Electronic Components

LED Circuitry Tutorial

Circuitry 101: How to Hook Up LEDs

The direct url for this guide is: http://tutorial.lsdiodes.com

Below we've created a very basic guide to help people unfamiliar with circuits get their LEDs up and running without blowing them out and wasting all their money. IT IS VERY BASIC!! Current is hardly ever mentioned, not because it's not important, but because we've found it makes things confusing when trying to teach people about this sort of thing. If we've done a bad job explaining things or if you have a question this doesn't answer, use the contact form at the bottom of this page to let us know what's up. 

When LEDs are placed in a series, the voltage is dispersed between the LEDs, meaning less voltage goes to each LED. This can be very useful. For example, if a 12 volt adapter were powering one LED, there'd be 12V going through that LED which is way too much for any LED to handle and would result in a rather unpleasant burning smell.

However, if you take that same 12V power source and put 4 LEDs in series, there would be 3V going to each LED and (assuming the LEDs are made to run off 3V) each would be powered and just dandy. Check out this illustration:

It's important to notice how the LEDs are positioned: (-) (+), (-) (+), etc. making sure that the end (-) connects to the (-) wire and the end (+) connects to the (+) wire, if any LEDs are backwards nothing bad will happen, they just won't turn on.

If three LEDs were in series with a 12V source, each would receive 4V, if six were in series, each would receive 2V, etc.

"But what if I have four LEDs powered from a 12V source and I want each to receive less than than 3V/ea?" This is where the little 'Resistor(s)' squiggly comes in. By adding a resistor it's possible to tone down the amount of voltage each receives. To find out what value resistor you should use, use an led calculator such as this one . Go to the middle form where it says 'LEDs in series' and simply type in your power sources' voltage, the LEDs' voltage you'd like and the LEDs current capability (use 20mA.) It then tells you what ohmage resistor to stick in the circuit.


Parallel or "How do I power lots of LEDs off a lower voltage source?"

Let's say you wanted to power three of your brand new LEDs off a 3V battery pack (two 1.5V AA's in series, make sense?) you found lying around. If you were to series the three LEDs there'd be 1V going to each (3 Volts / 3 LEDs = 1V for each LED). That's not enough to power your LEDs! You want them to have the full 3V going to each. Here's how:


How this works is that while every LED receives the same amount of voltage, the current of the source is dispersed between the LEDs. What this means for you is that you have 20 LEDs paralleled off a battery, it's going to drain the battery a lot quicker than if you only had 2 LEDs in parallel. If you're paralleling off a wall adapter, for instance though, the source can constantly renew itself so you can essentially parallel as many as you'd like without fear of draining the wall