1.Use a flashing LED light bulb or fixture
Some LED bulbs and light fixtures come with built-in flashing or strobe modes. You just have to activate the mode to make the LEDs flash on and off. These are very easy to set up but you are limited to the flashing speeds and sequences available from the product.
Advantages of using flashing LED bulbs
• Extremely easy to set up – Just turn on the flashing mode and the LEDs will automatically start flashing at the preset speed and sequence. No wiring, programming or controllers required.
• Compact, self-contained solution – Everything is built into the bulb or fixture, so you just need to provide power to get the flashing effect.
• Often inexpensive – Basic flashing LED bulbs and fixtures are typically very affordable, usually only a few dollars more than standard non-flashing types.
• Limited effects – You are constrained to the specific flashing speeds, sequences and patterns that come built-into the product. Usually only 3-5 options, limited customization.
• Fixed colors – Most inexpensive flashing LED bulbs and fixtures only come in RGB or cool white, with no color changing effects. For more color variation, you need an RGBW or RGBAW product which costs more.
• Short lifespan – In most cases, the flashing circuitry built into the LEDs or fixture impacts the overall product lifespan. Flashing LED bulbs may burn out 2-3 times faster than a normal non-flashing bulb, sometimes in only 1-3 years with frequent use.
• Prone to failure – The added electronics required for the flashing modes tend to be less reliable and durable. There is a higher chance of the flashing effect malfunctioning or failing over time versus standard always-on LED lighting.
So for a very basic plug-and-play flashing solution with limited customization, built-in flashing LED bulbs and fixtures can work well and inexpensively. However, for more advanced strobing effects with a wider range of color mixing options, or a setup you want to last for many years, a programmable LED controller provides a better option despite the additional cost and setup required.
2.Connect an LED flasher or strobe controller.
An LED flasher circuit is designed specifically for producing a flashing effect with LED lights. You connect the controller to an LED light strip, bulb or fixture, and it will automatically make the LEDs flash at an adjustable speed. Popular options for home use include Microduino-based flashers and the Pixelblaze controller.
3.Program an Arduino or Raspberry Pi.
If you want to customize the flashing speed, sequence and effects, you can program an Arduino UNO or Raspberry Pi to pulse power to the LED strip. With some basic coding skills, you can make the LEDs flash, strobe, fade in and out or create chase effects. You will need to connect the Arduino or Pi to a 12V DC power supply and an N-channel MOSFET to handle powering the LED strip.
Using an Arduino or Raspberry Pi to control LED strip lighting is a great way to create highly customized flashing and strobing effects. Some key points about programming an Arduino or Pi for this purpose:
• Unlimited effects – You have full control over the speed, sequence, pattern and duration of the flashing. You can program disco-like strobe pulses, slow fades, chases and everything in between.
• Advanced color mixing – Easily generate any color by programming the right RGB values. Make the LEDs flash red, then blue, then green. Or gradually fade from pink to gold to teal and so on.
• Endless expansion – With some basic coding, you can keep building on and improving your program to add new features and effects over time. Start with a basic strobe, then add color changing, then pattern sequences and so on.
• Long lifetime – Unlike built-in flashing LED bulbs, using a programmable controller does not reduce the working lifespan of the LEDs themselves. The LEDs are just turned on and off via software, so they can still last 15-30 years.
• Complex to set up – Requires connecting the controller, power supply, MOSFET and LED strip correctly, then uploading your program code to the controller. Some technical skill is needed.
• Coding required – You need to learn at least basic programming to develop the effects and flash sequences you want. While sample code is available to build on, customizing requires understanding programming concepts.
• Additional equipment – Requires purchasing a controller like an Arduino UNO, as well as a suitable 12V power supply and N-channel MOSFET or similar. Additional cost over a self-contained flashing LED product.
• Limited preset options – If you want simple one-touch color or flash presets without complex programming, a controller may not have built-in options. You would need to code each preset yourself.
So using a programmable controller like an Arduino offers nearly limitless possibilities for custom LED flashing effects, with long term reliability – but at the cost of greater setup complexity and needing coding skills. For novices looking for basic one-touch effects, a built-in flashing LED solution may still be preferable despite the limited options and shorter lifespan.
4.Use an LED strip with a wireless receiver
Some individually addressable LED strip kits come with an RF wireless remote that lets you control basic flashing and fading. The receiver gets connected to the LED strip and a power source, while the compact remote lets you select from various preset flashing speeds and strobe modes to change the pattern. These kits are very user-friendly but limited to the effects built into the remote.
5.Hack the power supply
If you want a simple DIY method without any special controllers or programming, you can hack an LED strip power supply to make the lights flash. Connect the power wires to a standard light switch. Rapidly flipping the switch on and off will make the LEDs turn on and off, producing a strobing effect. Not the most sophisticated method but requires no special equipment or skills.
In summary, there are wireless, plug-and-play and DIY solutions for making LED strip lights and bulbs flash, at varying levels of customization and complexity. An LED strip kit with remote or flasher controller is easy for most users, while programming an Arduino offers more advanced possibilities for those with some coding expertise
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