I see a lot of people here getting super beefy 5V power supplies and running ultra-thick wire to their LED’s. I think I’ve found a better way and wanted to share.
My trick has been to run the power to the LED’s at a much higher voltage–like 24V and then use DC-DC step down converters right next to the LEDs. Because of the higher voltage, you are drawing much less current, letting you get away with much thinner wire and lower cost power supplies. The tradeoff is you need to purchase and mount step-down converters.
You want to remember to think in terms of how many watts your LEDs & controller will draw. Sum up all the wattage used by all your LEDs and make sure your power supply is rated for at least that wattage (ideally double the size… you don’t want to be running power supplies at their max ratted wattage).
Make sure you don’t exceed the amperage of the DC-DC converters by distributing their placement across the entire project. Current = Power / Voltage. So if a segment draws 50 watts and your LEDs are 5V, you’ll need to get a DC-DC converter rated for at least 10 amps.
In the photo below, you can see my controller unit. In it is a little ESP8266 mini and a 10 amp DC-DC converter. The 5V side powers the LEDs and microcontroller, and the 12/24 side has a passthrough. Then, on the other side of my LED strip there will be another DC-DC step converter that knocks the voltage down to 5V. No I have both ends of my LED’s powered and I’m not using super-thick wire.
You can see the results in the rather poor quality video. You’ll see a little box on both sides of the 300 LED strip. One is just a DC-DC converter, the other is the box below, which is plugged into a 24V “laptop power supply” I picked up on amazon. And yeah, I realize this stuff isn’t outdoor rated gear… it is, however, fairly protected from rain and moisture. Someday I’ll make it more rugged…