What are LED Drivers and How Do They Work?

If you think you can just purchase an LED light, attach it to a surface, plug it in, and it will be smooth sailing from there, you're mistaken. Though simple, customizable, and easy to DIY, strip lights need a LED driver to function optimally.

With their direct current and low voltage mechanisms, LED lights are prone to be short-lived without a proper LED driver.

What are LED drivers?

LED technology produces light by converting electric current to photons through the use of semiconducting material. This process of electroluminescence works by having a direct flow of electricity running into the LED.

However, LEDs have specific electrical characteristics, and simply connecting them to whatever power supply you have available can overwork it, causing premature system failure.

To mediate between your power supply and the LED, drivers control and adjust the input voltage and the amount of electric current flowing into the LED. 

LED drivers are self-contained power supply devices that moderate the voltage and current from the electricity source to match the electrical characteristics of a particular LED. As electricity supplies usually operate on mains, an LED driver converts them from AC supply to DC supply—ensuring that whatever electric current reaches the LED is usable and safe.

How Do LED Drivers Work?

LED dimmer drivers are self-contained power supply devices with outputs that match the electrical characteristics of an LED.

As the voltage of the electric current from the power source changes, the LED driver compensates for these current and voltage fluctuations by moderating them and serving as surge protection by delivering a constant current of electricity to the LED to avoid overloading the LED and burning it out.

Do You Need an LED Driver?

Yes, all LED lights, be they individual lamps or strip lights, need an LED driver. The nature of LEDs makes them vulnerable to burning out because of the changing electrical current and voltage from a direct power source. Not to mention, the main power supplies typically come higher than the 12V or 24V that LEDs require.

An LED driver is needed to convert this power supply into one that matches the electrical characteristics of the LED. An LED driver also regulates the fluctuations in voltage and current. These are important functions in order to avoid burning out the LEDs, which can not only damage the LEDs, but sometimes also cause a fire.

Different Types of LED Drivers

So you've determined you need an LED driver. But which one should you get? A bad operating LED driver may cause as much harm as not having one at all.

Read about the different types of LED drivers based on their mechanism, voltage, and dimmable capabilities, and learn more about which ones suit your use case to help you choose the right LED driver for your project!

Constant Voltage and Constant Current

When it comes to LED drivers, there are two main types depending on their mechanism, constant voltage LED drivers and constant current LED drivers.

Constant voltage drivers vary the current to maintain a steady voltage. They are rated in V or DC and are wired in parallel.  Meanwhile, a constant current driver maintains a continuous flow of electrical current into the LED by varying the voltage. Such drivers include ratings in milliamps (mA) or amps (A) and are always wired in series.

Low Voltage and High Voltage

Low voltage LED drivers use low DC power input, generally 5 VDC to 36VDC. These types are efficient and come with more dimming and output options. Hence, these are preferred for smaller applications.

Meanwhile, high voltage drivers, also known as AC LED drivers, use higher DC power input, around 90 VAC to 277 VAC. These drivers deliver more current into the LED, but they also use up more wattage. As such, they are usually recommended to be used for large general lighting projects such as residential or commercial lighting.

Dimmable and Non-Dimmable

Another consideration when it comes to LED drivers is whether it is compatible with dimmers. Not all LED drivers come with dimming capabilities. Depending on your project and the level of customizability you want, you should look for an LED driver with or without a dimmer.

Drivers that are dimmable contain special circuitry that allows them to change phase forms, resulting in a dimming effect. Meanwhile, non-dimmable drivers only come with on and off functions.

Choosing an LED driver

So you've determined that you need an LED driver. But with so many in the market, how do you know which one is best for you?

The answer depends on the LED lamp or LED strip lights you plan to use. If you're working with high-power LED strip lights, LEDs that operate at 1 Watt of power or higher, it's recommended to go with constant current LED drivers.

Constant current drivers are more conservative in regulating the current and are less likely to reach the maximum current required for your LED. These also result in more consistent brightness and are typically easier to modify.

As for choosing the wattage of your driver, it's safe to get a driver that has a wattage capability that is at least 20% higher than what your LED requires.

For example, your LED requires 30 watts. This means you should get a driver capable of delivering at least 37.5 watts. As drivers often come in output wattage of 10's however, this means getting an LED driver with a 40-watt output.

Lastly, when choosing between dimmable and non-dimmable drivers, the decision lies mostly on your usage. If you want the option to save electricity most of the time, but need high-intensity lighting other times, then opt for LED dimmable drivers. If you only need a consistent level of brightness, however, then a non-dimmable driver can get the job done perfectly fine.

What are the Best LED Drivers for LED Strip Lights?

Our collection of LED dimmable drivers offers the greatest dimming performance and dependability when combined with a suitable dimmer switch. You can choose from the items below.

EZDim® Driver and Dimmer Switch

Our EZDim® Driver and Dimmer Switch is available in 40-watt and 60-watt for 12V and 60-watt, and 100-watt for 24V outputs. This product simplifies your LED installation and ensures that drivers and switches are compatible with each other.

The integrated LED driver converts 120 volts AC to 12 or 24 volts DC. This means that between your line voltage and low voltage lighting, this is all you'll need. The best part is that everything fits into a single gang box.

Each EZDim box contains three adjustable faceplate colors, letting customers select the look that best compliments their installation decor.

S-Series Dimmable Driver

For every LED light strip project, these 36-watt to 100-watt S-Series Dimmable Drivers allow you to dim your LED light strips using a wall-mounted dimmer switch, which is a more elegant and permanent option than a dial dimmer or remote device.

EK-Series Dimmable Driver

For every LED light strip project, these 40-watt to 60-watt EK-Series Dimmable Drivers allow you to dim your LED light strips using a wall-mounted dimmer switch, which is a more elegant and permanent option than a dial dimmer or remote device.

M-Series Dimmable Driver

For every LED light strip project, these 40-watt to 300-watt M-Series Dimmable Drivers allow you to dim your LED light strips using a wall-mounted dimmer switch, which is a more elegant and permanent option than a dial dimmer or remote device.

U-Series Dimmable Driver

This 25-watt U-Series Dimmable Driver enables you to dim your LED light strips using a wall-mounted dimmer switch, which is a more elegant and permanent option than a dial dimmer or remote device.

Our Dimmable Drivers are compatible with most Lutron and Leviton dimmer switches and are the ideal answer for any LED lighting installation.

Purchasing an LED driver

Enjoy your LED lighting to the max by using the right LED driver.

At HitLights, we offer various products, from LED dimmable drivers to non-dimmable drivers, and in a wide range of output voltage.

Our drivers are also compatible with TRIAC wall plates and power supplies, so you can enjoy a successful lighting project!

To learn more about our products, contact us at 855-768-4135 at HitLights today!