Why Do My LED Strip Lights Smell?

led strip coating

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Did you just set up your new LED strip light? Are you experiencing a bad smell coming off from the strips? There are several reasons for that to happen. This smell could also be a major safety concern.

So, let us check out the reasons for your LED Strip lights to smell.

LED Strip Lights: Causal Factors for Bad LED Strip Smell

Poor and cheap circuitry is the prime cause of bad smell lingering from your LED strip after each use. The LEDs tend to heat up in the unventilated fixtures. This leads to the burning of delicate electrical chips inside the core of the LED strip.

It can affect the integrity of capacitors & semi-conductors in the LED strip lights. The smell could sometimes surface from the surrounding assembly parts being burnt. This happens because of the heat trapped inside.

Fishy Smell Coming from the LED Strip Lights

Do you smell something fishy from your LED strip light? It denotes that a component within the strip is burning or overheating. This smell can also stem from frayed or loose cords and wires along with issues such as:

  • Overloaded circuits
  • Incorrectly-sized fuses or breakers
  • Faulty outlets
  • Overheated electrical insulation or shielding
overloaded circuits

The components in your LED strip lights are coated using plastic and heat-resistant chemicals. They help provide insulation in the strips. When this plastic or chemical coating starts to heat up more than its recommended temperature, it can give off a fish-like burning smell.

Whenever you find this smell lingering around your room, it is important to switch off your LED strip immediately. A common cause for this overheating or burning is the use of wrong light wattage.

Factors that Could Cause Your LED Strip Light to Smell

Several factors play an important role in lighting up your LED strips. Any misalignment of these factors could cause a burning smell. So, let us check out the factors that could cause the strips to smell.

1-High Power Running Through Cheap-Quality Light Bars:

Today with various lamp bead styles are available in the market. It is possible for manufacturers to produce LED strip lights with 3500 lamp beads in mere 5 meters of length. However, with an increase in the bead numbers, there must be a corresponding increase in the thickness and width of the PCB Board. This helps with thorough heat dissipation.

To maintain these large numbers of beads, the manufacturers need to pay attention to the current to drive along with the quality of the light bar. Unfortunately, economic and low-end LED strip lights tend to ignore this problem. In strips with a large number of lamp beads, the lamp beads themselves aren’t bright enough.

led strip light

To achieve the high lumens requirement, an excessive amount of current is deliberately passed through the light bar. With time, the high current flow can lead to poor heat dissipation, and hence the buildup heat could cause burns or fire hazards.

In order to solve these issues, manufacturers can focus on:

  • Reducing the current flow/power through the light bar
  • Widening and thickening of the PCB Board
  • Using a larger size chip for the lamp beads

2-Cheap-Quality PCB Board:

The PCB Board connects the LED chips and runs power through them for lighting purposes. These boards are traditionally crafted from copper. However, it is expensive, and some manufacturers cut costs by reducing the copper amount used.

With a thin conducting board in place, it could cause inaccurate heat dissipation. This results in the strips falling faster than their average life. To avoid this from happening, invest in light strips with thicker, larger copper boards. These boards are durable and help with faster heat dissipation to avoid burning.

You will notice that the high-quality strips dissipate heat efficiently & they won’t bend easily.

pcb board

3-LED Strip Coating:

Almost all LED strips come with featured coatings that are made from silica gel, epoxy glue, PU glue, etc. It is termed an IP-rated coating. The coating is added to stop the moisture from entering the strip’s internal components.

When not checked in time, it could lead to a short circuit resulting in a bad smell. Apart from this, the PU adhesive has a pungent smell. So, employees working in the LED strip light production unit need to wear masks to prevent inhalation.

This is why reputed LED brands have now phased out the use of PU adhesives. However, given its cheap price, there are still some shady manufacturers in the market that use PU adhesives in the light bars.

Cheap-quality strip lights have multiple cracks throughout the length. This happens due to cheap manufacturing and brittle coating. Apart from creating an irregular look, it could be a major issue due to the exposed parts, which aren’t safe. The strip-light could also cause fire hazards depending on the manufacturing process.

High-quality light strips feature an odorless and stable coating that doesn’t release any smell. Even when being used, the coating can dissipate the heat and tackle any possibility of burning. If you have a sensitive nose, cheap LED strip lights aren’t right for you.

If your LED strip lights have whiffs of plastic smell even before being switched on, it’s right to dump them instantly. The right way to go about it is to check the strip light’s IP rating. In general, these are the ratings you can find for your LED strip lights:

  • IP20- Not Protected
  • IP65- Splash-Proof
  • IP68- Waterproof
led strip coating

If your LED strip lights are rated IP68, they can easily be used outdoors, such as in your garden. Most high-quality LED strips are designed to evade cracking issues that happen due to faulty IP ratings. It houses a better and thorough coating that lasts for years without generating any burning smell while being used.

What causes LED light strips to burn out?

Unlike the incandescent light options, the LEDs don’t depend on heat to produce their light. This is what makes them energy efficient. However, the only downside is the fact that its components are sensitive to improper heat dissipation. This can lead to premature burnout.

Several manufacturers tend to use cheap-quality glue to fix the light on the strips. It could cause the chemicals in the glue to burn out due to the excessive heat and then lead to fire hazards. This could be especially disastrous if the strips are fixed to flammable surfaces such as timber, plywood, or under any wooden cabinet.

Moreover, the strip lights could also fail pending poor current control or voltage fluctuation. This can lead to the smell dissipating from the strips.

More than the LEDs, the copper PCB boards are responsible for the proper dissipation of the heat. If there is an odor, it may be due to the quality of the resistor caused by the resistor breakage/failure.

This could cause an increase in the circuit board current, burn the lamp beads, or overheat the circuit board. Eventually, it can ignite the surrounding objects and result in an odor.

led strip

Other Issues that Cause LED Light Strips to Smell

Another prominent issue that causes your LED strip lights to smell is joining too many strips together. If your LED installation has too many strips linked together, it could pass in higher voltage. A cheaply-made strip light won’t handle such high voltage flow and will start to burn out or overheat. With time, this can lead to an obnoxious smell being released from the strip light.

Under-rated wiring or cabling can also be a major fire risk for homeowners. The use of Cat 5/Cat 6 cables for powering up the LED strips is also disastrous. The excessive current flow can make the cable very hot and can be a fire hazard.

Although LEDs are considered low current, it isn’t through for multiple LEDs running together. With 1000s of LEDs pulling 20ma each, it could add up to become 20Amps. This kind of power through poor quality strips can burn out, with smell being the first indicator.

Certain strip-light retailers promote the dubious method of using aluminum foil to bring down the heat. High-quality strips do not require foil for heat dissipation. Moreover, an improperly insulated foil can risk the possibility of short-circuiting.

led aluminum


With this information in mind, you can ensure safety at your house and keep the space lit up. Whenever you smell something burning, it is time to switch off the lights immediately. Make sure you check the IP ratings to ensure the strip lights can dissipate the heat with ease. As an LED light enthusiast, safety should be your primary concern.

Always look for manufacturers that provide a warranty on their LED strip lights. If your light starts to smell right out of the box, it isn’t a brand you can trust. The key is to avoid cheaply manufactured LED strips with improper heat dissipation features in place.

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