Switchex vs. Dimmable Driver : What's right for your client?

February 06, 2019

Switchex vs. Dimmable Driver : What's right for your client?

Our new Switchex Dimmer / Driver combo is a simple way to power and control your client’s single colour LED light strips without the hassle of wiring a dimmable driver and selecting a compatible dimmer switch. Because the switchex is so easy to use and install, we always recommend it - when we can. This blog will highlight what makes the switchex a better option - as well as discussing a handful of cases where a dimmable driver might work better.


Why Switchex is better

1) It just WORKS

Dimmer compatibility issues are a common complaint at HitLights tech support. While lists of compatible dimmers are available, finding one is not always an easy task. Because switchex combines the dimmer switch and the dimmable driver, compatibility is guaranteed.

This also means you won’t run into any unexpected reliability issues - as even dimmer switch and driver combinations that appear to function just fine can cause longer term driver damage if they’re not designed to work together. You save time and money both on installation, and on not having to go back to the job site when something fails.

2) Finding a dimmer switch can be harder than it seems

Like drivers, dimmer switches have a load rating (measured and displayed in watts). At first glance, these ratings seem very high - it’s easy to find dimmer switches rated for 600 and 1,000 watts, which would seem like they would support all but the largest of LED lighting systems.

Unfortunately, these ratings are for incandescent and halogen lamps only! When it comes to LEDs, industry leader Lutron says that “...maximum loads for LEDs and CFLs are given in number of lamps and may vary, depending on the lamp being used. Only testing can determine the actual [..] maximum load needed for a particular lamp and control.

This fact can come as a shock. Basically ZERO of the dimmer switches on market today have an accurate wattage limit, or even a recommendation, for LEDs. Our standard suggestion on these dimmer switches is to halve the incandescent / halogen wattage rating - but it is just that, a suggestion.

3) Easy installation

Installing a dimmable driver isn’t really that hard, but if you don’t have to do that extra work (pull those extra wires, make those extra connections, mount it somewhere both unobtrusive AND to national electrical code standards) why would you? As a bonus, skipping the dimmable driver and all the associated connections halves your possibly failure points, meaning you’re less likely to have to go back and fix it.

 

When switchex might not work

1) Switchex does not meet your power requirements

Our Switchex Dimmer / Drivers max out at 60 watts (12 volt) or 100 watts (24 volt). If your system requires more power, then our dimmable drivers (which can supply up to 300 watts) are the way to go.

To estimate your total power requirements, you can multiply the total amount of LED strip light you plan on using (in feet) by that strip’s power requirement (in watts per foot). Because of voltage drop, this is not an exact calculation, and the actual power draw will be slightly less than that, but that’s a question an electrician or electrical engineer is better suited to answer.

Note that there is a commonly repeated myth that you should not exceed 80% of the load limit of your drivers. This myth is exactly that - a myth - and is perpetuated by people who don’t know what they’re talking about and by manufacturers and resellers who don’t have full confidence in their products.

2) Your LED light strips are far away from your switch

When electricity travels through a wire it encounters resistance and loses voltage. This is called voltage drop, and is much more significant at lower voltages. This is why your house power runs at 110 volts, and high voltage power transmission lines START at 110,000 volts (and go even higher!).

It makes sense, therefore, to minimize the amount of wire running at lower voltages. If the location of your dimmer switch is five feet away from your lights, you have no problem. If you’re fifty feet away, you probably want to use a regular dimmer switch and the associated 110v wiring to carry that power to a dimmable driver and your LED light strips more efficiently. Between five and fifty feet? Use your best judgement or consult our voltage drop chart here

We think our  Switchex is the ideal dimming solution for most LED projects, which is why we always recommend it when we can. In the few cases it won’t work, our  dimmable drivers will do a great job giving you simple and easy to use dimming functionality at your wall switch.

You can find the Switchex range here.

Technical Specs :

• Input : 120V AC
• Output : 12V DC, 40 Watts or 60 Watts - 24V DC. 60 Watts or 100 Watts
• Dimensions : 1.4 x 2.1 x 4.1 Inches
• Certifications : FCC, UL-Listed

Specification Sheet
Installation Guide
Brochure


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