How to Wire a House for 12 Volt LEDs

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Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are starting to appear in residential lighting schemes more frequently in the form of light bars for kitchen counters, closet illumination, and spotlights for reading. LEDs operate on direct current (DC) voltage only, so an LED array or cluster has to run off a power supply that converts the standard 120-volt alternating current to 12-volt direct current with a transformer and a rectifier bridge. This is usually done locally with a power adapter plugged into an AC outlet, but a whole house can be wired from a single large 12-volt power supply.

Things You'll Need

  • Large, closed-chassis 12-volt direct-current constant-voltage power supply
  • Cordless drill with Phillips bit
  • Box of two-inch drywall screws
  • Phillips and flat blade screwdrivers
  • Distribution panel
  • Two four-gauge, one-foot wire jumpers
  • 100-count box of large crimp-on spade terminals
  • Wire cutter/stripper
  • Terminal crimper
  • Standard insulated house wiring
  • 16-gauge polarized zip cord or speaker wire
  • Wire nuts
  • 12-volt direct-current wall sockets
  • Soldering iron
  • Solder
  • Liquid solder flux
  • LEDs
  • Resistors
  • Use the cordless drill with Phillips bit to screw the power supply to a wall in a closet. Provide for plenty of ventilation, because the voltage conversion process produces heat. Use your 12-volt system only for LED lighting.

  • Install an enclosed distribution panel next to the power supply with cordless drill and Phillips bit. Strip 1/4-inch insulation off both ends of both four-gauge jumpers with wire stripper. Crimp spade terminals onto the ends with the terminal crimper. Screw or clamp one jumper from the power supply positive output to the distribution panel positive input using a screwdriver. Run the other jumper from the negative supply output to the negative panel input.

  • Run residential power wire to every room through wall studs, under floors or over ceilings, just as you would do with alternating-current wiring. This is best done during house construction. This is done by drilling holes and laying the wire in by hand.

  • At every 12V outlet location in a room, cut the house wiring using the cutter/stripper, strip the positives and negatives of both ends back a half inch, and end-strip and wire-nut by hand a length of 16-gauge zip cord together with both sides of the cut house wiring, so you'll have three positives together and three negatives together. Leave a foot of zip cord to dangle through the outlet mounting hole.

  • Solder the positive side of the zip cord to the center terminal of the outlet and the negative side to the sleeve terminal. To make the connection, wrap bare wire around each terminal, heat it up with the iron until solder touched to it melts into the connection and release. Applying flux beforehand facilitates solder flow.

  • Screw the socket plate into the wall with a screwdriver.

  • Plug the voltage supply into an AC wall socket and turn it on. Try an LED array plugged into a DC socket in another room.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use LED arrays wired for 12-volt use directly, or custom-wire your own arrays using an online current-limiting resistor calculator and wiring schematic for LEDs and resistors specified by the calculated result. Use the data sheets that came with the LEDs for current and voltage drop specifications.

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References

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