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LED drivers play an important role in LED lighting performance, reliability and total cost of ownership. Selecting the right LED driver can make your system easy to install, provide superior lighting quality, and increase the longevity of other system components. This article discusses factors to consider when choosing, purchasing and installing dimmable LED drivers to optimize ease of installation and system performance.

A Quick Introduction to LED Drivers

LED power supplies are critical components of commercial, institutional and some residential LED lighting systems. They are power regulators that transform ‘raw’ incoming electricity into ‘clean,’ consistent current/voltage that maximizes the performance of today’s LED lighting units.

The correct LED drivers will ensure that the LED lighting system is quiet, flicker-free and infinitely dimmable, providing high-quality light while minimizing wear on other system components. Like other system components, LED drivers are typically UL-listed power supplies; better quality LED drivers are UL Class 2-listed. (A good example is the UL Class 2 GRE Alpha dimmable LED driver, the SLD-DIM DALI

LED drivers can be located remotely from other lighting system components, and can be controlled by remote dimmer units. In some cases, manufacturers offer multiple components in a single product line, which can provide operational efficiency, simplify the purchasing process, and speed installation.

Why External LED Drivers?

In residential applications, LED bulbs often use an integrated driver for power conversion. However, in most cases, the failure of the bulb will occur in the power supply; not the bulb itself. By decoupling the LED driver from the lighting element, system maintenance can be performed at the individual component level over time, controlling maintenance cost and reducing downtime.

Types of LED Drivers

There are two primary types of LED drivers. The first type is Constant Current; the second type is Constant Voltage.

Constant Current LED drivers work within a set range of output voltages and produce a fixed current, measured in amps or milliamps. These drivers vary the voltage in the circuit while keeping the current consistent.

Constant Voltage LED drivers produce a consistent, direct current (DC) output voltage. A constant voltage driver draws on standard line voltage (120-277 VAC), converting alternating current voltage (VAC) into low direct current voltage (VDC).

Which should you choose? Budget, system design parameters and available electrical power sources all play a role in the decision. Constant voltage systems can be a cost-effective solution when you’re using an LED array with a set voltage. Constant current drivers can offer the advantage of preventing burnout and thermal runaway by operating within the maximum specified current for the LED fixture. Learn more from our partners at Arrow: Constant Current vs. Constant Voltage: Find the Right LED Power Supply

Some modern LED drivers, such as the GRE Alpha DALI line, offer dual-mode operation, providing near-universal compatibility and greater future-proofing.

Consider Easy to Install Driver Models

Not all LED drivers are equal in terms of installation ease. A compact, modular, UL-listed LED driver such as the SLD60 offers the advantage of faster, easier installation in a range of locations. These drivers can offer 0-100% dimming, low standing power draw, extremely high efficiency (97%) and terminal block connectors for fast, reliable installation.

Installation Considerations for LED Drivers

LED drivers, like most electrical components, can be sensitive to moisture and temperature. For maximum reliability, they require a relatively dry mounting location with adequate ventilation to keep the unit operating within its optimal temperature range. Modern LED drivers can function from -20˚ Celsius (-4˚ Fahrenheit) to 50˚ Celsius (122˚ Fahrenheit) and from 5% to 95% relative humidity. See specifications for a typical LED driver here: SLD-DIM-DAL Specifications

Proper mounting of the LED driver unit is critical to provide for sufficient airflow and heat transfer. Maintaining proper temperature and preventing overheating will increase the lifespan of the component and ensure proper performance.

Best practices for LED driver location and installation include:

    • Indoor units should be mounted in a clean, dry, climate-controlled environment whenever possible
    • Only outdoor-rated units should be used outside of the building envelope or where excess moisture or extreme temperatures could occur
    • Mount units flush to the surface for optimal contact and heat transfer
    • Allow a minimum of 10-15cm (4”-6”) from any other heat source, including additional LED drivers
    • Mount in an accessible location in case service is required
    • Do not mount in a location where other objects can be stacked on top of the LED driver
    • Consider the distance from lighting fixture(s) and calculate potential voltage drop
    • Follow all manufacturer wiring instructions exactly
    • Maximize surface contact of all wiring, following best practices for twisting and capping all connections
    • For “terminal block” connectors, make sure wire is stripped to the correct length and inserted fully into the terminal block with all screws sufficiently tight to hold the wire securely.

Conclusion

LED drivers are a key component in commercial, industrial and institutional LED lighting systems. Choosing the right drivers and ensuring correct installation are critical to overall system performance and longevity. Look for reputable vendors who meet or surpass minimum safety requirements. GRE Alpha is a trusted source for UL Class 2-Listed components for today’s demanding LED system requirements. For more information such as how flexible solutions like junction-box free designs can save material and labor costs visit GRE Alpha at GRE Alpha: Usability.

About Us

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. With over two decades of power conversion expertise and a commitment towards innovation, we engage with industry pioneers to deliver highly efficient, installation-ready, and agency-approved LED power conversion products for a wide variety of industry applications. Our success is centered on three core values—innovation, service and partnership.

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