LED Lighting 101 – Tips and terms for industry beginners

LED lighting is a highly technical field with its own array of industry terms, specifications, and guidelines to be aware of. Even the most experienced distributors and contractors have room for growth and education as the lighting space evolves alongside advances in technology.

We’ve compiled this list of definitions and descriptions to help shed some light on the inner-workings of LEDs so industry beginners can better familiarize themselves with the technical side and more effectively talk the talk. Let’s dive in.

IP Rating

A lighting fixture’s IP rating classifies its degree of protection against water, dust, and other outside elements. IP stands for “ingress protection” and is graded on a numerical scale, with a higher IP rating indicating greater protection.

LED systems generally fall under one of three IP ratings:


  • Indoor use
  • No protection against rain, dust or wind


  • Water-resistant
  • Dust-proof
  • Can be wiped down with a damp towel
  • Cannot endure standing water
  • Ideal applications include under-cabinet lighting


  • Protected against continuous immersion in water
  • Thicker casing than lesser IP ratings
  • Also protects against temperature fluctuations
  • Ideal for outdoor applications in seasonal locations, including saunas, fireplaces, and grills
  • Also protects against saltwater corrosion along coastlines


CRI stands for “color rendering index” and denotes the trueness of an LED’s color when viewed under natural light. A higher CRI means the color will appear truer (100 = the sun) while a lower CRI will appear less vibrant. This is particularly important in applications intended to display artwork, jewelry, and high-end clothing, as appearance is somewhat manipulated under a lower CRI LED. 90+ CRI lighting can be a challenge to come by, making it a valuable feature of LEDs.

Lumen Output

Lumen output directly impacts the brightness of an LED system, and will vary depending on application. A high-end restaurant, for example, won’t want a high lumen output as the brightness will negatively affect the intended quaint energy and mood of the space. A doctor’s office or grocery store, on the other hand, are better-suited for bright lighting and will function more effectively beneath a high lumen output.

Nova Flex’s product line is highly versatile, ranging in lumen output from 100 lm/ft to 935 lm/ft.


Binning refers to the way LEDs are grouped during the manufacturing process, based on color, voltage, lumens, and various other characteristics. This grouping ensures two LEDs coming from the same bin will be essentially identical – or at least very close. This helps achieve consistency across any LED system where each individual LED was taken from the same bin.

Nova Flex is a single-bin company, guaranteeing a color match for all our products. This provides an advantage over multi-bin companies who will see some variation in the performance and quality of their products depending on the bin of each individual LED.

Cutting In Field

Nova Flex strongly recommends against cutting LEDs in the field, as this voids UL Certification and may also contribute to a dip in quality. In the case of IP68 ribbon, cutting exposes the end of the tape to potentially damaging elements. By installing a system customized, ready-to-install, you avoid this issue.

UL Certification

UL certification is the highest level of certification an LED product can attain. UL Certification indicates the product has undergone the most rigorous testing available on the market today. Not only is UL necessary for most inspections, but it is also a safety standard that can provide additional peace of mind when installing an LED lighting system. Earning UL certification takes extensive time and testing and is a major achievement within the LED industry. It is equivalent to an eating establishment earning a Michelin 3-star rating.

Nova Flex’s entire product line is UL-certified, allowing us to provide our customers with the highest standard of quality and safety no matter the application.

Light up your next project with Nova Flex

Nova Flex provides industry-best LED products and expertise to make the process easy and effective from start to finish. Contact us today for personalized support designed to brighten your next project.