About: For anyone wondering I fully transitioned to producing 3D printing content only on YouTube. Old videos are no longer available but all full detailed Instructables are still here if you want to make any of my p…

In this instructable/video, I will be making a floodlight with extremely cheap driverless AC LED chips. Are they any good? Or they are complete trash? To answer that, I will be making a full comparison with all my made DIY lights.

As usual, for cheap DIY projects, the key is to reuse as much as you can, especially something like an aluminum heatsink, as it is very important part of the build. Because of this, the project cost me ~$5. I just bought 2x LEDs and the cheapest DIN rail. Other things are pretty common to have or get for free.

I used 2x50W LEDs, but I will probably have to use a dimmer to reduce the power to something like 50-75W. As the efficacy (SPOILER ALERT) of these LEDs is so bad, they produce way too much heat for the used heatsink.

My other DIY lights:

Comparison photos high-resolution:

Provided Amazon links are affiliates.

Main Tools:

Main Components & Materials:

Other Things:

Power cord, heat-shrink tube, bolts, nuts, washers, sandpaper

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Step 1: Preview

Preview of the DIY floodlight.

STEP 2 - STEP 12 - the build;

From STEP 13 - more about these driverless AC LEDs;

From STEP 17 - comparison to my other made DIY lights.

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Step 2:

First is the build. I salvaged this very interesting aluminum heatsink. It immediately gave me an idea to make an outdoor weather-proof light, as I collected so many of AC LED chips over time, but didn’t make anything with them.

The surface wasn’t smooth at all, so I sanded until I get it reasonably flat. It is very far away from perfect, but it will do the job.

Step 3:

To cover the random holes, I cut a few tiny pieces from a scrap aluminum part. And by the way, you should never cut aluminum with a regular abrasive disc for a safety reason. It is way better to figure out how to clamp small parts and cut with a jigsaw.

Step 4:

On one side there was a thread for a bolt, so I needed to make an exact same thread on the other side. This later will be the place for a light holder. As this is aluminum making thread is super easy.

Step 5:

I also drilled the hole for the power cable. Just make sure to countersink the hole that it would be smooth and don’t cut a cable.

Step 6:

To cover the side gaps, I used high-temperature sealant and bolts with nuts. As I am not chasing for the looks, this will be a great long-lasting seal. This is kind an overkill, you could use a clear silicone sealant which is rated for something like from -50C to 150C.

Step 7:

To mount the LEDs to the heatsink you should drill holes, make threads, add thermal compound and secure with 4 bolts. But who’s got time for that? Well, speaking seriously, the frame was too thin to do that, and I didn’t want more holes at the back that I will need to seal later. So... I just used thermal glue to secure the LEDs. It is kinda one-way, no-return project anyways.

Step 8:

For the power cord, you should use a cable that can handle high temperatures, this would be something like a silicone coated cable. More realistically, only a tiny part of the cable will be in contact with the heatsink.

So, to minimize heat transfer from it, I wrapped the cable in heat resistant tape and added a heat shrink tube on a regular power cable. In the end, I added a few additional tubes just that it wouldn’t be possible to pull out the cord.

Again, to avoid this janky stuff - use a proper cable.

Step 9:


Next – the soldering. First the most important thing, always ground the metal surfaces, it isn’t hard and it is a very important safety feature. Second, wires from blue-neutral and brown-live just splits into two wires as we need to power two LEDs. There are always markings on the LEDs where which wire goes.

I could just leave wires without insulation, but that would be pretty dumb as this is a DIY project. You never know what could go wrong with it, so insulating wires with silicone is a great idea. Better safe than sorry, especially as this will be outside in the rain and powered directly from the mains.

Step 10:

Of course, I won’t leave it open, so I cut the exact same size clear sheet of plexiglass. Later it will be secured with four bolts. Drilling without cracking it on a drill press is easy, but if you try it to do with a hand drill… results can be not that good. To get acceptable looking holes just drill slowly with almost no pressure, pretty simple.

To hide ugly inside wiring and get better light diffusion I sanded both sides of the plexiglass. At first, I used 80 grit sandpaper, I don’t know what I was thinking. Just don’t use anything rougher than 220 grit.

Step 11:

Finally, to completely seal the LEDs, I added silicone around the frame, then the cover and secured it with bolts and washers. Don’t overtighten them, you don’t want to squeeze out all the sealant. By pressing you just want that the sealant will combine into the continuous mass without any gaps.

Step 12:

For the holder, I just bent a cheap rail, no drilling, no cutting. To secure it – two bolts and some washers. Also, these more bent corners will give great rigidity. And this is all you need to do to make the light like this.

Step 13:

So now let's talk more about these driverless LEDs. Over time, I bought and tested some different types of those chips. What I liked about them – is that they are really cheap. Usually, you can find them for $2 to $5 depending on the model and they range from 20W to 50W.

Step 14:

You connect them directly to mains power. And that is very convenient and it saves more money as you don’t need any additional power supply.

All of these LEDs have the same holes for the screws. This makes replacing the chip so much easier as you don’t need to worry about modifying the mounting.

One more thing that is really nice, is that all LEDs that I tested, worked with a cheap AC dimmer. It wasn’t perfect, but it kinda worked. It was very sensitive and it had a huge control dead zone. Probably it’s the dimmers fault, but realistically I doubt anyone will use anything more expensive than this for these cheap LEDs.

Step 15:

So far it seems that these chips are pretty decent, right? Well, now let's talk about what disadvantages they have.

If you have read my previous Instructables you can definitely tell that I love to make all sorts of lighting projects. I have used 12V LED strips, basic 34V 100W LEDs, high-end 36V Cree LEDs and I am working on more high-power high-quality lighting.

My other DIY lights:

Step 16:

This experience and few tools give me pretty good judgment on what you can expect from these LEDs. And one of the most important qualities for the LED is efficiency or a proper term - efficacy.

Step 17:

LEDs with better efficacy, at the same wattage, will produce less heat because more electrical power will be converted to light and less to heat. And less heat equals the longer lifespan of the LED and the need for a smaller heatsink.

Comparison photos high-resolution:

My other DIY lights:

Step 18:

Another important quality of an LED is how good they recreate the colors. The most basic measurement is CRI. Higher the value – the more pleasant and natural colors are.

Keep in mind that higher CRI also reduces the efficacy of the LED, as it needs to recreate a wider spectrum of colors. You definitely can tell that these driverless LEDs don’t produce those rich colors, it rather looks dull and lifeless. Let’s be real, no one would sell 90+ CRI LEDs at such low prices.

Step 19:

One more disadvantage is flicker. And this one is really annoying if you are sensitive to it. Remember that you won’t see the flicker as a camera sees with incorrect shooting settings. Without anything moving it’s hard to notice the flicker, but when something moves it is very obvious.

So to summarize. If you are looking for good lighting quality, I advise avoiding these driverless LEDs at all costs. Extremely low efficiency, bad colors and the flicker – definitely not the things that you are looking for in high-quality lighting.

Step 20:

BUT, you can’t deny that slapping a dirt-cheap LED on a heatsink and powering it from the mains is extremely convenient. You definitely can’t beat the price if you have some spare parts lying around and don’t mind putting in some work.

Like someone said there are no bad products, only bad prices. So there is definitely a place for these LEDs in the lighting market, just don't expect anything amazing from them at such low prices.

Step 21: END

I hope this instructable/video was useful and informative.
If you liked it, you can support me by liking this Instructable / YouTube video and subscribe for more future content. Feel free to leave any questions about this build. Thank you, for reading/watching! Till next time! :)

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