Recently, the world has been going bonkers about LED strip lights. Now, you can find LED light strips incorporated into residential buildings, commercial spaces, industrial applications, and even modern art. If you are planning an LED strip lights project, you have likely encountered aluminum channels included in the optional accessories or parts list.
What are LED aluminum channels, and why are they necessary? Are they useful for thermal management? What are the other benefits of these aluminum channels? This article covers everything there’s to know about LED Aluminum channels. Keep reading to find out how to best incorporate LED strip lights and aluminum channels into your LED lighting project.
Aluminum extrusions for LED strip lights are U-shaped aluminum channels for holding LED strip lights. Strictly speaking, LED light strips are components of a lighting set-up and not a complete product. The entire LED strip lights setup should include the LED light strips, polycarbonate diffusers, and LED aluminum extrusions. The profiles and their appropriate diffuser are usually bundled together. If you have been installing your LED strip lights barebones, you have likely been doing it wrong, with a few exceptions to come later in the article.
LED aluminum extrusions, as their name suggests, are created using extruded aluminum. Their creation via the extrusion process allows them to be narrow and long, making them the perfect host for LED strip light installation. The channels that accommodate LED strips with a single light arrangement often have a half-inch wide base with a half-inch depth.
Aluminum profiles for LED light strips serve three primary functions which are:
Dust and debris can accumulate on bare LED light strips, reducing luminance. Moisture and water can get on naked light strips, increasing the risk of short-circuiting. LED light strips are typically installed in aluminum profiles for protection. They shield the light strips from damage by environmental factors like moisture, dust, and debris.
The lighting from bare LED lights is often harsh and directional. The diffusers of aluminum extrusions soften the LED lighting and scatter it more broadly. This eliminates the strong shadows and bright light spots created by bare LED lights. As a result, the diffusion enhances the lighting aesthetics by giving it a more professional feel.
Speculation and misconceptions on whether aluminum profiles actually help with managing heat from LED strip lights have been rife for years. Let’s separate using aluminum profiles for LED strips heat management fact from fiction. Well, LED lights are well-known for their low heat generation (about 10% to 40%) compared to other types of lights. However, this heat can become significant and detrimental to the longevity of the LED cells if the lighting is turned on for an extended period. Since aluminum is an excellent heat conductor, installing LED strip lights in aluminum channels can help with heat management. Therefore, your LED lighting strips will likely have a longer service life.
Aluminum profiles for LED light strips are available in varying shapes, depths, and sizes. Classification is usually based on the mode of installation and application features. Which LED aluminum extrusion type suits you will depend on your light project. The most popular aluminum channel types are:
Surface-mounted LED channels are the most prevalent type of aluminum LED profiles, thanks to their incredible ease of installation. They are often bundled with end caps and mounting clips. Surface LED extrusions are frequently mounted in ceilings, closets, and under kitchen cabinets.
As their name suggests, recessed LED profiles are typically set within their mounting surface. Installation involves digging out the mounting surface to create a depression. Recessed LED extrusions are favored in spaces where a cleaner, subtle lighting aesthetic is key as they sit flush with the mounting surface.
This aluminum profile type features a perpendicular angle, perfectly fitting into corners of cabinets, walls, stairs, shelves, etc. They have exploded in popularity because they can evenly spread light across the X and Y axes. Installation of corner LED channels is similar to that of surface LED profiles.
Drywall LED channels are a more permanent LED lighting setup as installation involves plastering them into the wall or ceiling. Its wiring will also be hidden entirely under the plastering, giving its steller a cleaner look. However, due to the complexity of the drywall profile installation process, you will need a technician’s assistance.
Hanging LED Extrusions are generally surface LED channels featuring a contemporary design. Their installation involves suspending the profiles from the ceiling. This type of aluminum channel is commonly installed in spaces with high ceilings to bring adequate lighting closer to the floor. Interior designers implement hanging LED channels with varying heights in residential and commercial spaces to create exciting centerpieces.
While all aluminum LED channels can prevent some water and moisture from getting to the LED strips, waterproof extrusions are designed to keep out water under all conditions. Therefore, they are usually utilized for installing LED stripes outdoors and around swimming pools. In these extreme applications, conventional LED aluminum profiles will likely fail to prevent the water from reaching the LED lighting strip.
Hanging rail LED profiles are primarily used in wardrobes, serving as both lighting fixture and clothes hanging rail. They are often oval-shaped, with the diffuser on the bottom side. This LED profile type is an excellent way of incorporating contemporary lighting and design into your wardrobe.
This LED aluminum profile type features an optic lens diffuser that diverges or converges the LED light. Extrusions with converging optic lens diffusers can reduce the LED light’s luminous angle from 120 degrees to 60 degrees or narrower. These are commonly implemented in LED lighting projects that require a narrower beam. In contrast, channels with diverging lens diffusers can increase the LED light’s luminous angle from 120 degrees to 180 degrees or greater.
You can achieve various levels of diffusion effect when planning to install LED light strips into aluminum channels. A limited diffusion effect means you get more intense light, harsh shadows, glare, and discernable LED dots. On the other hand, a greater diffusion effect will give you softer light, diminished shadows, no glare, and indiscernible LED lights. An aluminum profile diffusion effect is determined by:
● The Depth/Height of the Channel: What’s the height of the channel? The deeper the LED aluminum profile, the greater its diffusion effect, and vice versa. For instance, if the depth of the LED aluminum extrusion were 1.5 inches, the diffusion effect would be better than if the depth were 0.5 inches.
● The Density of the LED Light Strip: How many LEDs are present per foot of the light strip? The greater the LED density, the higher the diffusion effect, and vice versa. For example, if there are 40 LEDs per foot of light strip, the diffusion effect will be better than if there were 15 LEDs.
Whenever you are selecting channels for an LED strip light project, always consider these factors.
Some drawbacks exist to using aluminum LED extrusions. These drawbacks are:
Aluminum is more expensive than PVC plastic. Utilizing aluminum profiles while installing LED strip lights will cost more than PVC plastic profiles.
The diffusers fitted on profiles affect the CCT (correlated color temperature) and lumen output of LED strips. Some diffusers decrease CCT by up to 300K and lumen transmittance by up to 50%. Thus, you must purchase LED strips with higher-than-necessary CCT and Lumen to get the desired CCT and lumen output.
Not all LED strip lighting situations require aluminum channels. For example, installing low-power LED strips doesn't require aluminum extrusions. LED strips rated 10 watts and below can’t produce intense levels of heat that might cut down their service life.
Therefore, you won’t benefit from the heat dissipation capabilities of aluminum channels. Moreover, the efficiency gains on low-power LED strips in aluminum profiles are almost negligible.
All aluminum LED extrusions don’t have the same quality. Keep in mind that an aluminum profile’s quality affects its durability, plus the CCT and lumen output.
High-quality channels will have enhanced durability and superior CCT and lumen output. You can identify top-quality LED aluminum channels through:
The most reliable aluminum alloy for creating LED strip lighting extrusions is 6063-T5. Profiles with thicker walls are better at dissipating heat. However, thicker aluminum profiles are always costlier.
The best heat dissipation performance to price balance is 1.2 millimeters to 1.3 millimeters thick. The LED extrusion should have an anodized layer 8 to 13 microns thick. The thicker the oxide layer, the more excellent its disfigurement and corrosion resistance.
Avoid profile diffusers constructed with recycled materials as they deteriorate faster. Some diffusers made from recycled materials are also delicate and tend to break during installation. Ultra-thin diffusers should be 1.2 millimeters to 1.3 millimeters thick, while standard diffusers should have a thickness of between 1.5 millimeters and 1.6 millimeters.
Well-made aluminum LED channels will have remarkable diffuser, base, and end cap compatibility.
The three components should fit snugly onto each other with no gaps. The absence of gaps indicates that the profile manufacturer did not cut corners in quality control. Therefore, their LED aluminum channels are high-quality.
You can do a fitment test if you purchase your LED strip lights and aluminum channels at the same location. When buying the lights and profiles separately, pay extra attention to the dimensions of each item.
The profiles’ inner width and height should be greater than the width and height of the light strips.
If you order waterproof strips, they will be 2 millimeters thicker than standard strips because of the waterproof silicone coating.
Therefore, the appropriate aluminum channel should have at least 2 millimeters extra width and 2 millimeters extra height than the channels for standard LED strips. Additionally, the dimensions of the end caps should be smaller than the extrusions’ inner width.
Additionally, solderless LED strip variants tend to have a broader connector than the dimensions of the strip. Ensure that the connectors for the solderless strips can fit within the aluminum extrusions’ inner width and height.
Installing LED strip lights with aluminum channels is the most reliable way to guarantee their longevity. Purchasing high-quality aluminum profiles will save you money long-term despite the high initial installation costs.
Sourcing your aluminum LED extrusions from reputable manufacturers like JMA means you will always receive great top-quality LED profiles. JMA is a market-leading Chinese aluminum extrusion products manufacturer with a remarkable record. The company’s extrusion products have been utilized in constructing numerous world-shaking architectural marvels.
Shishan Production Base
Nonferrous Metal Industrial Park, Xiaotang, Shishan Town, Nanhai District, Foshan City, Guangdong Province
Gaobian production base
Gaobian Zhangbian Industrial Zone, Dali Guangyun Road, Nanhai District, Foshan City, Guangdong Province