Basics of LED Drivers

When installing LED lights, it is important to be aware of the LED driver being utilized. Operating with the correct LED driver enables LEDs to easily adapt to different power supplies, have longer stand-by power, and increase safety. Drivers also protect from line-voltage fluctuations which can cause light output to vary. Variation in output affects the temperature of the device; it can also have LEDs become brighter than manufacture recommendation. Both aspects can diminish the useful life of an LED. The useful life of an LED is determined by the point where the light output has declined by 30 percent.

Why are LED drivers necessary?

Much like the ballast is to a fluorescent or HID lighting system, the LED driver is the power supply to an LED lighting system. Individual LEDs use 2-4 volts of direct current (DC) power. What the driver does is convert incoming AC power, also called active power or “real” power, to the appropriate DC voltage for optimal LED operation. The driver also regulates the current flowing through the LED system during utilization.

Other functions of LED drivers

LED drivers can also control dimming and color changing of LED. Drivers with dimming capability can dim the LED light output from 100% to 0%. Most dimming drivers, today, use the pulse width modulation (PWM) method via digital control. This method allows dimming with minimal color shift, which is a problem LED systems often come across when dealing with dimming.

Color changing features can be enabled by dimming a mix of colored LEDs to change colors, or by using a color sequencer that converts the voltage into three channel output (red, blue, green) that can be mixed to create a wide range of colors.

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