Waterproof LED Lights and Power (that Lasts)

Waterproof LED Lights and Power (that Lasts)

waterproof LED lights at night

LEDs are delicate devices. Building art or home improvements that use outdoor lighting requires specialty equipment to protect from the elements. We’ve tried many such products in the most extreme environments on earth so that you can learn from our mistakes (and small explosions) for better waterproof LED lights.

IP65 LED Lights (And Above)

If you’ve ever bought a rain jacket, you know there’s a difference between “water resistant” and “waterproof.”

Thankfully, the “ingress protection” (IP) rating represents just how weatherproof a product actually is. Anything that starts with “IP6” is “totally dust tight.” However, there’s a big different between IP64 and IP69.

All the LEDs are 3-wire RGB color-changing.

They use the standard ws281X protocol, and can be controlled with any modern LED controller.

IP65 is probably the lowest protection rating possible for use outdoors. It can sustain brief jets of water or splashes (rain), but not much more than that. There are some RGB color-changing fairy lights, which look quite nice and delicate. They can be a bit challenging to cut and splice together due to how small the wires are, but there’s no other way to get such a delicate effect outdoors. The cafe lights, on the other hand, are extremely durable and easy to work with. There are also some standard IP65 strips here, which may be cheaper than buying higher rated options.

IP67 LED strips are where things start to get interesting. At this level, the LED lights are protected from up to 30 minutes of immersion in water. This should be enough for most rain storms and snow scenarios. There are also some cool options at the IP67 level, including 360 degree rope lights:

IP68 is about the highest you could conceivably need. At this rating, the LEDs can survive high pressure water at depths over a meter. This makes these lights suitable for extreme environments, potentially even to be used under water. Unfortunately, the options are also much more limited.

IP69 Waterproof devices, while they techincally exist, are mostly only used in construction/commercial settings.

Alternatively, you can buy a waterproof lighting channel. With a product like this, you just stuff a normal LED strip inside and let the channel handle the weatherproofing. The nice part is that the channel can diffuse the lights, and has a very thick/sturdy feel that looks nice:

Outdoor Lighting Transformer

To power LEDs, you’ll need a transformer to convert standard AC wall outlets into DC. Most outdoor lighting transformers will need to be 12v, as that is the most common voltage used by LEDs. However, some LEDs may use 5v or 24v, so be sure to buy the right kind of outdoor low voltage transformer for your LED lights!

My favorite brand of outdoor light transformer is X. They come in several sizes, from low amperage to high amperage. The rugged metal cases are sturdy and have lasted us through many rain storms, snow storms, hail, dust, and more.

Notice these transformers are IP67.

I try to hide them underneath a ledge/deck, so that they are not subjected to extended periods underwater, even if the LEDs themselves can survive the elements.

Ideal Weatherproof Wire Nuts & Connectors

The most fragile part of most DIY electronics are the wire connections. Luckly, there are much better options available than traditional “grease” nuts (waterproof wire nuts). Modern quick-connectors are more versatile and easier to install.

When wiring LEDs, make sure to use weatherproof enclosures around any exposed wires.

These three-wire quick-release connectors pair well with the small outdoor black wires. Together, you can easily run long lines to each outdoor lighting location from the transformer + control board. They don’t dangle or hang awkwardly under a deck like wire nuts, and the finished look is much more discreet.

These waterproof connectors are also quite nice as an alternative to the quick-connects. However, you still need to attach the wires to sometihng, so unless you put the connection inside another waterproof box, they are not good enough:

Putting Together Waterproof LED Lights

Once you have the products, waterproof lights are no different than any other LEDs. For a complete tutorial, check out our LED lighting guide!

Build Guides

Looking for even more detail?

Drop your email in the form below and you'll receive links to the individual build-guides and projects on this site, as well as updates with the newest projects.

... but this site has no paywalls. If you do choose to sign up for this mailing list I promise I'll keep the content worth your time.

Support us on Patreon now and lock in the lowest price, plus early access to guides and tutorials...
Become a patron at Patreon!
Written by
(zane) / Technically Wizardry
Join the discussion