The Best Cheap LED Strip Lights of 2019

A strip light is like a roll of tape with LED lights inside.

The LED bulbs (called emitters) are mounted on a flexible circuit board with an adhesive back. The end of the tape is connected to a power supply and the tape can be cut to size with scissors. The brightness of a strip light depends on how many lumens each bulb emits and how many emitters are packed into a meter of tape. More means brighter.

Strip lights are a popular choice for accent lighting in hard-to-fit places like behind a bathroom mirror. These "ribbon lights" are more flexible than "rope lights" (i.e. lights in a plastic tube) because strip lights can bend completely into a corner. Strip lights are also less of a tripping hazard when used to illuminate aisles or walkways.

Some LED strip lights are designed for outdoor use. An IP65 rating indicates that a strip light is weatherproof. These silicone-encased lights can be splashed (e.g. used under a bar or counter top), but not submerged (e.g. run along the edges of a patio).

LED tape lights are usually dimmable. There are even WiFi-connected LED strip lights (like Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus) that can be dimmed and colorized like a smart light bulb. These ambient lights are designed to work with Alexa, Apple Homekit and Google Home, but they cost significantly more than traditional tape lights. Alternatively, some mid-priced kits have special effects that are controlled by an included remote.

A final word of caution: Just because strip lights can be placed almost anywhere doesn't mean they should be. LEDs get hotter than people realize and cheap power supplies can melt or explode. Tape lights are safest when they are powered with a UL-listed adapter and placed in a well-ventilated area.

Here are the best-reviewed 16.4ft strip lights that have sold on Amazon for $20 or less in the last 12 months:

Good Price: $16 | Great Deal: $11

These LED strip lights are easy to install and produce a bright uniform light, according to several Amazon customers. Many reviewers say that the tape's adhesive backing isn't as strong as they had hoped. A few customers complained of flickering; one reviewer docked a star for poor instructions (and then wrote his own).

Good Price: $16 | Great Deal: $14

Ustellar's LED strip lights are bright and the dimmer works well, according to several Amazon customers. Many reviewers report that the adhesive backing is a 3M knock-off. Some reviewers caution that these lights don't work well when connected as an extension; others complain of a delay before turning on.

John DeFeo