Update 6/28 - Outdoor Tape Light project : So yesterday I finally tackled the "tape light" portion of my patio project. We are almost done with phase 1 of our patio design, you can go back several pages to see the 3D renderings of the proposed total plan. In about a week and a half phase one will be done completely. So on the tape light project, my goal was to provide underside lighting to the large BBQ/Bar area under my deck. Due to the fact that there is no real material to screw or nail to, My first requirement was to find tape light that was very small and lightweight. I used this:
This is a "Daylight" colored LED strip. I calculated I would need 2 of these rolls to cover the whole border of my bar area. I also purchased a large transformer, some waterproof end caps, and some waterproof connectors to connect the pieces at the corners since they make 90 degree angles and the strip. Although flexible, LED tape does not bend in that direction. This would also be a an opportunity for me to take my first crack at soldering, since bulk LED tape light, though cheap, requires cutting and that requires soldering. Amazon had some examples of clip-on connectors, but they were flaky at best. If you want it done well, you need a permanent connection.
So the first problem I noticed when my tape arrived was that there were a few burnt out LEDs (they were an obvious brown before I ever even tested or plugged in the strip) and two places where the silicone waterproof cover was cracked or broken completely. This in the end was a non-issue since I could cut away the pieces, and based on where the issues were, I used the longest available lengths each time to make sure I could meet my goals. Fortunately I did. This allowed me to end up with 6 pieces, which would cover the two main outside edges of the bar, the 2 sides, and then two small wrap around areas on the inside up to the fridge and side-burner units.
This was the bar as it was yesterday
First, I cut all pieces of the tape light. From there I took all of the pieces to the garage. I wasn't able to take photos of myself soldering since it is very hot and requires both hands at all times. Basically, there are areas on the tape that have a line with a scissor icon where you can easily cut through. From there, there are 2 little copper circles, which are labeled + and - respectively. I took a razor-blade utility knife and carefully cut the piece of silicone weatherproofing off of the top of the strip. This leaves a paper thin piece of tape light with the 2 copper connection terminals. I then plugged in my soldering iron. The particular one I purchased has an on-off switch, and heats up very quickly, maybe 15 seconds. It has a LED light that turns green when it is ready to use. I touched the tip of the soldering iron to the copper circle at the edge of the tape light and held it there for a couple of seconds to heat up the surface material. From there I fed in some rosin-core electrical solder. This can sometimes bead up on the soldering iron itself, and it is very hot so you need to carefully rotate the iron when this happens to get a bead of solder on the copper terminal on the tape light. When you feed in solder, you want to feed it in under the tip of the iron, but it doesn't always work the way you want. It also solidifies quickly. Once I got both beads on the connector, I took my waterproof connector wires, which were labeled + and - also, and fed them into the bead. This required use of the soldering iron again since the beads already were solid. When the bead re-heated i could feed in the wire.
From there I added some silicone sealant and covered the connection with a waterproof connector by sliding it down the wires.
The particular transformer I purchased was an outdoor waterproof model which came with 1 input and 2 output wires. Unfortunately none of the wires had connectors on it, which I knew in advance, but it was a very good transformer. It was also made overseas, so the color-combinations were Green/Blue/Brown instead of the standard green/black/white we are used to in the US. I looked up the color-codes online, and found that green was still grown, blue was neutral, and brown was hot. So I cut off one of my hundreds of 3-prong computer power cables and made a pigtail like BIG did for me back when we were testing things in my theater. On the other end I wired a 3m long waterproof connector to the output end, which again was blue/brown. The connector wires were all black/red in this case to signify + and -. The transformer listed which was + and which was - where the wire came out, so that was easy. You need to make sure that + and - match up the entire length of the tape wire!
Once I had all of my connections soldered, I made sure to line them all up on top of my bar prior to taping to make sure they were all in the right place and that all of my connectors matched up. More than once, i needed to rotate them around to make sure that each wire had the proper male/female connectors in the same place.
I tested it to see if it worked, but pictures didn't show well during the day, so I came back at night. Keep in mind, the color isn't right in this photo. Daylight LEDs do almost seem to have a blue tint to the light, but this is over-corrected by the lens. It also appears brighter than it is in reality. Overall, it turned out perfect, and can see all of the individual colors of the stone and concrete beautifully.
One thing to note.. unfinished granite (the underside) did not stick well to my industrial outdoor tape I purchased at Lowes. It's ironic, since I purchased the high-stick tape because I didn't have faith in the 3M backing on the LED tape light. In the end, the 3M Strip on the LED light stuck to it well and the outdoor tape didn't, but from what I read, it wont stick long term. I am going to take some clear silicone caulk and run it along the sides of each piece of tape to keep it there just in case.
Also, here is a picture of the Windmill palm tree and Yucca plants we planted this week. It totally changes the look of the back yard, and that's just for this one small planter! We will be adding quite a lot of landscaping around the patio once the second and third phases of the project are completed in the next couple of years.Edited by damelon - 6/28/13 at 8:59am