Has your dimmable LED driver not worked as expected lately? It could be time to replace it, or another component of your lighting system might need repairs. Only a licensed professional can assess your system and decide what's wrong. Even so, having an idea of the potential problem can help you plan for possible solutions and budget ahead for potential costs. What exactly is the dimmable driver, how does it work, and how do you know if it's time to get a new one?
What Is a Dimmable LED Driver?
This driver is a power supply unit that regulates the current and voltage going to your LED lights. It adjusts the amount of light emitted by dimming or brightening the LEDs. Dimmable drivers are crucial for creating different lighting effects, such as accent, task and ambient lighting.
How Does a Dimmable LED Driver Work?
Dimmable drivers work with a dimmer switch to lower the amount of electricity flowing to the LED lights. This control, in turn, decreases the intensity of the light. The dimmer switch sends a low-voltage signal to the dimmable driver, which then alters how much power goes to the LEDs.
You can categorize dimmable drivers into those with forward-phase dimming and those with reverse-phase dimming. Forward-phasee dimmers work by cutting off the flow of electricity at the beginning of each half-cycle. Reverse-phase dimmers do the same but at the end of each half-cycle.
What Are Common Signs That Your Dimmable LED Driver Needs Replacement?
Sometimes drivers stop working with no apparent signs that something is amiss, but more often than not, there are warning signs if you know where to look. If you notice even one of these 12 signs in your lighting system, contact a professional to evaluate the problem.
1. Your lights are either too dim or too bright.
Underdriving happens when the dimmer switch does not send enough power to your lights, causing them to be much lower than you intend. Overdriving creates the opposite effect: Too much power goes to the LED lights, causing them to become too bright. The inability to properly regulate the voltage going to the lights can negatively impact their lifespan. Consequently, you could end up needing to replace other components more quickly if you do not replace the dimmable LED driver.
2. Your lights have a flickering or strobing effect.
When an LED dimmer starts to fail, it can cause the lights dimmed by it to flicker or strobe. While this might not seem like a big deal at first, it can become annoying over time ― not to mention dangerous if you're trying to work in an environment where the flickering lights reduce visibility. Flickering and strobing lights can also induce seizures in some people with photosensitive epilepsy.
3. You can hear a humming noise coming from the dimmable driver.
Incandescent and fluorescent lights often emit a buzzing sound. LED lights and components do not have the moving parts that generate this sound. However, an LED driver could start to hum if it's not working correctly. If the humming noise is faint, you may be able to ignore it for a while. However, if the humming noise gets louder or more pronounced, you should replace your dimmable driver as soon as possible.
4. The dimmable LED driver is hot to the touch.
Like all electronic devices, dimmable drivers generate heat when used. However, they should not get too hot to the touch. If your driver is hot enough that it's uncomfortable to keep your hand on it for more than a few seconds, there is something wrong. This issue could be due to a defective driver or another problem with your lighting system. In any case, you should have a professional look at it as soon as possible. Note that excessive heat is always a fire hazard.
5. The dimmable driver is sparking or emitting smoke.
These are clear signs of trouble and could spark a fire. In the presence of smoke, it might be difficult to tell exactly what has led to the problem, but you should address it immediately. When things have gotten to this point, DIY solutions are not ideal. Hire professionals to assess the system and determine the best way forward. This is also a fire hazard.
6. Your dimmable LED driver is leaking liquids.
Liquid might seem like a safetyr hazard to encounter, but not when it comes to electricity. You may have a leak in the building that has caused water to get into the system. Condensation from nearby air conditioning units and vents could also be to blame. If you discovered moisture with outdoor systems, double-check whether the driver has an IP rating for water resistance. The 60-watt E-Series waterproof dimmable driver is a common choice for outdoor use.
7. The dimmable driver has visible physical damage.
Drivers can react unpredictably to physical damage. Sometimes, it might not cause problems at all, but the risk is hardly worth it. Any dimmable drivers sparking or emitting smoke likely are physically damaged. Damage could occur during shipping and handling or the installation process. Construction activities and upgrades could also cause damage. Vandalism or deliberate sabotage are two worst-case scenarios.
8. The warranty on the dimmable driver has expired.
Dimmable LED drivers, like all components in a lighting system, have a limited lifespan. Your dimmable driver could last anywhere from a few years to a decade and will likely outlast the warranty. When the warranty expires, that doesn't mean you should immediately replace it. However, it is a good idea to start planning for a replacement in the near future.
9. Your dimmable driver is overloaded
One of the most common problems is overloading the driver when extending the previous installation of the LED strip. Getting the right dimmable driver capacity is extremely important because this could damage your product and can also be a serious fire hazard. This can also result in the voltage being too low for the last strings if the connection is in series.
10. LED lights stop working entirely before the end of their lifespan.
LED lights have varying lifespans. Some companies give years as estimates, but it comes down to usage hours. Even so, after a few years in business, you likely know how long your LED lights usually last. If your lights die prematurely, particularly if an entire section tied to one driver goes out, it could be the problem. Replacing the driver could extend the life of your lights.
11. You discover that you have an uncertified dimmable LED driver.
Ideally, your existing driver has a UL certification. If you use a European brand, it could have a CE certification instead. These certifications provide peace of mind that the dimmers underwent rigorous testing to meet safety standards, especially regarding fire prevention. If you can’t find your system in the UL or CE listings and do not notice the proper tag on the device, replacing it is in your best interest.
12. You have ruled out all other potential causes for issues in your lighting system.
Troubleshooting lighting systems can take time. If you have already crossed all other options on the list and the driver is all that's left, it's worth replacing it to see if that will solve the problem. When purchasing a replacement, be sure to consider compatibility. Sometimes LED dimmable drivers are incompatible with the systems they are paired with, but they will continue to work for a time. However, simply replacing an over-stressed driver will only lead to needing another replacement soon. Higher-wattage units often give the most compatibility options, such as the 300-watt M-series. When replacing a driver, the general rule of thumb is the total load should be within 30% and 80% of the driver's wattage capacity.
How Do You Replace a Dimmable LED Driver?
If you've determined that you need to replace the LED driver for your dimmable lights, the process is actually simple. However, you may need to hire a professional to do the job. Check with local laws and your commercial insurance policy to see whether you can install it yourself.
If you decide to take a DIY approach, start by turning off the power to the dimmer switch at the breaker box. Next, remove the dimmable driver from its mounting location and disconnect the wires. To do this, loosen the screws that hold the dimmable driver in place, then carefully pull it out. Once the driver is free, twist the wires off the terminals or use a wire cutter to snip them close.
With the old dimmable driver removed, it's time to install the new one. Begin by connecting the new driver to the dimmer switch wires, then twist on wire nuts to secure the connections. Once the wires are connected, screw the driver back into its mounting location. Finally, turn the power back on at the breaker box and test your new dimmer switch to ensure it's working correctly.