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Old 05/04/2012, 08:55 PM   #1
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LED wire question

From what I've read, when wiring LEDs the recommendation is 20 awg stranded. I have a bunch of old speaker wire, not Monster cable, just 16 or 18 gauge wire. Is this OK?

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Old 05/04/2012, 11:43 PM   #2
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No the recommendation is 24AWG. 22AWG is OK too.

20AWG is getting too stiff. 16 or 18AWG is a bad idea.

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Old 05/05/2012, 10:55 AM   #3
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you are not going to be able to solder the thicker wires well. go spend $3 at radio shack or Harbor freight and get at least two different colors.

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Old 05/05/2012, 01:34 PM   #4
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HAHAHA love your avatar Aqua!

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Old 05/05/2012, 03:23 PM   #5
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Old 05/05/2012, 06:37 PM   #6
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I would just buy some cheap 22awg. with that said, I used 18awg on mine because I have spools of it. Its just a little harder to run clean.

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Old 05/08/2012, 03:59 PM   #7
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I've been wondering the same thing. I'm getting close to starting my led build with 750mA strings. Will the cat5 ethernet cable work? I believe it's 24 gauge.


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Old 05/08/2012, 09:45 PM   #8
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It really depends on what type of LED you're wiring. Presumably you're talking the standard Cree 3 watt star in which case it would be difficult to solder the larger 16/18 gauge wire to the pad without cooking the LED. If you're using LEDs such as the 10 watt or larger multi chip emitters, larger gauge would be preferred since you're running a higher current. Smaller gauge wire adds resistance & heats up when too much current runs thru it. Look up the term 'ampacity' of wire. You should get some charts showing the maximum current allowable for a given gauge of wire. Compare this to the current required to run the LEDs of your choice & you should have your answer. Within reason, the larger the wire gauge, the better. Less resistive loss per foot & less chance of overheating.


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Old 05/08/2012, 10:54 PM   #9
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CAT5 cable strands will work, plenum rated is preferred because it will typically have a higher melt temp. CAT5 tends to not take solder very well in some cases. Keep in mind that 24ga wire is only good to about 2A for short distances (10 feet or so), so keep that in mind if you want to use it for the run to the driver. (At 10', there would be a 1V drop with a 2A load, you could get away with more than that but the wires will get warm/hot)

see here

I have been using 18ga automotive wire rated 60v / 80C, it works quite well as it resists shrinking/melting when you tin it, but it gets pricey if you have to run all over to complete color strings.

I've been building 2 x 72 led fixtures for a friend lately and learned that serious forethought will save you big time... I ended up having 8 white / 4 blue per aluminum strip and to get the voltage I wanted to work at, I have 2 strings of 12 blue and 4 strings of 12 white, but to get those numbers I have to tie together 3 strips worth of blue etc. It sounds straightforward but it is a LOT more work than just sizing your power supply accordingly. I'm designing (and just about to order drivers for) a 198 emitter fixture and am being very careful to order the right drivers to save time.. In my case it means a HLG320-54 for whites (16 per row), HLG185-48 for blue(8 per row), LPF90-48(2 per row) for ocean coral and LPF60-15 for violet (3 per). Not only is it less work, it's more straightforward and I'll be less likely to screw things up. Plus it will be easier to troubleshoot if there is trouble. (total fixture wattage 598w)

I found some really nice 18g / 9 conductor wire for a good price on *bay, it is used for installing car stereo amps for 4 speakers. The outer jacket is black and thick, but the wire has good flexibility and 18ga is good to 7-8A with a low voltage drop.

Just to be clear, a voltage drop is wasted power.

edit: Just realized I hadn't answered the question I was going to - yes, speaker wire will work fine, but that low temp vinyl (PVC) jacket on speaker wire will turn to goo when it gets hot.

Last edited by tomservo; 05/08/2012 at 11:14 PM.
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Old 05/09/2012, 05:11 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by rustyjames View Post
I have a bunch of old speaker wire, not Monster cable, just 16 or 18 gauge wire.

You should never under any circumstances buy Monster Cable.

Don't cheap out and "use what you have" because you think it will save a couple bucks. If you're not willing to buy the right wire, you're in the wrong hobby.

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