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LED lighting has never been more popular. It’s easy to see why, with the savings you can make by switching to LED bulbs in your home. Alongside saving money, there are smart systems like the Phillips Hue, or DIY setups using LED pixels . There are many smart lighting options to choose from, affording you endlessly creative and colorful ways to light your home .
Today we will be concentrating on the humble RGB LED strip. They cost only $23 for five meters of RGB LEDS (or under $10 if you are willing to wait a little longer for them to arrive direct from China). Both of these links come with a power supply and remote control.
The strips are low power, easy to shorten, and easy to attach using their sticky back side. Many of these ideas are plug in and go, while some need a little more tinkering and a microcontroller (like Arduino).
Want some inspiration for lighting up your life? Let’s go!
Custom Ambient Lighting
LEDs make great alternative lighting, and with a little work you can make it look stylish too. YouTuber Great Scott! created this detailed guide to creating backlit wall panels.
In a similar vein, YouTuber DIY Perks has a tutorial video on creating wall hanging uplights.
Both of these projects use warm white LEDs, you could use RGB LEDS in their place to add a splash of color.
YouTuber techydiy created an illusion mirror using LED strips. His video shows how to build an elegant wooden enclosure along with the LED wiring.
Another great place for LEDs is in the kitchen. This video from DIGS Channel show the more practical aspects of how to install them, and how good they can look!
You can use LED lights to grow plants indoors. In this video, YouTuber RepensTheTurtle takes you through a simple build design.
Combine this and a monitoring system for the ultimate automated growing set up!
Make It Smart
Using LED strips in conjunction with a microcontroller gives much more control. It also adds a level of complexity. Controlling LED strips make a great project for Arduino beginners.
In this video, YouTuber Gadget Addict explains how to control an LED strip using an Arduino.
It’s worth noting that you must use logic-level MOSFETs such as the IRL540N with microcontrollers.
With this extra level of control comes some cool options for projects. Using an Arduino and a PIR sensor, you can create an LED sunrise lamp with motion activated night light.
The nightlight part of the above project has other uses too. Jazzcat123 used a similar circuit to add motion controlled LEDs to their pantry.
Make It Part of Your Media System
If you have a Logitech Harmony remote, you can control LED strips using it.
Using a computer or media center to watch shows is becoming more common. Using an Arduino and Processing, you can match screen colors with the LED strips to great effect.
Light Up Your Work Space
Alongside lighting your home, LED strips are useful in the workplace too.
This video from Darbin Ovar takes you through the build process for a simple writing Desk lamp
In a similar vein, Well Done Tips uses a piece of aluminium to create a little more light over a larger work area.
Illuminating the shelves in your workshop makes life easier. Instructables user Roey Leon created light up shelves for his bar. If you need it to be more rugged, try switching the glass out for thick clear acrylic.
For a portable solution, the Natural Nerd channel has a guide for a tripod mountable work light
Instructables user Leviathan17 built a more permanent outdoor light for $15. The guide covers building the enclosure, along with adding motion activation.
Light Up Your Life!
So far we have covered practical uses for LED strips. Now lets look into some of their fun uses!
This flashing multicolored dog collar covers both fun and practical. Instructables user out-of-the-box created it using basic components (namely, a 555 timer chip). No microcontroller required!
It appears they also faced the issue of someone not staying still enough for their photo opportunity!
If you are a bike rider, this Instructable is for you. Tater Zoid mounted LED strips to their bike making it both safe and snazzy in one fell swoop.
Make Your Clothing Shine
Do you like your clothes bright? How about taking it one step further?
This guide by maker SexyCyborg takes you through the assembly of an underlit skirt.
It works through Bluetooth and a battery pack, though you could modify it to use the IR receiver in your LED strip’s kit.
Autodesk University made interactive Lab Coats, using LED lights and sensors attached to an Arduino.
The project includes code to help you make your coat reactive to whichever sensors you choose to attach.
Along with your new jacket, how about some shoes? Créative-Mélina has a simple to follow guide to shiny shoes. Perfect for the adult that wishes they still could buy light up kids shoes!
Taking it up a notch, sheetmetalalchemist made a Tron suit, using a simple but brilliant leather and LED strip design. Great for a fun night out stuck inside a computer fighting for your life.
Finally, we couldn’t go through cool things that light up without including a Lightsaber.
Eric Nieto created his own Jedi light sword using an LED strip, and some machined parts.
While Eric made most of the body of his saber with metal, you could create something similar using PVC pipe at home. A perfect project to keep you occupied while waiting for the next Star Wars movie.
What Will You Make?
These 22 ideas are just to get you started. Now is the perfect time to experiment given how cheap and easy to set up these lights are. Any article on LED strips is only going to be the tip of the iceberg. The only limits are your imagination, so order some today and have some fun.
Are you going to make your own home lighting? Are you planning any projects with LED strips? Let us know in the comment section below!