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.