Flexible LED Strip Lights

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We installed flexible LED light strips in our kitchen for under cabinet and within cabinet lighting. These are very low energy consumption, cool to the touch, and rated to last for 50,000 hours.


The strips are about 1 cm wide and 2 mm thick. The strips come on a spool with a sticky tape side. You press the sticky side to the bottom of the cabinet (or the sides inside) and the strip gives a very diffuse effective and efficient light. They are so thin, you can’t really see the light strip itself, only the glow. The strip is a circuit of LEDs in a row. They have marked segments about every 2-3 inches where you can cut them to fit. They typically run off of 12 volts; the transformer can sit i a cabinet, attic, or basement. You can also specific different color temperatures (very warm to very cool). The lights are dimmable.



We used them under our cabinets and inside of one cabinet (picture above).

There are tons of manufacturers peddling flexible LED strips now. You can purchase them in meter strips or on 5 meter reels. Here is one supplier with many products and variations: Superbrightleds.com. I have no experience in using this outfit. It is a new market so quality varies.

We used a local California-based manufacturer, Aion. Their prices are higher than many of the imports (usually from China), but they had a deliverable guarantee of 5 years. Unfortunately they don’t deal retail, wholesale only through electricians, who can reliably install it.

If anyone has experience with installing DIY LED strips, please let us know.

And these nifty strips can be used for all kinds of other illumination where flexibility and thinness is desired.

— KK



Smart Light Switch

We just had a new light switch installed in our bathroom, the Lutron Maestro Occupancy Sensor. It is smart and cool, but it needs a user manual! Yes, a manual for a light switch!

Because of new building codes, bathroom gear needs to conserve energy by keeping electricity use to a minimum. One way of low use is via LED lights; the other is via a smart switch that has a motion detector built in, which will fade the lights after X minutes if no one moving inside. And it will turn them on when you enter. It also remembers what level the light was last when you turn it on. The downside is that you have to PROGRAM the light switch — what levels, when, and how long it takes to go off. It comes with a dense how-to-manual. But the default settings seem fine and the device is pretty cool. Here is a shot of the instructions, which also cover the other side of the paper.


It costs about $36 from places like Amazon.

— KK



Changes Ahead

Dear Readers,

I am making a new book of the Best of Cool Tools. (The last one I did was a small one in 2003.) This will be a large, real paper book and might be available in the fall. In the next few months I will be going through the 10-year archives of this site selecting the the outstanding evergreen tools, the best of the best, and then presenting them in one large book.


To date there are more than 3,000 Cool Tool reviews posted here, so there is a lot to choose from. Despite that abundance, in surveying the reviews I’ve noticed that there are large vacancies in many subject areas. There are significant crafts that we have not covered. Not much in underwater sports. Little in metal working. None in the voice arts. Music can use more reviews, Etc.

To fill in these areas I will be actively soliciting new reviews and steering the conversation to tweak, correct, or modify the material we do have. I plan to use this blog for that conversation. For the past 10 years the Cool Tool blog has reliably posted one cool tool review every weekday. We won’t stop doing that. But starting in a few days I will begin posting additional items, queries, clips from AskCoolTools, pointers of cool tool related postings elsewhere, and other stuff in order to flush out new material.

In other words, I will be disrupting the very orderly blog that’s been running so smoothly all these years, the blog that you presumably have come to enjoy. In addition to one highly selected, well-proven tool, highly edited by Oliver Hulland each day, the blog will also sport half-baked ideas, tips, related material, questions, dialog, requests, clarifications by me and Oliver. It will resemble the variety of material you find on other blogs.

Some readers are not going to like this. That’s too bad. However it will only be temporary until I finish the book, when your regular programming will return undisturbed. Other readers are going to love it because it will be more interactive, more community minded, more dynamic. Don’t get too used to it, because after the book is done your regular programming will return undisturbed.

In the meantime, I hope to make some noise and try a few editorial alternatives. After 10 years without change it’s about time. Not everything tried will work. The intent of this experiment is to discover, with your help, the best cool tools for the book in the widest range of subject areas. Any reviewer appearing in the book will get a copy of the book.

Tell me what tools you love, and why: kk at kk dot org, or leave a comment here.

— KK