Introduction: LED Deck Lighting- in Color!

About: Greetings from everyone at usLEDsupply! Like many of you, we have realized that LEDs are awesome and we try to incorporate them into even the most unlikely situations. We have been working on a lot of neat …

We put up these color changing LED lights on this deck just in time for a big party thrown every year!  They added a nice atmosphere to the party and everyone loved them. 

This whole project only took about 1 1/2 days to complete.  The first day to install the wiring and flexible LED lights, and the second to connect the controllers and go over the strips with clear silicon for extra protection.  If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!  Enjoy :-)

Step 1: Draw Schematics

Don't be intimidated by the planning needed to do this project!  I promise you, it will be well worth the effort!  Each deck is slightly different, so there is a lot to consider before you get to work:

Draw a rough sketch of your deck including measurements.  Decide where you want to put the lighting, making particular note of:
~electrical source (where you can get the power from)- this doesn't have to be outside- you can have the LED controllers/power supply in an attic or basement out of the weather and hidden and just run the low voltage wires out to the strips.
~Where you can run the low voltage wire so that it is not noticeable (for example under an overhang/lip of the deck).
~Where and how you want to control the lights from (wall switch, remote, DMX, or timer).
~ How bright you think you want the strips (this can help size the wire, controllers and power supplies). 

After making the rough sketch, you must:
1. Decide how many feet of flexible LED strip you need.  Also, decide which sections you want connected together and which ones you want to be able to control separately (for color or brightness).
2. The best way to run the wiring.  In most cases you should plan on running a maximum of 2 rolls end-to-end per 22-4 supply wire- if you stick to this recommendation, you will be able to have long runs (up to 50') of the wire without having to worry about voltage drop.

Some final things to consider:
~ The more home runs (low voltage wire from the strips back to the controller), the better- as this will provide less voltage drop (power loss) and more options as far as control (if you ever want to add or change anything).
~ If you have a large area you can have several home run locations and either run a larger wire back to the controller or put an amplifier and power supply there to boost the power and signal.
~ If you are looking to run the strips at reduced brightness (dim level- an example would be for under stair treads or outlining your house, you can run several (4-6) rolls together on one controller and power supply.  However, you must then keep the lights at this dim level (for example 35% of brightness) or your power supply will be overloaded and could blink or stop working.
~ Group the wires from each independent section together (each section which you would like to have individual control of), so that they can be connected to separate controllers/amps.
~ For large installations, make note of how many feet of flex strip are on each wire so you can correctly size the amplifier needed. 

Step 2: Materials

You will be able to find most of these materials at your local hardware store- or you may already have them!

~~22-4 cable (low voltage wire) we recommend a stranded control cable or security wire you can use larger 18-4 AWG but you may find it is harder to solder to the strips as the wires are much bigger

~~LED flexible strip- we used 12v waterproof RGB flexible LED strips for underneath the stair tread of the platforms, and regular water resistant 12V RGB flexible LED strips for underneath the railings and gazebo top.  (We figured that the stair treads could be exposed to more water, from splashing rain or a snowy winter.  However, the lights under the railings were not likely to get wet very often).

~~Wire cutters/strippers

~~Soldering gun and rosin core solder

~~Pliers and splice connectors (especially if you don't like to solder)

~~Drill with long 1/4" drill bit to go through deck posts

~~Caulking gun and 100% silicone (Quality silicone like the type you would use for windows, doors, and gutters)

~~You can also use 1/2" plastic or coated wire staples to hold up the strip if you do not want to use the self adhesive/silicone

~~some wire nuts, an extension cord, electrical tape and zip ties may come in handy as well

Step 3: Lay Out Flexible LED Strips and Wires

Lay out the flexible LED strips on top of the railings, cutting the 16' rolls to the necessary lengths. 

Cut the flexible LED strip on the nearest cut line which is approximately every 4 inches, so that it fits between the posts.  You may want to leave approximately 1-2 inches of space at either end.  This will give you extra space for the wire and room to work when soldering/installing them.

Step 4: Drill Through Posts

Drill through any posts that you want to run the wire through, making sure that the hole is right below the bottom of the deck railing.  If one post is higher than the other, you will have to drill diagonally.

Step 5: Connect Wire Through Posts

You will use the low voltage wire to connect the LED strips on either side of the post.  Push a section of wire, long enough to solder onto both ends of the strips, through the hole you drilled.  If the post is hollow, you can leave extra wire as it will make it easier to solder and you can just push the extra into the post.  If the post is hollow, you may need to use a stiff wire like a coat hanger to help guide the wire through (or put the wire through, tape the wire on, and pull it back through the hole). 

Solder the low voltage wire onto the ends of the LED strips.  Make sure to go over all of your solder connections with silicon right away. 

Step 6: Connect Around Corners

Now, you will be connecting the flexible LED strip pieces around joints/bends in the deck railing.  This is much easier to do on top of the railings or at a work bench.  If you do not want to solder, you can pre-measure the sections and order the strips made to length.

If the end that you are working with already has 3-6" of wire on the end, you do not need to do anything to that end.  If it doesn't, simply peel off about 3/8" of the waterproof coating and solder the four wires onto the solder pads as seen in the picture below.  Cover these soldered areas with silicon after you have finished. 

If you have any more questions about the soldering, you can see extremely detailed instructions of the solder process here.

At this point, you should have all the runs of flexible LED strip connected together.  Now all you have to do is connect them to the power supply!

Step 7: Run Wiring

Run the low voltage supply wire from the end of the strips back to the controller (it's best to take the shortest route possible- however, a few extra feet is not a big deal).  To connect all of the LED strips to the control cable, solder wire and any remaining jumpers onto the ends of the strips.  Then, you can use wire nuts or butt connectors to attach it to the low voltage supply wire. 

Double check everything to make sure you have power wires run to all the strips and sections- you don't want to forget any!

Step 8: Attach Strips to Railing

Peel off the backing of the flexible LED strip and stick it to the underside of the clean, dry railing.  Make sure to keep it as straight and even as possible- do not worry if you have an area where it is not sticking as well (you will put silicone on everything to hold it in place as well). 

Step 9: Connect Wires to Amp/controller and Power Supply

Connect all of the wires from each zone you want to control to the same amplifier or controller (depending on length of run and size of controller/amp).

For controller/power supply sizing see this chart.  Make sure to check the info section of the controller/power supply which you want to use, because each will have a maximum rated length of flexible LED strip which it can control. 
~~For a controller or amplifier, use the calculation 1A/16' of 12V RGB Flexible LED Strip.  So...32' would need a 2A/Ch controller or amplifier.  
~~For power supply sizing, figure 3A/16' roll of RGB flex strip if you are going to use the white/ full brightness setting.  If you are going to be using mostly solid colors or fades figure 1.5A/16' roll.  However, it is always better to oversize the power supply so it does not have to work as hard!

If you have longer runs, you can use several power supplies and amplifiers either along the way or all at the base location.  Feel free to ask us questions or need help figuring this out for your specific deck!

For Example's sake:
If the total of all strips in one zone is less than 64' (less than 4 16' rolls of flexible LED strip) and you choose the RGB RF Remote with Audio  controller for that zone, you can just hook the strips into the output of the controllers Black = (+) | Red = (R) | Green = (G) | Blue or White = (B) and then connect the power supply to the power input of the controller and you are good to go.

However, if the layout was the same but you wanted to use a 24key IR Remote you would need to use a Mini Amp between the controller and the strips to boost the signal/power, as the 24x IR Remote is only rated at 2A/ch so it could only control up to 2 of our 16' strips  without an amplifier.

Step 10: Testing/Troubleshooting

It is always a good idea to go over each connection and make sure that none of the wires or contacts  are shorted out.  In addition, make sure that no unconnected ends are touching anything or each other.

If the lights come on for a while, but then start slowly flashing, your power supply is probably overloaded (and the lights are flashing because it keeps resetting)- you either need a bigger power supply or to dim the lights down.

If everything comes on but not all of the colors work, you probably have a short between 2 of the colored wires.  If one of the colors doesn't come on at all, one of the wires is probably loose.

If you have a section which doesn't work, check to make sure all of the connections are secure.

Step 11: FInish Up / Silicone Strips to Railing

After everything is working properly, you need to apply silicone over all the connections.  Also, run a bead of clear silicone along either side of the water resistant flexible LED strips to help seal them and hold them onto the railing in all weather conditions.  If you are worried about the strips coming off, you can place electrical staples over the strips.

Step 12: Have a Party!

Now the fun part: 

Invite some friends over, and have a party to test out the lights!! :-)