When it comes to illumination, we are all lucky to live in a time when there are so many unique options that are not only highly efficient but also more affordable than ever before. There are so many different choices today that one may feel overwhelmed at all the potential choices to choose from.
Rope lights, strip lights, fairy lights, and tape lights are all popular types of lights used for illumination and decorative purposes. Which one is the best? Well, it’s difficult to say because all of them excel and have different uses.
To know where these lights shine, it’s important to know more about them and that is exactly what we are going to do.
What are Rope Lights and Strip Lights?
Both rope lights and strip lights not only offer different features but also excel at different purposes. Let’s dive a bit deeper into both of them.
What are Rope Lights?
Rope lights are mostly used for events and restaurants for accent lighting and creating a specific type of atmosphere. While they started as a more commercial business-friendly product, today many homes use them for decorative lighting purposes too.
They come in a wide variety of lengths and colors to meet any requirement you may have. Some of the options you get in terms of colors are warm white, cool white, red, green, yellow, amber, purple, pink, and more.
These lights come with either incandescent bulbs or LED bulbs, allowing you to choose the one you need.
How to Install Rope Lights
A basic rope lighting kit comes with the lights, mounting clips, and a transformer or driver. The transformer will help in stepping down the voltage to 120V, which is ideal for these lights. However, some kits don’t use transformers and instead come with a driver as LEDs consume very little power.
It is important to note that rope lights capable of handling 120V don’t require a driver or step down transformer to work. Pay attention to the maximum wattage to ensure it can handle the wattage of the total length you are using.
The total wattage can be calculated by multiplying the length of the light (in feet) by the wattage per foot.
Common Rope Light Features
Most rope lights are also waterproof and so you can comfortably place them outdoors without any worry.
Some kits even come with a controller with which you can perform a variety of functions such as dimming the lights, flashing the lights according to music, and even changing colors.
As rope lights are long clear tubes with bulbs inside them, they can easily be wrapped around various objects to accentuate the area.
What are LED Strip Lights?
LED strip lights are the rage now as both businesses and homes are starting to use them for all their decorative lighting needs.
They are far superior when it comes to incandescent and halogen lights as they require significantly less amount of power, last longer, and stay cooler even after prolonged use.
LED strip lights come in three different types, namely, DC LED Flex Strips, AC LED Flex Strips and High Output LED Strips. Similar to rope lights, they also come in a wide variety of colors and lengths to match any requirement you may have.
Related article: Will LED Strip Lights Remove Paint?
How to Install LED Strip Lights
LED Strip lights usually come with a driver, an adapter, and a controller for performing extra functions such as dimming and changing colors. Lights that come with small wattages have a plug-in cord.
In this case, you will have to use a connector to link the lights to the driver. With these connectors, you can change the lighting arrangement and customize it to your needs.
You can go with a basic connector, an L-shaped connector, a T-shaped connector, a Plus shaped connector, or a Y-splitter cord based on your requirements.
Common LED Strip Light Features
These lights come in either a single color or RGB where the single color can be either a cool hue or a warm hue. They also come in a wide range of brightness options so you can use them subtly or brightly.
One of the best features of an LED strip light is its versatility. You can create various lighting effects with them as they can easily be installed in narrow spaces and they create a layering effect to highlight an area.
Most of them are also waterproof, shockproof, and come with IP rated coatings to ensure maximum safety.
Rope Lights Vs Strip Lights – What’s the Difference?
Now that we have a good idea about what these lights are, let’s take a look at their differences and what makes them unique from each other.
- Source – These lights are available with either incandescent bulbs or LED ones. They usually come with a variety of single colors per rope allowing you to mix and match different ones to get a unique look.
- Size – Most rope light tubes come with either 1/2-inch diameter or 3/8-inch diameter. In some cases, the mounting clips will add more width to them.
- Brightness – When it comes to brightness, these lights aren’t that bright. They are used for decorative purposes rather than for illuminating a specific area.
- Uses – Their primary usage is for accent lighting due to their low brightness. They can easily be wrapped around various objects like trees or put over rooftops and walls.
- Source – These lights use LED bulbs but they come in a variety of configurations based on their chip size. They are also available in single colors as well as color-changing options.
- Size – They have an ultra-thin profile of 1/8 inches. Their small size makes them ideal for small and compact places.
- Brightness – They come with low brightness and high brightness variants. You also get a controller with most lights to dim them whenever necessary.
- Uses –You can use them for both accent lighting and task lighting. Their compact size makes them ideal for use in small areas such as under kickboards, staircases, indoor gardens, counters, and more.
Pros and Cons of Rope Lights and Strip Lights
Both rope lights and strip lights come with pros and cons. Depending on the circumstances, one may be better than the other.
|High-quality rope lights are relatively affordable for short term use.||They are usually less bright than other types of light as the bulbs are covered with a transparent tube. Therefore they are ideal only for accent lighting and not task lighting.|
|They offer a lot of versatility when it comes to tube length. Some of them go as long as 250 feet with an AC input. With DC input, they might be as long as 50 feet without needing an additional power source.||They are harder to use in small places due to their thickness. Also, you can’t bend them much as the lights inside might stop working. So, they won’t be a good choice to use as lighting for cabinets, counters, ceilings, etc.|
|With a 360-degree viewing angle, they are ideal for holiday decorations and are especially suitable for outdoor use.||Their tubes develop a yellowish discoloration over time especially if they are exposed to the sun for a long time.|
|The LED variant is more cost-effective and durable. The LED neon tube variant also offers soft glows and is perfect for mood lighting.||You need to use mounting clips when installing them as they don’t come with adhesives.|
|They come with both low and high brightness variants allowing you to choose the best one that will suit your requirements.||They are available mostly in 12 or 24V DC inputs. Compared to rope lights, they suffer from voltage drop when they extend beyond a certain length.|
|They are extremely easy to install as they come with a 3M adhesive backing and are more compact. This makes them perfect for use in areas where you can’t use any other type of lighting.||They have a 120-degree beam angle, which reduces their usability in some scenarios.|
|You can bend them easily without worrying about the lights not working. This allows you to make various creative designs.||While they can be bent horizontally easily, they are more difficult to work with vertically.|
|They provide a wide range of customization when it comes to colors.||They are not ideal for projects where you need to hard-wire them to a dimmer or one in which wiring is required on walls. In such cases, you will need to hire an electrician. This will require you to spend more money.|
As you can see above, both rope lights and strip lights have their own advantages and flaws.
If you don’t need ultra-long lights and are looking for short strips of colorful and bright lights, then LED strip lights are ideal for use.
On the other hand, if you have a lot of areas to be covered and need soft accent lighting, then rope lights are a better option.
Fairy Lights vs Tape Lights?
Fairy lights are very similar to rope lights or you might say that they are a type of rope lights whereas tape lights are pretty much the same as LED strip lights. Similar to rope lights and strip lights, these two also have their differences.
What are Fairy Lights?
Fairy lights are decorative lights and are also called Christmas lights. They are primarily used for indoor and outdoor celebrations especially on holidays such as Christmas. They are available all over the world and so it’s one of the most easily accessible types of lighting one can get today. While they were very expensive when they first came out, they are ridiculously affordable now.
Nowadays, most fairy lights use LED bulbs which makes them very cost-effective both in the short term as well as the long term. While they aren’t bright on their own, when you use multiple string lights together, they illuminate the space pretty well.
While some of them can withstand rain, fairy lights are usually not fully waterproof and therefore cannot be submerged in water. They also come in a single color per string but you can buy multiple strings of varying colors to create a specific visual look and feel.
What are Tape Lights?
Tape lights are also known as strip lights and are flat strips containing LED bulbs placed one after the other in a sequence. They come in single-color and multi-color variants as well as a solid color waterproof one for use in pools and fountains. The waterproof ones however don’t come with an adhesive backing and must be installed using mounting clips. Fairy lights, on the other hand, cannot be used underwater.
When it comes to usage, tape lights can be used for a wide variety of applications due to their versatility. However, they are not ideal for use on round corners due to the way they are made whereas fairy lights are perfect in such cases.
You can also cut tape lights as they come with designated marks to display where they can be cut without damaging the light. This option does not exist for fairy lights.
When it comes to decorative lighting, there are no good or bad choices per se. Instead, you need to look at your requirements and choose the best type of lighting that will not only help you in developing a great visual ambiance but also keep running costs affordable.
No matter what type of lighting you go for, you need to make sure that they are of high quality and made by well-known brands. There are plenty of cheap ones out there today but they may either get damaged fast or even worse result in electrical fires.
Always follow all the safety precautions when you use a lot of lights. Make sure they are installed properly and out of reach from small children.