How do you design and build a DIY LED bar?
Do it yourself enthusiasts can discover the bar plans of how to build an LED bar and how much LED bars cost.
LED BARS – HOW TO DIY DESIGN AND BUILD
Recognize the concept in this photo? One of the top questions I’m asked is how to design and build an LED bar. People are fascinated by commercial lighting – especially when it comes to backlighting a bar front. Backlit bars create major “WOW-factor” and therefore the design concepts for doing this are tightly-held – until now!!
WHAT’S THE SECRET OF BACK-LIGHTING?
The first secret of back-lighting an LED bar design is that the “Secret sauce” is simply the result of placing a light source behind a translucent panel. These panels are eventually installed as a curtain wall in front of the existing bar face. It’s as simple as that. ‘What is a translucent panel,’? you say. Translucent panels are merely specialized acrylic-based panels with the following characteristics:
- A thin layer of light-diffusing material laminated to one side.
- The light source (placed behind the laminated side) is spread evenly across the opposite side of the sheet.
- The resulting light appears milky, i.e., not as a point light.
- Polycarbonate and Makrolon (a form of acrylic) yield excellent results because they deliver very effective results; the sheets are available in various thicknesses.
- Another material used for translucent panels is tempered-laminated architectural glass, which yields superior results but at a high cost (this is what we used for the bar in the above photo).
BAR DESIGN TIP
General purpose clear acrylic will not yield good results for back-lighting. For best results, use polycarbonate translucent panels.
NEARLY ANY BAR CAN BE RETROFITTED TO AN LED BAR
After familiarizing yourself with the first thing to know about LED bar design is that it can be retrofitted to nearly any existing bar. The conversion process involves some simple hardware and controls, as follows:
- Lighting Mounting tracks – as shown in the architectural drawing below and in this photo, the tracks are mounted continuously along the top and bottom edges of the curtain wall and provide a simple method of installing the LED lighting; the KLUS B4023 LED angular extrusion, shown here, is also available through SuperBrightLED.com; for those who are creative, a ¾” x ¾” PVC strip will do the same job at a fraction of the cost.
- RGB LED strip lighting – as shown in the photo (below, right), such as this model by SuperBrightLED.com; the lighting is installed continuously along the top and bottom edges of the curtain wall. The lighting should contain 30 SMD LED’s per meter.
- Lighting controls – controllers, power supplies and miscellaneous cables will cost about $200, depending on the given application and are also available at SuperBrightLED.com
THE TRANSLUCENT CURTAIN WALL
The translucent curtain wall – as shown in the section view below. As I mentioned, this is the main ingredient of “the secret sauce” that makes the lighting effective in the LED bar. The best value-solution for translucent curtain walls are the “LUMI-ONYX” panels offered by Lumigraf, which consist of a polycarbonate sheet laminated with a thin layer of translucent film, designed to evenly disperse the light; I recommend 3/8” thick panels for all bar fronts.
BAR DESIGN TIP
What sets Lumigraf panels apart are the secondary printed vinyl films that are also laminated to the panels, which provide numerous finishes.
Here’s some additional tips to know about installing the hardware:
- Curtain wall mounting angles – as shown in the plan at right (which is downloadable, below), the curtain wall is mounted to a simple ½” x ½” x 1/16” anodized aluminum angle, mounted continuously along its top and bottom edges.
- Mount the angles so there is 2” of clearance to the inside face of the curtain wall.
- Mounting tape – hands-down, the best solution for installing the curtain wall to the mounting angles is to use 3M VHB 4950 double-faced tape, 1/2” wide.
- Caulk – apply clear silicone caulk to all vertical butt joints.
- Lastly, the curtain wall should sit about 7” above the finished floor.
- For bars with solid foot rests, simply install the bottom mounting angle to the top of the foot rest.
- For bars without a foot rest, install a 7” x 2” toe kick before proceeding.
HOW MUCH DO LED BARS COST?
Here’s a cost summary of all the above hardware necessary to build your own LED backlit bar:
BUDGET COST SUMMARY FOR AN LED BACKLIT BAR
|ITEM||DESCRIPTION||WHERE TO BUY||COST (USD)|
|LIGHTING MOUNTING TRACKS||KLUS 45ALU||SUPERBRIGHTLEDS.COM||$12.00/LINEAL FOOT|
|RGB LED LIGHTING||5050 LED @ 900 LUMENS/M||SUPERBRIGHTLEDS.COM||20.00/LINEAL FOOT|
|LIGHTING CONTROLS||SEE ABOVE||SUPERBRIGHTLEDS.COM||200.00/LOT|
|TRANSLUCENT CURTAIN WALL||3/8” LUMI-ONYX||LUMIGRAF||30.00/SQUARE FOOT|
|MOUNTING ANGLES||½” x ½” x 1/16” ALUM.||AMAZON||5.00/LINEAL FOOT|
|MOUNTING TAPE||3M VHB 4950 ½” x 36 YDS.||U-LINE||79.00/ROLL|
|CAULK||CLEAR SILICONE, 10.1 OZ.||HOME DEPOT||6.00/TUBE|
BAR DESIGN TIP
The best RGB LED lighting for back-lighting bars is a 5050 waterproof strip with 30 SMD LED’s per meter, rated at 900 lumens and 7.2 watts.
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