Buying first light strip - what to buy?

Buying first light strip. Getting overwhelmed by what to buy - strip, controllers, power sources etc.

Will be used under a vanity in bathroom for ambient lighting/main source of light if walking in the middle of the night. Mainly will be used with white light (mostly warm I imagine) but getting a strip with RGB also is a plus, I may want red at night or to use colors as notifications.

Given that will be in bathroom, ideally would like IP65, I’ve heard IP67 may run the LEDs hot and may shorten life expectancy.

Any recommendations on strips, power, and controllers (I have both zigbee and zwave devices) would be appreciated!

I would like to integrate into Hubitat to automate the strips with motion sensors.

Been looking into BTF strips.

Bueller..

I have done this with Gledopto and similar clone drivers. They work fine if you are looking for a simple device without effects, chasing, individual addressing, and so on. They are Zigbee, which I would recommend over Z-wave.

If going this way, I would recommend (and did use) diffuser channel to make these look better. I did not use any IP rated lights, but they aren't really exposed in these channels the way I have them positioned. Any liquid would be very minimal if any at all.

If I were to start again, I would consider Govee. I have a couple of their items (outdoor lights), and the effects and the ability to create many colorful scenes are nice. This gives the ability to create chasing, rainbow, color blend/fades, and other cool effects. That said, their app is a complex, cluttered disaster to use, and it makes me a tiny bit nervous that someday they may cut off access or the company goes bankrupt, and you lose the ability to control the lights. They are also a LOT more expensive than generic strips and drivers, and most rely on Wifi, which is OK, but some are Bluetooth only, which I would completely eliminate from consideration.

Matter devices may be a consideration as well, but I have not looked recently to see what is available, or the pricing of such items. I wouldn't pay more to purchase Matter over Zigbee, but if the price was equal, I would consider it. That said, some have mixed experiences with Matter, but my couple RGB bulbs have been fine so far.

Here is a picture I have posted in the past with my setup.

If you don't mind a bit of DIY my recommendation is Pixelblaze controller plus COB addressable strips. It is LAN but integration with HE is 100% local. Capabilities are endless. As of today I converted all my strips to COB/Pixelblaze.
BTW, consider COB strips regardless of which controller you will pick.

With a little work, they can be converted to a WLED controller of your choice. I haven't done it yet but are considering.

So any setup will require 3 things.

  1. Power supply.
  2. The LED strip it self
  3. A controller

I would start with the strip itself like you have, mainly because the strip's will likely determine what the other stuff is you need. When looking at the strips there are two things that really determine what you need.

The length of the run and then the kind of light you want. The length of the run is important because it can affect the density of the pixels and the power requirements for the strip. Considering you said this is to go under a vanity pretty much any strip will work. I wouldn't expect that to be more than a couple of meters so even strips as dense as COB lights as mentioned by @vitaliy_kh are a option. Then you need to consider placement and Diffuser requirements.

The Led strip technology comes in two main flavors now which are strips without IC's to control segments and addressable strips with IC's that can control individual segments. Generally addressable strips will call out IC's in the type of strip like RGBICWW or just RGBIC while nonaddressable strips would just be RGB or RGBWW. You only need something like pixelblase, or wled, ect if the strip is addressable. Nonaddressable switches can use more basic zigbee/Zwave controllers.

The other aspect is do you want dedicated pixels to provide Warm and cool white light. Simply put if you don't have dedicated warm and cool white pixels some strips really struggle to produce white light. They end up trying to produce the Color temp by mixing the RGB in ways to make it which often isn't great. Your best bet for white lights is to get a strip that has the white color built in. This means to look for a strip that has either a W or WW at the end of the strip type identifier. Contrary to what some say WW does not mean Warm white it is actually a Cool white pixel. The first W generally represents a Warm white pixel is included as that is harder to reproduce without. The second W is for Cool white and isn't as important but can be good if you use that color temp a lot. Sometimes these white pixels are not called out though so research is good to do.

The power supply is simply a result of the strip you choose. Simply put once you pick your strip you need to do some math for the power requirements. The strip should tell you want voltage it runs at and then how much amps it will use at max. Then take that number and do the math to figure the size in amps of the power supply to use at most 80% of it's rated capacity and get that. So as an example, if the strip says it will use 12v at 1.5 amp max for the strip then i would get a 12v 2amp power supply. It doesn't really hurt to go larger if you want, it will just cost more money.

The controller is a interesting thing. Prebuilt controllers can be pricey unfortunately. When i was looking at this a while ago and got my Gledopto kit i use in my pantry, most of the cost was the controller and not the strip itself. LED strips don't actually cost that much. For that reason, I don't even think I would consider a nonaddressable setup now. I do think they have gotten a little bit better in price though. There aren't many options either for Zigbee, Zwave. I only know of a few. Things look very interesting with WLED and pixelblaze now, i just haven't tried them yet. It looks like it should be very simple though to simply load them on a ESP32 and control any strip. If you don't use color and just a single-Color temp strip you can probably even get away with just a smart outlet controller.

Prebuilt systems like lifix, hue, Govee, ect are great options because you are guaranteed it will work . Govee has in the past tended to be less costly when the focus was primarily being a alternatives to the big names, but now they also have some very unique options. They sell a prebuilt strip in a diffuser that can fit in corners for walls and ceilings. They have prebuilt diffuser options to help with that for placement in certain areas like baseboards. and allot more. Govee has really come into their own. Many of their products support a LAN API so that is a way to avoid their cloud, and allot of the new devices are also supporting Matter so that is another way to keep it local.

I actually think this is less of problem then you might initially think. Especially when Hubitat is involved. Simply put all of their devices support Bluetooth so even if the cloud goes out they will likely work fine with that, and if the devices support LAN API or Matter then Hubitat can control it without the cloud.

This is certainly true for some devices, but not all. I have had one Govee Device fail on me completely It was a Lyra Lamp. They just sent me a replacement so i got to take it apart and look at the inner workings. The wires going into the strip are interesting. and not your typical 3 wires for RGBIC. I haven't dug into more, but quickly moved on to something else. That said i did see a youtube video where their desk strip LED was converted to wled. Looked pretty easy actually as it does use the typical 3 wire + - Data setup

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Wow. Lot of good info here. Thanks!

If I want to have two or three separate strips, do I need to buy 2 or 3 separate strips or can I buy one long one and then buy 2 or 3 controllers/power sources?

You can buy one long strip and cut it on designated lines. You will just need to solder wires to the end of the strip where it was cut. Also make sure you connect the controller on the correct side as the Data signal needs to go the right direction.

Depending on the controller and how you wire it as well you may be able to control more then one strip from a single controller controller.

Depend on a chosen strip you may use a strip-to-wire clips instead of soldering. My strong preference is soldering wires.

This is certainly possible but my preference is to have individual controller and ps for each strip. This way the setup is very flexible and easier to maintain.
But again, this decision is individual.

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If money was no object what strip would you buy? Which controller? Which power supply?

Honestly i am a bit biased as the maintainer of the community Govee Integration. For simplicity i would just pick up the Govee M1 strip that supports Matter and with the length needed. Then if needed get a channel diffuser for it.

For me the simplicity of knowing it just works would be the driver. Govee often runs sales on various kits so it is bound to go on sale eventually. The M1 strip is also their best strip right now and is RGBICW.

That said i was looking at WLED on amazon this morning and i am thinking of picking one up to try out. Simply put the item i was looking at was a WS2812B 5v strip and a wled controller that used USB C for power. It has a 60 led per meter density which is kind of lowest density i would get if going this route. That means it needs a good amount of power though.