LED technology offers many advantages to designers of architectural lighting systems. LEDs are more energy efficient, offer a lower overall cost of operation, and provide the potential for eye-catching aesthetics and innovative design. The features and specifications of LED lighting fixtures themselves are important, but the choice of architectural LED power supplies (or drivers) is also critical. Let’s look at five ways architectural LED drivers affect the design and performance of LED lighting systems.
LED drivers take AC current from the mains and convert it to low-voltage DC current required by the LEDs themselves. Like any complex electrical component, drivers must be installed by qualified technicians, which means that ease of installation is a key factor in reducing the cost of deployment. Devices like GRE Alpha’s Easy Install drivers, for example, incorporate features like integral wiring compartments to reduce installation time and eliminate the need for additional components during the installation process. These drivers are also user configurable to constant-current or constant-voltage output, which offers design flexibility while minimizing tracking of extra SKUs.
Reliability is a key factor in reducing down time of LED lighting systems. The LEDs themselves, if used properly, last far longer than incandescent or neon lights, so LED drivers should have a correspondingly long lifetime. The mean time between failure (MTBF), a measure of the reliability of a high-quality LED driver, helps in estimating operating costs of an architectural lighting project at the design stage. Typical MTBFs of LED drivers range from 50,000 hours to 500,000 hours under normal operating conditions.
LED drivers must also exhibit sufficient ruggedness to protect against voltage surges. Like most electronics, LEDs are sensitive to such surges and to accidental electrostatic discharge during handling. Some LED drivers are designed to withstand surges of several thousand volts. In applications such as outdoor signage where lightning strikes are a problem, optional surge protectors that protect the drivers themselves are advisable.
LED drivers and dimming modules enable fast and flicker-free control of LED intensity from 0-100%. Dimming LEDs with manual switches lends itself to energy efficiency, of course. But modern lighting systems require a greater level of control, especially through integration with smart building systems that can be monitored and controlled over intelligent networks to optimize lighting quality and minimize energy consumption.
For example, intelligent control and monitoring of LED lighting systems can make it possible to collect information about how lighting is used in each room or section of a building to help optimize energy consumption over time. Eventually, lighting might even be optimized for a person based on preferences stored on their smartphone, or for a particular meeting room based on how many people are present.
To enable intelligent lighting control, or to future-proof a lighting system, it’s essential to deploy high-quality LED drivers that can integrate with dimming modules with industry standard DALI (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface) or DMX.
In the hands of a creative designer, LEDs offer the potential for the attractive and dynamic lighting of signage and building exteriors and interiors. Their fast response and controllability offer a relatively inexpensive way to freshen the appearance of both the interior and exterior of older buildings without extensive renovation.
In some cases, architectural lighting systems are deployed in stages with LED strips, so it helps to have power supplies used for LED strips that enable scalability. Constant voltage architectural LED drivers offer the flexibility to add LED lighting strips without replacing the drivers themselves. For example, GRE Alpha’s constant voltage Signage-Pro driver offers maximum flexibility and robustness for exterior architectural lighting. This driver features user-adjustable voltage, output for cooling fan control, and a heavy-duty design for use in exterior applications.
Many architectural lighting applications require a high quality of light, over and above brightness, which includes a minimization of flicker and control of the temperature of the light. These are all a function of the LED driver which must take AC line current, sometimes of unpredictable quality and stability, and convert it to steady and clean direct current without ripple to ensure a light that’s pleasing to the eye.
Some drivers can also help LED light appear more natural. The GRE Alpha Tunable White SLD-DimTW, for example, can change light from a warm to cool temperature as a function of brightness. This mimics natural light as it progresses from the soft warm light of sunrise to brighter and cooler mid-day light.
LED technology offers many advantages to designers of architectural lighting systems including energy efficiency, scalability, and light quality. Since they are inherently electronic devices, LEDs require high quality drivers to operate, and the choice of drivers is critical for optimum lighting design and performance. The most important features of architectural LED drivers include installation cost, reliability, and scalability, as well as control of light quality and integration into smart building systems.
Each March the Japan LED Association brings the top manufacturers from all over the world together at the LED NEXT STAGE. Market leaders find themselves with the opportunity to show off the newest LED and OLED lighting products to influential designers, engineers and buyers. Ready to order items, production models and concepts on display guide the future of the lighting industry. This season ’s event placed emphasis on store and city design.
At this year's show, GRE Alpha’s booth featured interactive product displays allowing visitors to experience firsthand the high quality of its products. GRE Alpha showcased its new EnOcean dimming module as well as PSE-certified LED drivers including the SLD-DIM DALI and SLD dimming module (1-10V+PWM). With the global market in mind, the firm provides the same technology in 868MHz and 902MHz modules that Japanese customers can incorporate into their products for overseas markets. This was GRE Alpha’s second year participating in this event. Those in attendance reported a 25 percent increase in product inquiries.
There will be additional opportunities to see live demonstrations. GRE Alpha will also be participating in the Lightfair International 2018 trade show, slated to be held in from May 8 to 10 in Chicago. LFI is the world’s largest annual architectural and commercial lighting trade show and is sponsored by the International Association of Lighting Designers and the Illuminating Engineering Society. The main focus of LFI this year will be smart cities.
About GRE Alpha
GRE Alpha® Electronics, Ltd. specializes in the design and manufacture of solid-state lighting power supplies and lighting control accessories which are the lifeblood of indoor and outdoor LED lighting systems. Unlike many in the LED industry, GRE Alpha focuses on a modular approach. Their products can be used either in conjunction with existing systems or with new setups.
With more than two decades of power conversion expertise and a commitment to innovation, GRE Alpha engages with industry pioneers to deliver highly efficient, installation-ready and agency-approved LED power conversion products for a wide variety of industry applications.
Showcasing the latest technology is a hallmark of the world’s leading trade fair for lighting and building services technology. Longtime GRE Alpha partner, Lumileds will be at Germany’s Messe Light + Building, eager to present their latest products. Weeks ago Lumileds introduced its fourth generation of chip-on-board (CoB) LEDs, the LUXEON CoB Core Range which leads the market in efficacy and quality of light. The product incorporates GRE Alpha’s warm dimming modules to provide a smooth dim-to-warm effect. With the new LUXEON CoB Core Range, Lumileds sets a new standard with 5% greater efficacy than the closest alternatives. The major applications include use in spotlights and downlights.
Attendees at the Frankfurt Light and Building Fair will be able to see the demonstration via a demo kit in the booth located at Hall 6.2, Stand No. B40
GRE Alpha is a long-term reliable partner with Lumileds.“User experience is very important to us,” says Richard Fong Executive Director at GRE Alpha. “Working in tandem with our alliances, we will have knowledgeable, representatives on the floor to help introduce and share our products.” GRE Alpha dimmers offer some distinct advantages
More than 2,600 exhibitors will be presenting their products in the fields of lighting, electrical and home and building automation. “Connected – Secure – Convenient” is the motto of the spring event. Dimming technology is a critical component in luminaire design. With that in mind, GRE Alpha’s team will be bringing their modular approach to LED dimming to the fair. In addition to displaying their products with Lumileds, their modular drivers will be on display at both the Digital Illumination Interface Alliance (DiiA) and EnOcean booths March 18 to 23, 2018
Messe Light + Building is renowned for the exhibitors’ high levels of expertise in the field of design. GRE Alpha and its partners will feature interactive displays of many of products, allowing users to experience firsthand the craftsmanship and quality.
About GRE Alpha:
GRE Alpha Electronics, Ltd. specializes in the design and manufacturing of solid-state lighting power supplies and lighting control accessories, the lifeblood of indoor and outdoor LED lighting systems. With over two decades of power conversion expertise and a commitment toward innovation, GRE Alpha engages with industry pioneers to deliver highly efficient, installation-ready and agency-approved LED power conversion products for a wide variety of industry applications.
Learn more at grealpha.com.
For automotive, mobile, IoT and illumination companies who require innovative lighting solutions, Lumileds is a global leader employing more than 9,000 team members operating in over 30 countries. Lumileds partners with its customers to push the boundaries of light.
To learn more about our portfolio of lighting solutions, visit lumileds.com.
Messe Light + Building, the world’s largest trade fair for lighting and building services technology will feature the latest products with cutting edge features. More than 2,600 exhibitors will be presenting their products in the fields of lighting, electrical and home and building automation. “Connected – Secure – Convenient” is the motto of the spring event. The lighting group will embrace this year’s theme bringing focus to the newest design trends.
Dimming technology is a critical component in luminaire design. With that in mind, GRE Alpha’s team will be bringing their modular approach to LED dimming to the fair. Their modular drivers will be on display at both the Digital Illumination Interface Alliance (DiiA) and EnOcean booths March 18 to 23, 2018. “Aligning with these two forward thinking organizations allows us to continue pushing technology that caters to designers, architects and engineers who crave innovation” says Richard Fong, Executive Director at GRE Alpha.
The EnOcean Alliance, along with 15 of its members, will be presenting energy harvesting wireless solutions for building automation and smart home applications. The newly released ENO-DIM module will be among the featured technologies at stall B60 in Hall 9.1. The dimmer is designed to work with any EnOcean-certified wireless energy harvesting switch. Because the drivers operate on proprietary communication frequencies, users experience reliable noise-free connections. The specialized units are being used in various applications, such as architectural lighting, general commercial illumination, warehouses, signage or strip lighting.
Diia, an open, global consortium of lighting companies will also showcase products from members. Visitors to the exhibit at FOY16 in the foyer outside Hall 4.1 will be able to speak with DALI experts, including DALI Technical & Certification Manager, Scott Wade. GRE Alpha plans to have DALI dimmers, such as the SLD-DIM DALI and GLD-DIM-DALI modules featured at the show. The easy to install series drivers, with integral wiring compartments, provide significant savings in installation time and cost, while ensuring safety and reliability.
Messe Light + Building is renowned for the exhibitors’ high levels of expertise in the field of design. GRE Alpha and its partners will feature interactive displays of many of products, allowing users to experience firsthand the craftsmanship and quality. “User experience is very important to us,” says Fong. “Working in tandem with our alliances, we will have knowledgeable, representatives on the floor to help introduce and share our products with clients.”
The LED has come a long way since its invention more than 50 years ago. From instrumentation indicators to digital clocks to holiday displays and more recently smart buildings, the application options for LEDs seem limitless. As environmental awareness increases, more consumers look to benefit from the energy efficiency and durability of LED lighting systems.
LED street light
Municipalities also increasingly look to tap into these benefits by replacing dated energy-guzzling streetlights with more efficient LED street lighting. Manufacturers responded to the demand by forming partnerships and developing the LED technology to meet the more rigorous standards for street lights. Along with decisions about illumination, color, intensity, connectivity and ingress protection, the most important consideration for a street lighting retrofit must be the driver which supplies the power and controller to the LED. So what are some key factors to consider when choosing an LED driver for a street lighting system?
LED streetlights must be durable as well as easy to maintain. More and more manufacturers are responding to this demand by designing systems with remote LED drivers that reside in the junction box at the base of the streetlight instead of inside the fixture at the top of the pole. This allows for easier maintenance as the driver tends to be more prone to failure than the LED. Easier maintenance means added savings to municipalities.
Remote drivers also play a role in LED thermal management. LED drivers are traditionally built into LED fixtures on the head in front of the LED module. During the voltage conversion process, LED drivers produce thermal energy which gets trapped in the housing and transferred to the LED. High temperatures lead to premature failure. LED fixtures with remote drivers are exposed to less heat and are therefore more durable than their built-in counterparts.
Multiple LED street light installation
LEDs operate at low voltages and are more sensitive to overvoltage than traditional bulbs. Standard LED drivers are designed to withstand overvoltages from 2kV to 4kV, but streetlights are subjected to much higher degrees of voltage fluctuations. Power grid overvoltages, for example, can reach as high as 6kV while lightning strikes are known to generate overvoltages as high as 10kV. Electrostatic discharge (ESD) generated during routine maintenance can also impact unprotected LEDs.
High overvoltages can cause high currents and the premature aging of LEDs, leading to reduced service life and decreased economic benefit to municipalities. Designers must, therefore, consider adding a quality surge protector aptly rated for the intended application environment.
If future expandability is critical, then controller capabilities must also be a consideration. Digital Addressable Lighting Interface or DALI-based controllers are becoming increasingly popular for street lighting control. Not only because they can be upgraded to wireless, but also because these controllers offer greater compatibility with existing lighting control systems. DALI controllers are simple, scalable, flexible and robust. DALI can control individual LEDs or even groups of LEDs and are easily reconfigurable for changing conditions.
Rapidly evolving LED technology has opened the door to new applications in public street lighting as cities worldwide seek to reduce costs and improve night visibility. The complexities of municipal street lighting require that designers consider many factors when specifying a conversion, chief among which are LED driver attributes. The most effective drivers are easy to maintain, offer surge protection, lighting control and ensure LED longevity.
Bullough, J. D., Lighting Research Center., New York State Energy Research and Development Authority., & New York (State). (2012). Guide for optimizing the effectiveness and efficiency of roadway lighting. Troy, Ny.: Lighting Research Center.
Drivers enable next-gen LED street lighting. (January 01, 2012). Electronic Products New York-, 54, 12, 44.
Signorino, I. (May 01, 2012). Drivers enable next-gen LED street lighting: What designers must consider when selecting a driver, focusing on why eliminating the step-down transformer is a good idea. Electronic Products, 54, 5.)