When we moved into our house a few years ago, none of the storage closets had any lights. That makes finding things in there very hard, and I’m already bad at looking for stuff. So I decided these closets needed lights. I wanted something that would turn on automatically when you open the door, disperse light around the closet evenly and not just in the top, and wouldn’t take too much energy to run if the door was left open by accident. So here’s what I came up with.
Its a simple LED light strip mounted around the inside of the door frame, all the way around, pointing in towards the closet to provide front illumination. It’s much more evenly distributed than a top down lighting system where you have a bright top shelf and dark floors. It’s got a simple magnetic switch that is operated when the door is opened or closed and it can be attached to a simple dimmer to control how bright the light levels are. The system can be run from an LED driver plugged into a wall outlet, connected to a 12v battery if an outlet is not available, or run up into the ceiling to connect to a normal socket (which I dont have in my closets but you can use if you want to retrofit an existing closet light).
One of our closets doesn’t even have close access to an outlet, so it was set up to run off a security system 5 Amp-hour battery that sits on the floor inside the corner of the door frame, and I occasionally take it out to recharge it. (About once every 9 months, so not too annoying.)
Here’s how to do it.
How to Build
Lets first look at the diagram on the left.
There are two wires, black and red, that flow through every part in the build. We start at the wall outlet under the kitchen cabinets, flow through the LED driver to convert to 12V power, go through a small hole in the wall, down the inside of the closet, the red wire goes through the magnetic switch, and then meets up with the black wire at the dimmer. The dimmer outlet then connects to a new set of wires that runs to the LED strip, which then runs all the way around the door.
Once you physically place the components, stick them in place with some double sided tape (the LED’s should have sticky tape on the back already) and begin laying out your wire. I used a light duty upholstry staple gun to make my wires run straight and sit tight against the wall and this keeps them from looking unfinished and droopy.
Parallel LED StripsIf you want to connect more than 1 strip of continuous LED’s, you can. You attach the strips in parallel, all connected to the same point at the dimmer. Red and black wires go from there out to each LED strip, no matter where it is. Each LED strip has its own connection.
Your build will likely look a bit different than this. You may not have to go through a wall to get wires into the closet. You may not have a closet near an outlet, but you could tap into a ceiling light fixture with a screw in outlet that would take the place of a normal bulb. You may choose to run a closet off battery power. (I’ll include a picture of this at the bottom)
How Many LEDS to RunYou can only run as many LEDs as your driver is rated to handle. This particular drive is 30 Watts, and each foot of this LED tape requires 1.5 watts, so you could run, at max, 20 feet of light tape. Ideally, you don’t want to max out your supply because it will run hot, so this 30w driver is designed to work perfectly with these 16.5 foot LED strips. If you need more lights, for something like a master bedroom closet lighting system, get a bigger driver. 50w or 100w or even bigger.
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