Connecting 20 3v LEDs in series?

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by gfurther2, Jun 21, 2012.

  1. gfurther2

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jun 21, 2012
    I need to connect 20 3 volt 20mA white LEDs. I am very new to electronics, but I want to connect them in a series circuit because they're spaced about 5 feet about and the whole circuit makes a circle, so I could save half the wire. I'm using a 3 volt power source (2AA batteries), but this is only temporary to see what the LEDs look like until I get a power adapter. Here's my question: I connected 5 LEDs in series to just make a mini model, and the LEDs didn't light! But when I connected them in parallel they lit up. So I did some research online and found out that to connect 20 of these 3v LEDs in a series circuit I'd need a 60 volt power source? (3 volts for each LED). I want to use my 2AA batteries because I know I can't get hurt using the 2AAs, but I don't know about 60 volts. So do I have to connect these LEDs in parallel and waste another 100 feet of wire, or is there a way to wire them in series. Or any other way to do this without using 2x the amount of wire!
  2. tracecom

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 16, 2010
    You cannot connect LED's in series unless you provide a power supply at or above the total of the LED voltage. And if you connect them in parallel, you need a current limiting resistor for each LED, and your 2 AA batteries will last practically no time.
  3. gfurther2

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jun 21, 2012
    So I've decided to use the parallel method, and I want to use a 9 volt power source (wall adapter). I know all the formulas, V=IR and all that from high school. I just have no idea how to apply it? And these current limiting resistors... Where do I put them? What size do I need. Been trying to figure this stuff out for years.
  4. BSomer


    Dec 28, 2011
    R = (Vs - Vf)/I

    Vs = supply voltage
    Vf = forward voltage of LED
    I = forard current of LED

    The best method would be to use one resistor for each LED. Where it goes does not matter.

    Vs -> LED -> Resistor -> Gnd


    Vs -> Resistor -> LED -> Gnd
  5. gfurther2

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jun 21, 2012
    9 volt supply voltage, 20 3 volt LEDs at .02 amps. So (9-3)/.02 = 300 ohm resistor


    (9-3)/(.02 x 20) = 15 ohm resistor? I multiplied the .02 amps by 20 because I'm using 20 LEDs.


    Since I'm doing 20 LEDs in parallel would it look like this:

    Vs(neg-) ----> Resistor ----> | ----> Resistor ----> | ----> (and so on)
    Vs(pos+) --------------------> | --------------------> | ----> (and so on)

    Or would the resistor be on the positive rail? Or does it matter?
  6. Bernard


    Aug 7, 2008
    Use a series parallel arrangement, will " waste " just 50 ft. 9 V - 6 V = 3 v / .02 A = 150 Ω. Use any thing over 1/10 W; 1/4 or 1/2 might be easier to work with.
  7. gfurther2

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jun 21, 2012
    I want to put these LEDs around a pool, so connecting 2 LEDs in series wouldn't save me any wire in my case? I attached a drawing.
  8. WBahn


    Mar 31, 2012
    Putting two in series will actually cost you wire, but will reduce your current requirements.

    Imagine taking two wires and running them all the way around your pool. One of these is the positive rail and the other is the negative rail. Then, at each point that you want a light, you put an LED and the appropriate current limiting resistor between the two rails. Since your total current is only 400mA, the wire used to make the rails doesn't have to be too large. This will let you limit your voltage to 5V or 6V which is good from a safety standpoint around a swimming pool.

    Be sure to check into the electrical codes that apply in your area for outdoor and pool area requirements.
  9. wayneh


    Sep 9, 2010
    +1 Don't ignore this. Give thought to worst-case situations such as someone in the pool grabbing hold of your circuit through a flaw in the insulation, or a local pet coming along and biting a hole in the circuit. This may all seem unlikely when you install this but things happen over time. Corrosion, UV damage, moisture condensation, on and on. I predict rusting of your LED leads.
  10. Wendy


    Mar 24, 2008
  11. KJ6EAD

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 30, 2011
  12. djsfantasi

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 11, 2010
    I have experience to back up Wayne's and other's cautions. I constructed some LED strings for between plants and some backlights for my garden pond's waterfall - which all failed soon thereafter due to corrosion. I then purchased a LED lighting strip from an auto supply store (it was sealed for external use), but then my power adapter wasn't rated for outdoor use and burned up (like as in almost fire)!

    I now front-light the pond garden with commercial LED garden lamps...

  13. gfurther2

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jun 21, 2012
    Thank you everybody for the help! Since the last time I was on here I installed only two LEDs and after only 2 days you can see the corrosion. This has made me realize the real work of this project and I will be now holding off until I find a more reasonable outdoor solution.

    Thank you all for the help though, I really learned about electronics from you guys and will be posting a lot more questions because you guys really know how to explain things unlike Wikipedia!