Flexible LED ribbon light strips are available from lighting, automotive, and some specialist doll house and model lighting suppliers. Available in colors, plus warm and bright white, the LED strips are sold by the foot. Warm white and bright white LED light strips are available in a waterproof (but not submersible) form, useful for garden railways. These LED strips can be cut and wired every three bulbs, making them very useful for uplights or overall lighting for miniature display boxes. They run off the standard 12 volt DC power supplies used with model trains and dolls houses.
LED Lights That Are Easy to Use
The flexible ribbon strips of LED lights are usually mounted on an adhesive backed strip of copper tape about 1/3 of an inch wide. Usually sold by the foot, (currently for prices from $12 a foot and up) they can be separated into sections as small as three LED's. A strip of 3 LED lights draws less current than a single conventional grain of wheat bulb so they are ideal for places where you need to use battery power. Strips have markers for cutting into sections and markings for the places to solder connection wires. With 60 LED lights per meter, each 3 LED segment is 2 inches (51 mm) long. Clamp on connectors are also available from some companies to make easy connections to the strips.
These lights work well hidden under molding trim at the ceiling line of a room box, aimed to reflect off the ceiling. Their low profile (just over 1/16 of an inch high) makes them easy to use as the light source behind room box windows or patio doors to simulate daylight coming through a window.
The lights are available in several single colors, plus a slightly yellow white, often called a warm white, and a bright or cool white which is close to the color of halogen or fluorescent lights. Some companies sell color changing strips, which coupled with a color controller, can be programmed to change colors across millions of color shades.
Like all LED lights the strips are polarity sensitive, if wired in backwards, they will not light unless the connection is reversed. The lights require a transformer to run or they can be connected to battery boxes as they operate on direct current
Don't Know How to Solder? Buy LED Ribbon Strips Pre Wired from Dollhouse Suppliers
If soldering a wire to a clearly marked segment of copper tape makes you anxious, the strips are available in precut and wired lengths suitable for dolls houses and roomboxes from both Small World Products (UK) and Novalyte (USA). Many online LED lighting suppliers sell a clamp on wiring system for making custom strip lengths of the ribbon LED's, as well as inexpensive dc controllers to run the lights. Check local lighting stores or automotive shops to find the less expensive strip lengths you can wire yourself (Small World Products sell longer strips to cut up yourself). These are the same strips used to decoratively light up car wheels, running boards, running lights for boats, and the aisle lights on airplanes. You can use the same strips to downlight or uplight collectible miniatures on shelves, and you could set up your Christmas village or train with a set of the color changing lights programmed to whichever colors you choose. Just don't let a teenage car fanatic know where you keep them!
In the photo of the roombox shown here, a two inch strip (3 led's) was set behind a molding at the top front of the box, to show you how much light the white LED's produce. The wood of the box in this case absorbs a fair amount of light as it is completely unfinished. In a finished roombox, with painted walls and a light colored ceiling, the light effect would be even greater.
No Bulbs to Change but How Long Will LED Lights Last?
The LED lights on these flexible strips are rated for 50,000 hours, meaning that the strips should run for up to 6 years if they ran 24 hours a day. For use by collectors, who don't leave the lights on when items aren't being viewed, this means you should never need to change a light bulb.
If you prefer a warmer light, similar to incandescent light bulbs, you should choose the warm white version of the light strips which gives a more traditional light. Separate colors are also available if you want to use red, blue, green or amber, or choose to use a color changing strip to create all the colors of the rainbow. The flexible light strips don't give off uv radiation, making them a good choice for collectibles in cases.
Due to the resistance in the tape, the maximum length of strip you can run from a single 12 volt transformer is 16 feet to avoid light drop off. The lights use 1.6 watts per foot making them extremely economical to use.