How to choose the right driver for your LED Installation

LED Driver with LED tape and mains voltage plug

When it comes to choosing the right LED driver compatibility is crucial. Using the wrong driver in an LED system could result in failure and even damage to the components used. As industry experts and one of the UK’s largest suppliers, our friendly technical team at Ultra LEDs are on hand to advise you on all things LED and help you find the product that is right for you. Here is our guide to drivers, the questions you need to ask when purchasing them and our top tips for installing them correctly.

What is a Driver?

LED drivers are devices which regulate and supply the power used to ‘drive’ runs of LED strip lighting. Similar to traditional transformers, they transform mains voltage alternating current (240v AC) to a lower voltage. However, LED drivers also transform mains voltage current to a constant, direct current (DC) that LEDs require. By adjusting their output according to the electrical properties of the LED tape which changes as it heats up, drivers regulate the power supplied to the LEDs to be a constant of usually either 12v or 24v of DC.

Classic LED Driver in circuit

Because LEDs require a constant DC of 12v or 24v, LED drivers are required in all LED systems (except those which are specifically developed to be controlled by mains voltage power supplies such as mains voltage tape or LED bulbs). But with Ultra LEDs buying a suitable driver is easy – just answer these 5 simple questions:

1. What voltage?

All LED strip lights requires either 12v or 24v to power, which is stated in its specification. Be sure to buy a driver with the same output voltage that the tape requires. Running 12v tape with a 24v driver will result in the LEDs being brighter in the short term but the higher voltage will eventually burn the tape out. Running 24v tape with a 12v driver will result in the LEDs not lighting up at all.

2. What wattage?

The amount of power LED tape consumes varies depending on its length. The wattage of a tape is the amount of power the tape consumes per meter. To work out how many watts your run of tape needs simply multiply the wattage of the tape by the number of meters you are running. Once you know the wattage of the run of tape you can then choose a suitable driver. 

The wattage of a driver indicates its maximum output capability. We recommend choosing a driver with a wattage capability at least 10% higher than the wattage the LED tape requires to ensure a longer lifespan.

For example, 5m of 6w LED tape requires 30 watts. We would recommend using a driver with an output capability of 33 watts or more to power this tape.

 

3. Does your driver need to be water resistant?

If you are installing your LED strip lighting outdoors or in a kitchen or bathroom it is important to use a water resistant driver. To know if a driver is water resistant look for its Ingress Protection or “IP” rating. Splash-proof drivers have an IP rating of 65 and are best suited for use in bathrooms and kitchens. Waterproof drivers have an IP rating of 67 or above, and are best suited for outdoor use.

4. Do you want to be able to dim your LEDs?

If you want to be able to dim your LEDs be sure to buy a driver with dimming capabilities. They work by reducing the amount of power supplied to the LED, and there are two different kinds: trailing edge dimmable drivers (also known as ELV drivers) and leading edge dimmable drivers (also known as TRIAC drivers). To learn more about the differences between the two different dimming technologies click here.

5. Plug and Play or Professional?

If you’re installing LED lighting yourself we recommend our standard range of LED drivers; they feature innovative plug and play technology with a cable and mains voltage UK plug pre-attached making installation easier than ever.  

For those with electrical experience who require access to the driver’s ports or are you are looking for a driver for a more demanding situation such as in a retail or commercial environment we recommend our Tagra® Professional range of drivers. Thanks to their exceptional reliability record, high-quality internal components and unprecedented 5 year warranty there is no need to worry about failure. They also feature several terminals for more versatile installation, which require hard wiring.

For any more information on drivers please contact a member of our technical team via [email protected] or call our office on 01625 611 611.