for purchase, be sure to note the following features to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money:

1. UL or ETL Safety Listing

2. How many LEDs per reel/foot, and total lumen output

3. CRI (Color Rendering Index). A higher number means more natural, vivid color

4. How many watts does the strip use?

5. Are the lights dimmable?

With this information, you’re now armed to make a smart choice for your next lighting installation project. If you have any other questions, or would like to discuss your project in greater detail, please contact us at info@flexfireleds.com


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