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Makeover 101: Part 4 – Learning Basics of LED Light Installation

LED Home COB House

My first large-scale experience with LED lights is when I decided to get an electrician to add new fans in the bedrooms and replace all the fluorescent lights in the house with brighter, more lasting lights. In some places like the living room, I added extra double lights which make the whole area very bright. There was not much work required for replacing fluorescent with LED lights but working with LED strips for the kitchen cabinet is going to be different. Photo by Max Rahubovskiy.

Read these first:-

Basics of LED

Admittedly I was not aware that there are several types on the market and each came with different design, function, voltage and installation requirements. So before I could purchase any online, I had to do plenty of research to ensure I got the right specifications for the lights that I intend to install for the kitchen cabinet & won’t regret later after spending time & money installing it.


SMD, or “Surface Mounted Device” LEDs, are the most common LEDs in the market. The LED chip is permanently fused to a printed circuit board, and it’s highly popular due to its versatility. You can find it in light bulbs and string lights, and even in the notification light on your mobile phone.

The SMD LED chips come in a variety of sizes. SMD LED can accommodate chips with complicated designs, like the SMD 5050, which is 5mm wide. The SMD 3528, on the other hand, are 3.5mm wide. The SMD chips are small, almost close to the design of the flat, square computer chip.

One of the distinct features ofzzz SMD LED chips is the number of contacts and diodes they have.

SMD LED chips can have more than just two contacts (which makes it different from the classic DIP LED). There can be up to 3 diodes on a single chip, with each diode having an individual circuit. Each circuit would have one cathode and one anode, leading to 2, 4 or 6 contacts in a chip.

This configuration is the reason why SMD chips are more versatile (comparing SMD vs COB). The chip can include a red, green, and blue diode. With these three diodes, you can already create virtually any colour simply by adjusting the output level.

SMD chips are also known to be bright. They can produce 50 to 100 lumens per watt.

(Source: Solar Light Manufacturing)


One of the most recent developments in LED, COB or “Chip on Board” technology is a step forward more efficient energy use.Like the SMD, COP chips also have multiple diodes on the same surface. But the difference between LED light COB and SMD is that COB LEDs have more diodes.

COB chips typically have 9 or more diodes. COB chips also only have 1 circuit and 2 contacts, regardless of the number of the diodes. This simple circuit design is the reason for the panel-like appearance of COB LED light (SMD light, on the other hand, appears like a collection of smaller lights).

But unlike SMD, COB LED lights can’t be used to create colour changing bulbs or lights. This is because there are only 2 contacts and 1 circuit. Multiple channels for adjustment are required to create the colour changing effect. Because of this, COB LED lights are efficient in single-color applications, but not in more versatile technology.

Another aspect of the COB vs SMD LED Lights difference is in the use of energy. COB is known for better lumen-per-watt ratios and heat efficiency. This has a lot to do with the design of COB LEDs, and the cooling ceramic substrate of the chips.

Before, heavy duty technology like spot lights and flood lights made with LED were non-standard, because you’d need multiple LED sources to produce that kind of high lumen output.

But now, COB chips can produce a large amount of lumens with less energy. You can find it in all kinds of bulbs and applications, such as the flash of your mobile phone or point-and-shoot camera. Its range is higher with a minimum of 80 lumens per watt.

(Source: Solar Light Manufacturing)

Differences between SMD & COB

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LED Components

As this is the first time, we are fixing LED fixtures, there was a lot of reading to be done to make that we have the right components & also the right way of installing the lights. Almost every seller online only shows the end step where they simply plug into the main switch and the lights up. If you simply connect the strip to the main switch you are going to blow up the light due to differences in the electrical power.

LED COB Light DIY House Home

(There are several options for lumens which is the measure of the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source per unit of time. The brightest on sale is 6,000K which I opted for the kitchen cabinet but for the living room, the 3,000K lumen would be an ideal option. Image source: eBay)

LED Strips

First thing first, deciding on the right strip which needs to be long enough to cover the length of the kitchen cabinet, needs to be “cold” to be switched on for a long time and finally takes as little electricity as possible.

After several reviews of the various option available online, I decided on this option which was on sale for RM22.50 for a 5-meter strip (another option is 10 meters strip):-

  • LED Model: COB LED Strip Light High-Density Flexible COB LED Lights
  • Warm Natural Cool White LED Tape 5M 10M
  • Quantity: 280LEDs/m
  • Input Voltage: DC24V
  • Power: about 10W/M
  • Cutting Length: every 50mm
  • Waterproof Level: No Waterproof
  • Color Temperature: Warm Light(3000K); Natural Light(4000K); White Light(6500K)
  • Color Rendering Index: Ra>80
  • Operation Temperature: -20℃-+45℃
  • Storage Temperature: -20℃-+60℃
  • Cost: RM22.50

(Source: Lazada)

LED Transformer DIY House

(Never connect the sensitive low-powered lights to the main power socket without a proper transformer. The one that I bought was an unbranded Chinese transformer but the specifications like an aluminium shell, honeycomb design for better heat dissipation & copper cables seem robust enough to last long)


With the strip, one cannot simply plug the ends of the strip into the main socket as the power at the sockets at home is too high at 240 volts against the required power of just 24 volts. The standard way of transforming this high voltage to a lower voltage was to use the usual laptop power adapter but it was not easy & cheap to get one online unless I checked with second-hand computer shops.

The alternate solution is to use a proper transformer which comes in various power supplies from 60 watts all the way up to 300 watts. If one used a lower watt & the strip is too long, then there will not be enough power to power the whole strip. The strip specifications stated the power is about 10 watts per meter so considering I have the whole, uncut 5 meters of lights to be powered, I will need a minimum of 50 watts of power to light up the whole 5 meters of light.

For this, the minimum 60-watt transformer would have been sufficient but after checking further on the internet, it is recommended to have an additional 20% power reserve & then pick the next range for the transformer thus it will be 50-watt + 20% (i.e. 10 watts) = 60 watts. The next range that was on sale was the 100-watt transformer.

  • LED Strip Light Power Supply
  • 100W 24V Driver Converter Transformer
  • Cost: RM28.00

(Source: Lazada)

LED COB Dimmer DIY House

(Dimmer was actually an afterthought as I did not realise how bright the COB lights were when we actually hook up to power, so I decided to add a dimmer to control the brightness. The connection is quite straight forward with connecting the cables between the transformer and the COB light)


Initially, I did not plan to add on a dimmer but when we tested the light without any dimmer, the lamination was too high and my concern is that if the light is too bright, it can overheat if it is switched off for a long time. Dimmer would also make it easier to control the illumination that we need.

  • PWM Dimmer 12V ~ 24V DC, for LED Light Strip Brightness
  • Supply Voltage: DC 12~24V
  • Max Load Current: 8 Amps
  • Output: 1 Channel
  • Static Power Consumption: < 1 Watt
  • Output Power: 12V <96W; 24V <192W
  • Function: Dim LED product from 10~100% using PWM
  • Net Weight: 85g
  • Working Temperature: -20~60°C
  • Cost: RM9.99

(Source: Shopee)

LED Installation

Although the strip that I purchased had the so-called sticker on one side of the strip, I decided to just use masking tape to tape the strip on the concrete ceiling inside the kitchen cabinet. It does not need to be well aligned but as long as it sticks without dropping, it is not used or opened so frequently so the chances of the electrical cables getting damaged were minimal. This also prevents anyone from any chances of getting electrocuted by the transformer or the light strip.

LED COB Dimmer Transformer DIY House Light

(The proper way to connect a COB strip which is not stated on the online pages which may lead to many first-timers just buying the COB strips without transformers or dimmers and trying to hook them to the main power source)  

First thing first I pulled the light strip from the first cabinet to the last cabinet which was not difficult as there was sufficient gap in between to pull the strip through. That was until I hit the third cabinet which had a very tight gap for the light strip so I had to pull it from the far end of the cabinet but still enough to reach the end.

Once I pulled the strip to the end which meant we can light up the whole cabinet except the drawers which are stacked from top to bottom, I started to stretch them & paste the masking tape to ensure it is aligned straight & not dropping. For the connection to the power, I had to adjust the first cabinet hinges to that it is wide enough to fit the main electrical cable between the wall socket & the transformer inside the cabinet.

The last thing we need is the cabinet door cutting the cable bit by bit every time we open the door and electrocuting it all.

LED kitchen COB cabinet light DIY

(The end outcome with the kitchen cabinet hinges fixed, repainted and interior lights installed. I decided to install the lights inside instead of outside like it is usually done as it will make it easier to find the utensils stored inside the cabinet)

Final Say

Personally, every DIY project done is more of a learning process in terms of having the right tools, the right way of fixing & installing and the right do’s & don’ts. In the long run, I hope to have enough experience, knowledge & the necessary tools to do more DIY jobs at home & perhaps to help out relatives & friends with their DIY projects.

Frankly, I won’t say that there is a substantial saving in cost because, for first-time DIYers, most of the cost will go for tools (some are not cheap like power drills), replacement parts and the time spent on learning & making mistakes.

The experience with LED for the kitchen cabinet has been good as now I can plan for installation for other parts of the house or for my home office when I start this project perhaps in 1-2 years’ time. For other areas namely the porch & the back of the house, I have planned to install motion-sensor lights which will turn on whenever someone passes by. I know it will come in handy to illuminate the area when I leave home to work very early in the morning.

To be continued…

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