LED Indirect Lighting





Introduction: LED Indirect Lighting

About: I'll try to fix or build anything.

My kitchen used to have soffits above the cabinets (drywalled boxes that extended from the cabinets to the ceilings). This would have been fine had they not been constructed to be open to the attic, turning them into reverse radiators that sucked all of the heat out of the kitchen in the winter. I'd had enough and they were gone. Now after drywalling over the exposed insulation in the walls and ceiling I decided that it was too shadowy above the cabinets.

That's where 5050 LED strip lights came to the rescue.

Step 1: SMD LED Strips

SMD stands for "surface mounted device" (took a while for me to find that out). They come in various sizes, lengths, prices, and color. They are 12v. The particular ones I got are 5050 warm white. I bought two 5 meter (16.5 feet) reels. 5050s are about the brightest strip lights you can get. I actually could have gotten away with using the 3528 strips because these 5050s are just a tad too bright.

As you can see in the pictures the LEDs come with a self adhesive backing. Most do.

I choose the non-waterproof variety because I installed these on top of my kitchen cabinets. Underneath I would have used waterproof. Waterproof can be used anywhere, inside or out, and would make great walkway lighting or accent lighting on decks or houses. Being 12v you can also make some crazy light effects for cars.

If you want multiple colors you can purchase the RGB strips. They will have special power supplies and most have remotes. these can be set to a wide variety of colors and there are even programs in the controllers that will make them fade from color to color and flash and do all sorts of things to give you headaches or trigger seizures.

Step 2: Needs

You'll need a power supply. I went way overboard with this one. The total wattage for each 5 meter ribbon is 45w. I used about 11 feet on each run. I'm not worried though. It just means I can add extra if I feel the need.

Where to get the power supply and lights.

Amazon or eBay. I got the the LED strips for $30 each from an amazon seller called Hitlights. They of course sold all of the extra accessories, but the power supply was from LEDwholesalers and went for about $25. Really shop around and you'll get this stuff at reasonable prices. I actually believe I could have went with the 3528s and been happy with the lower amount of light. You can find the 3528s on amazon for under $20. You can also power these lights with 12v power supplies from computers or any product that will give you 12v and is rated for up to 100w. A good thing about the power supply I got was that it has a voltage adjust that will let you take it down to 10v and dim the LEDs a little. Dimmers are available out there too. Again, Amazon or eBay.

You'll need some wire. Again, I over did it with some left over 18 gauge lamp wire. You could probably get away with 20 or 22 gauge on short runs.

Insulated wire staples to keep things tidy.

Quick connectors. It's optional, but if a strip goes bad or the power supply goes out then you can easily change things.

Make sure to test your LEDs when you get them. You don't want to install everything just to find out you have a bum set.

Step 3: Doing It

I added some 1/4" underlay plywood to the tops of my cabinets. This makes things easier to dust and gives an even surface to mount the LED strip.

I choose to remove the cord that came with the power supply and direct wire straight to the power supply. Eventually I might add an electrical outlet with one plug giving constant power to the over sink light and one plug switchable for the LEDs. It would certainly clean up that ugly yellow romex mess. I might even replace the over sink fluorescent light with more led strips too.

As can be seen in the pictures the power supply is clearly labeled and easy to wire, both for the incoming AC and outgoing 12v DC.

Step 4: Connections

These strip lights can be cut every so many inches. There will be labels indicating where they can be cut.

Many makers of these lights sell connectors that you can buy so that you don't have to do any soldering. Screw that. Why pay a dollar or more for something that could cost you less than a penny in electricity and solder.

They are very easy to solder, despite how small the connections on the strip appear. The solder flows onto copper sections easily and the white insulation keeps it in place stopping bridging. It doesn't take much.

You'll notice that this strip has a connection marked 12v+ and three more labeled R, G, and B. The R,B,&G are actually the 12v-. After you add solder to these, let them harden, then add a little solder between them. You can add some wire leads or if you're good with a soldering iron you can solder the strips together.

Make your connections, remove the cover from the tape on the back, and apply them where you like.

Step 5: Before & After & Cool Pictures

It puts out so much light that I nearly don't need the overhead fluorescent. I think that overhead's days are numbered. It's bound to be replaced by a combination direct/indirect LED light and pot rack.

So there you have it. Go out there and light up your world.



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    Nice project!

    you may want to check this out as well :)


    How did you run the lighting to the second sets of cabinets by the door. In the one picture where the fridge is located you have that entire area light up, then to the left of the door opening that is also lit up... did you run two separate power supplies? I ask because my cabinets are separated like yours and I don't want any unsightly wires showing.



    Great write up! I was wondering how would maintenance be if an led goes out somewhere in the middle? Would you cut out and replace by soldering both sides to the existing strip?

    Now all you need is some crown molding around the cabinet tops to add a decorative touch.

    1 reply

    I did that not long after doing the lights. I just had to find the hickory molding and then figure out the color matching. You can see it in this instructable about something else.



    Nice work !, Thanks.
    Wish I had seen this "Before I store bought mine"

    1 reply

    Thanks! There's always next time.

    I played with the RGB but it looked so tacky :-(
    Also, as I didn't have any (overly) high moisture areas I used the non waterproof ones.

    I have to say that you get a much more even spread of light than you do with Tubes and a brighter light that I got when I tried it with EL tape.

    2011-10-11 00.39.38.jpg2011-10-29 13.17.24.jpg2011-10-29 13.17.33.jpg
    3 replies

    yeah, the RBGs would be good if you wanted to turn a room into a shag-shack. Maybe have the lights and a CD of Barry White turn on with the same switch.

    I've always wanted a toilet where the bowl lights up on the inside for those late night trips to the bathroom. Maybe have a photo sensor and motion sensor so that all you have to do is walk in the room and assume your stance. No more squinting at bright lights and swearing late at night.

    Ooo, use UV LEDs and maybe it could be a sort of self sterilizing toilet.

    Did you know there is an Ible for a lighted toilet? I don't know who the writer is from that Ible, sorry.

    Nice idea. Thanks for sharing :)

    i did this a while ago by simply laying strands of christmas lights on top of the cabinets. the light wasn't even and kind of splotchy. i love your simple solution. the light is amazingly bright for such a small ribbon and very effective.

    3 replies

    I was worried that these wouldn't be bright enough, but that wasn't the case at all. I thought about the christmas lights too, but I've been scared by too many years of warnings about them causing fires. These strips definitely have a good even distribution and light spread. 120 degree light angle I believe they say.

    there wasn't any problem with heat with the christmas lights. they got hot but never anywhere near what it would take to harm the cabinets. I laid them on aluminum foil as a precaution and to act as a reflector. The problem with the christmas lights is that the light was very uneven. there would be bright and dark areas on the wall. even when your really careful to evenly space the lights, the bulbs themselves aren't consistent. that's fine on a christmas tree but not when you want a nice even glow.

    now how did you hide your power cord? how is it switched?

    The power that comes out of the wall and is screwed into the power supply comes from a switch. Originally that switch controlled the light over the sink, but we always left that light on. I ran another wire to power the light over the sink and used the switched wire for the LEDs. The lamp wire running from the power supply is ran against the wall on top of the cabinets, tacked down here and there to keep it neat. You'll notice that the cabinets are separated from one side of the room to the other and here I ran the lamp wire into the wall, up into the attic, then back down on the other side of the room to feed the LEDs on there.

    I did this in my kitchen a while back. Top idea and I wondered why more people don't try it.
    Personal preference, I went for the cool white as I think the warm white looks a bit washed.

    2 replies

    I considered the RGB ones for a while with all of there crazy colors and fading and all that. Eventually I decided that it's just my kitchen, not a disco. When I get around to making a new bar though . . . I can imagine a strip below and behind the bottles. Glowing bourbon. Swell.

    Clearly your kitchen should be a disco.

    Nice job! It looks great.