We receive lots of questions about LEDs. In particular, we're often asked why our lights are so much brighter than most other competitors. We're also asked how companies can advertise LED products 25% to 50% less than ours online. There's a reason for these differences but in order to understand them, you need a little knowledge about LEDs and the components used to make LED light strips for motorsports applications. So here goes . . .
In today's market there are predominately two LED specifications for motorsports accent lighting: LED 3528 and LED 5050. The numbers you see refer to the size of the chip. For example, the '5050' chip refers to an LED that measures 5.0mm (millimeters) x 5.0mm. And a '3528' chip measures 3.5mm x 2.8mm. Because the '5050' chip is larger it has 3 LED diodes in one housing which is also why '5050' LEDs are sometimes referred to as 'tri-chips'. Simply put, these 'tri-chips' are three times brighter than the 3528 chip. They of course cost more too (but not three times as much). Because 5050 chips are so much brighter than 3528 chips, they are well suited for applications where there's ambient light and you want as much light as possible (such as a motorcycle, car or other motorsports vehicle). On the other hand, 3528 chips are ideal for applications where subtle back-lighting is desired such as in-home accent lighting, pictures, under-cabinets and TV backlighting. They're also better suited for applications that aren't exposed to water, dust or vibration. Most home accent lighting for example uses the 3528 chip for this reason.
So while 3528 LEDs are cost-effective, they're only one-third the brightness of a 5050 LED. Of course since the 3528 chip is smaller you can fit more LEDs on a strip per foot than the 5050. This is why some competitors will advertise the number of LEDs on a strip and not include the LED chip type itself. For example, advertising 42 or even 48 LEDs on a 50cm LED strip sounds impressive until you realize the LEDs they're using are 3528 LEDs. The reality is that forty-two 3528 LEDs is the equivalent in brightness to just fourteen 5050 LEDs. Sure, if you could make a long enough strip you could get the same brightness level out of a strip of 3528 LEDs as you do for 5050 LEDs but for most motorsports applications, you don't have that much room. You're placing these lights in small, tight areas. As such, you need as much brightness as you can get for a small space and right now, the technology that does this most efficiently is the 5050 LED. The other issue with 3528 LEDs is they're not nearly as robust in terms of their ability to withstand vibration and being exposed to outside elements such as water or dust. This is why 3528 LED strips will often appear dull or dirty over time when used in motorsports applications. This is not to suggest that 3528 LEDs don't have their place in the market. To be sure, they're an excellent, cost-effective choice for many indoor applications. They just aren't the ideal LED solution today for motorsports applications.
But There's More!
Now that you know the difference in LED technology, let's take a look at the rest of the components used to make LED light strips. There are three additional components used to make a complete LED light strip which all impact the quality and cost of the final product.
1. The Printed Circuit Board (PCB). To make an LED light strip, individual LEDs are mounted to a Printed Circuit Board - or PCB for short. Because the 5050 LEDs are larger, the PCB has to be thicker and as such, is more durable than the PCB used with 3528 LEDs. In household or indoor applications the thickness of the PCB isn't all that relevant. However in motorsports applications it's absolutely relevant! The PCB has to be able to withstand vibration and flexing. Of course a thicker PCB costs a little more too. Simply put, a thicker PCB is a good thing for motorsports applications.
2 Polyurethane vs Epoxy. The low-profile LED strip lights used in motorsports applications have to be waterproof -- or at minimum, water resistant. To do this the LEDs, after mounted on the PCB have to be covered in a material to keep the water and dust out. With low-intensity, low-quality LEDs the material often used to seal the LED lights is Polyurethane - or PU for short. While PU material will work, there are some problems with PU coatings. Most notably is that PU material tends to become rigid and cracks over time particularly when exposed to the elements. Also, PU material has known environmental and health related dangers (Google it and you'll see what we mean). The material we use to seal our LED lights is EPOXY. Epoxy is not only environmentally safe, it's also flexible, durable and soft. It doesn't become rigid and crack over time. It remains soft and flexible. Here too the cost to use an Epoxy sealing material versus a Polyurethane material is slightly higher but in our view it's worth it for those who want a high quality product that will last for years.
3. Adhesive Tape. Lastly, we have the adhesive backing used to affix the light strip to whatever the surface is (which in our case is typically a metal frame, metal fuel tank or plastic fairing/casing of some type). The undisputed world leader in adhesive technology is 3M. 3M without a doubt makes the highest-quality, longest lasting adhesion products on the planet. This is why all Boogey Lights® LED products only use authentic 3M tape - and we pay extra to make sure that's the case. Unfortunately many of the cheap, low-quality LED lights you see advertised online use a knock-off, imitation adhesive tape backing (sometimes even going as far as to represent the tape as being 3M product when it's not). They of course do so to save cost but doing so comes at the expense of the final product. The truth is that while many of the companies selling cheap LED light strips say they're using 3M tape, the vast majority aren't. The end result is that LED light strips that use the inferior, knock-off adhesive tape will lose their ability to stick to the bike and fall off.
If you guessed the bike on the right, you are correct. The orange bike on the left is lit with cheap LED imports. The black bike on the right is lit with green Boogey Lights®. Even in daylight you can see a big difference in intensity and brightness.
You Get What You Pay For
So, there you have it. The complete, no-nonsense straight talk on LED lighting for motorsports applications. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Yeah, we know it sounds cliche but it's really true. Simply put, if you're looking for a quality LED product that will absolutely light up you ride and do so for years, you need to purchase a product that has a proven track record of doing what it says it will do -- reliably, consistently over time. At Boogey Lights® we go out of our way to source the best raw materials and we believe it shows in the quality of the products we sell. If you don't believe us, just ask one of our thousands of customers since 1989!