The electrical device in question:

For my owned premises, I self-installed RGB-programmable accent lighting: NeoPixels-compatible LED light ribbon (5 meter 300 LED individual-addressible, the WS2812 / WS2813 / SK6812 compatible type -- really cheap nowadays if you DIY, barely more than the cost of solid color).

For those unfamiliar -- these are the newer kinds of individual-light-programmable LED light ribbons. Metaphorically like a single-pixel-row jumbotron capable of playing any animations or graphics at a high framerate, with many apps and software now available for these nowadays (proprietary and opensource). Being a 3-wire (+/-/data SPI wire) compatible with Raspberry Pi as well as generic WiFi/Bluetooth/smarthome/hub controllers since this is a now-common LED chip that is also branded under big names.

Although not my install, here's a YouTube video of what NeoPixel compatible accent lighting is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyl-TS8sR_w (though I run it more subtle animate programmes, like gentle flame flickers and/or aqua flickers).

Modern NeoPixels-compatible programmable 5V LED ribbon

The unusual electrical in question:

What's so unusual about it is that it needed a high-wattage 5 volt power supply to drive it. Peak is 90 watt (if 100% LEDs illuminated to all white), so I overprovisioned to 150 watt and bought this power supply off Amazon ... Admittedly it is generic/China but claims FCC/CE certifications / ISO 9001 factory.

Been working reliably/cool for the last 2 months in an open-air mount but I would like to improve safety.

I live in Province of Ontario, Canada and I've changed outlets and light switches all the time, as well as installed a new circuitbreaker (all in owned premises) that passed a 2nd person inspection -- as well as upgraded a sub-fusebox into a sub-panel (of same rating) in a detached-garage/shed, so I'm not new to DIY electrical work.

Now, my concern in question:

However, this barebone-ness of the power supply is giving me a little bit consternation, and I'd love to wrapper it up in a "box", like an oversized power junction box or similar.

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From a safety perspective --

Are there some standard best practices relating to permanent installs of these high-wattage low-voltage power supplies -- e.g. the purchase of a fireproof metal enclosure and mounting these power supplies inside them, to prevent shock issues and reduce risks.

In addition, if there are issues continuing to use these types of bare power supplies -- what would be the best (reasonably priced) alternatives for a permanent install high-wattage 5V power supplies for these newly common dot-programmable RGB LED ribbons? 12 volt is common for older RGB ribbons (global-color programmable) but high wattage 5 volt (individual-LED programable) is relatively new in the residential lighting world and currently there seem very few best-practices yet.

  • 1
    Asking about safety, boom +1. Or to be more precise, no boom. Jan 21, 2020 at 2:29
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    No need to oversize it by that much. not a good idea to enclose them, they are air cooled.
    – JACK
    Jan 21, 2020 at 2:41
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    @JACK Oh, buying from the Alibaba junkstream, I'd derate 50-66%. Meanwell, maybe 33%. I'll run GE stuff on the metal. Jan 21, 2020 at 2:43
  • Good point about air-cooling. But that still leaves 120V shock risk with well placed finger on the power supply screw terminal. Gotta "best-practice that away" somehow. It doesn't feel right to embed this power supply behind wallboard, and it doesn't fell right to put it in open-air mounted on the wall either. Others have done either but both seems.... a tad jerryrig. And this tech is too new to be found in any best-practices I've tried to search for. Jan 21, 2020 at 2:48
  • @MarkRejhon Insulated eye connectors and liquid electrical tape over screws. Just a thought.
    – JACK
    Jan 21, 2020 at 2:59

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately, enclosures are tricky when the equipment needs to be ventilated.

The first rule of electrical is that anything that touches mains power must have a proper UL listing, CSA, ETL or equivalent. US-OSHA keeps a list, and everyone else dogpiles on and cites it rather than maintain their own list. Your tax dollars at work. A RU listing (UL component listing) is not that. RU component listings shortcut a UL equipment listing because the component is pre-certified.

And CE is definitely not that; it is a junk mark gleefully faked by the Chinese. The rare Chinese maker who is able to stick a UL listing on their item proudly does, with file number, and they don't use CE at all; no need to fake.

I don't know the Canadian code requirement for approved (read: CSA-approved) items, but the NEC section is 110.2. It's on the first page.

I have excellent 24V GE power supplies for LED lighting that mount in a fluorescent ballast form-factor. Still need enclosures, but designed to play in a confined space.

The go-to in the "Chinese, but UL listed" department is Meanwell, and their stuff is sold at Mouser, Digi-Key, the usual. Some of their supplies have the UL or ETL listing instead of the component-level RU mark.

There is no Code legal way to bring hot and neutral to open, uncovered screw terminals on the equipment. That is one of the 100 details that the Chinese fakirs completely ignore in Code. This might be allowed in an RU component. I suspect on the UL-listed Meanwell supplies, they'll have an IEC inlet or a proper cover for the 120V splice areas.

Another important thing required in mains code is complete separation of mains and low voltage power. Bringing them onto the same terminal block is a nope.

  • Hmmm. Was afraid to hear this. It seems that a huge number of restaurants, venues, and residentials are appearing (unintentionally) violate the code due to the lack of UL-listed high-wattage 5V options. I see a MeanWell version of this power supply -- amazon.ca/Meanwell-authorized-meanwell-switching-NES-150-5/dp/… ... but it still has the same barebones problem and shared screw terminal bar (!) Jan 21, 2020 at 3:16
  • @MarkRejhon Landscape lighting has been around a very long time, and that's a style the industry is familiar with. I haven't searched much, but I suspect there are UL-listed 5V supplies readily available... they're just not gonna be anything like $23. I remember when LED strips were new, reputable suppliers were asking $200 a roll - straight faced! Jan 21, 2020 at 3:19
  • I see lots of nice enclosured / weatherproofed 12 volt options, but non-barebones 5 volt lighting power supplies are really hard to find at high-wattage options (100W-200W leagues) outside of computer power supplies. It just seems this voltage is trickier to find listed options in high wattages... Jan 21, 2020 at 3:22
  • 5V was almost never used in landscape lighting. But now this new voltage just boomed into the LED ribbon lighting scene of a sudden. The reason such ultra low voltage at ultra high wattages are used is that all LEDs in these kinds of strips are simultaneously powered in parallel, to permit individual pixel programmability. Some of these LEDs are also apparently the very same LEDs now used in large jumbotrons, but put into light ribbon formats. Jan 21, 2020 at 3:34
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    Ha. I was at CES 2020 in Vegas and yeah, they RGB the wazoo out of the whole city. I suppose the newer WS2815 (12V version of WS2812) would simplify this, maybe I should replace the ribbon just to simplify my power supply problem. And yes, I have to power the 5V ribbon at both ends to make it light consistent. Heck, replacing the LED ribbon itself is cheaper than a UL listed 5V power supply -- funny. It also underscores how impressive price drops have been on these dot-programmables. Jan 21, 2020 at 3:51

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