What is an Addressable LED?

There is a lot of commotion lately about LED’s, they seem to be appearing pretty much everywhere.  This is most likely due to the fact that they are very useful, cheap and most importantly to me, just plain fun to work with!  I thought I would take a few minutes to explain the difference between a couple different types of LED’s.

Non-Addressable(Cool) VS. Addressable(Very Cool)

There are a lot of options when it comes to buying LED’s and you want to make sure you have the right ones for your project to fulfill the grand vision you had in mind.  Let’s start out talking about the way you control the LED’s.

All of these LED’s can be in the form of flexible light strips or individual LED’s.  Let’s figure out the basics of each type of LED.

Non-Addressable LED’s

Non-addressable LED’s are the cheapest option but limited on capabilities.

The general gist of non-addressable LED’s is that they all work together.  If you have a strip of let’s say 20 red non-addressable LED’s, they will all be on or off at the same time and always the same brightness.  Non-addressable LED’s are very useful for projects where you don’t need individual control of the lights.

Let’s say you make a DIY LED Photo Light Panel (Which I just happen to be making), this is a perfect use for non-addressable LED’s.  There will be one control for all of the lights in the project to turn them on and off and to dim them.  No individual control of each individual LED is required.  While many projects could also be built using addressable LED’s, is just adds to the cost and complexity of the project for no reason.

Non-addressable LED’s can be individually controlled using a micro-controller like an Arduino but each LED has to be controlled individually by the Arduino.  This can work for a few LED’s but is not really feasible when working with more than a few.

Individually Addressable LED’s

Addressable LED’s are the more expensive option but allow you great flexibility.

How Do Addressable LED’s Work?

Individually addressable LED’s  are just as the name implies.  Each individual LED in the series has it’s own control circuit built right in.  This allows you to communicate with each LED digitally using it’s “address” to control it individually of the others.

To use individually addressable LED’s you need to use some sort of controller to send a digital signal to the LED’s.  Many sets of these LED’s come with their own controller or you can use an Arduino or other micro-controller to operate them.

Individually controlling each LED gives you amazing control if you are wanting to create some cool lighting effects or just simply want to turn some or all on or off.

A good example of using Individually addressable LED’s and an Arduino would be for a DIY under bed lighting system for a kid’s loft bed (I just happen to be making this also).

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