Intro: LED Light Tape to Light a Dark Clothes Chest
As I get up before my wife and don’t want to disturb her by turning on the lights, selecting clothes from the shelves inside my clothes chest is hit or miss. Even when the lights are on, it's dark in there. I used a small LED flashlight, when I hadn’t misplaced it.
This photo was taken in daylight.
One Christmas I bought a set of White LED Christmas wreath lights powered by three AA batteries. While removing them after Christmas, it struck me that I could use them to light the top shelf of the clothes chest! The top front of the 40-inch wide chest has a lip that would conceal the lights.
I modified the wiring in the battery case and extended a leg so that it could be connected to a normally closed magnetic switch. The light strand was long enough that doubling it gave me LEDs about every 2 inches. Hot glue bound the strands together. Aluminum foil tape against the inside lip top of the chest would reflect the light into the interior. I used a staple gun to loosely attach the strand of LED lights against the foil tape. If you stick your head in the chest, it isn't pretty, but it worked.
The magnetic switch was attached close to the hinge so that a small magnet, hot glued to the hinge, would open the circuit when the door was closed. When the door opens, the magnet moves away from the switch, closing the circuit and powering the lights.
This has worked OK for the last three years, but only for the top shelf. The second shelf has no lip and I couldn’t figure a way to mount these type lights so they wouldn’t hang down and be in the way. That shelf remained in the dark!
I bought the magnetic switch at an electronics parts store for less than $3. The magnet is salvaged from a Phillips electronic tooth brush.
Total time to put together, less than an hour.
Recently, while looking on Amazon for LED bulbs for my motorcycle, I discovered Flexible LED Lighting Strips by the reel at a very low cost, $13 for a 5-meter (16 ft.) reel with 300 surface mounted LEDs. Hum? 300 LEDs on a 3mm wide Mylar tape backed by 3M peel away sticky tape. This would place a LED every 15 mm. I could light the front and back of both shelves, and the sides!
I chose the warm white version, as the wreath lights were artificially snow white bright. As the strip uses 12 volts and consumes 24 watts, I also bought the matching plug-in power unit for $9.25. These prices included shipping.
When the lights arrived I pulled out about 5 feet and plugged them in. Wow, those 300 LEDs put out an incredible amount of light. I had to revise my plan to only light the front underside of the two shelves!
I took the old LED project apart, leaving the magnetic switch. I press mounted the flexible tape against the top edge of the chest so they pointed towards the back. Since the second shelf has no lip, I had to press the tape against the front underside of the second shelf. The tape holds very tight. The jumper from the power module allowed one wire to be cut and was easily connected to the already mounted magnetic switch.
As you can see in the photo, the lighting on the top shelf is quite bright as the LEDs are pointing towards the back. The lights run down the left side of the cabinet then along the leading edge under the bottom shelf pointing down. There is still plenty of light on the bottom shelf!
Included with the reel of LEDs was an extra strip light connector. Now I’m looking for another way to use the remaining 8 feet of LEDs!
This project couldn't have been easier! I spent less than 30 minutes on it.