10 things you need to know to spec LED drivers like a pro
Our head of OEM sales for Northern Europe, Tim McKernan, offers his expertise on LED technology and discusses what to consider when selecting an LED driver.
A driver is a crucial component in a lighting system, it regulates power and ensures constant current is delivered to LEDs, which allows them to function and perform at their finest. Therefore, it’s important to choose a high-quality manufacturer, that can be trusted to deliver on quality. Don’t be tempted to choose an LED driver just because it’s cheap as you could risk the quality, lifetime and efficiency of your LEDs.
A good indication of a high-quality manufacturer is those that stand by confidence in quality. In the LED driver market, five-year warranties on products is standard from most manufacturers – this display of confidence indicates that drivers are of high quality to surpass this lifetime.
Certifications represent a declaration from the manufacturer that products have been assessed and comply with essential electrical requirements. Look out for the high quality European Mark (ENEC) and Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) certification, which demonstrate safety and quality – it indicates a trustworthy LED driver manufacturer.
To satisfy the ever-changing needs of end users, it’s essential to specify feature-rich drivers. The latest generation of LED drivers are equipped with fast starting features that deliver best in light efficiency and quality for the most demanding applications. Brand new to Harvard Technology, CoolLED Pro drivers have optimised design which ensures ultra-low flicker performance of less than 1% at 100Hz/12oHz – lessening the flicker risk that has plagued the industry for years.
With their unique attributes, it’s no surprise that programmable drivers are beginning to dominate the LED driver market, especially when you consider how they support optimisation and can adapt to different light source designs in the wake of ever-improving LED efficiencies. The latest generation of programmable drivers enable the freedom to control the output power of the LED driver in any configuration.
Another essential lighting design consideration is the importance of dimming, which can have a huge impact on energy savings. The latest advancements in programmable driver technology support dimming from 100 per cent down to 1 per cent, making drivers entirely customisable for numerous applications. More advanced driver technology has a full range of dimming capabilities, enabling dimming to as low as 1 per cent for specialist applications as well as dim-to-off (0.1 per cent), providing users with greater LED flexibility and faster more accurate flexible currents.
As web-based, Internet of Things (IoT) enabled lighting technology increases, it’s important that LED drivers are compatible with new wireless control systems. Smart, wirelessly enabled LED drivers are fully controllable and programmable via wireless lighting control technology and present infinite opportunities for end users by enhancing data communication and connectivity. By combining LED drivers and wireless control systems, such as Harvard Technology’s EyeNut solution, users can collect and share valuable information on energy consumption and occupancy patterns within the application – which allows every light fixture to become part of a connected lighting system.
The aim for any lighting manufacturer is to source a high-quality driver with small form factor design, which is appropriate for the application, whether that is integral or externally mounted lighting. An ultra-slim form factor can avoid the bulkiness of externally mounted circuits. The latest advancements in LED drivers utilise advanced primary control integrated circuits which enable quality performance within an ultra-slim, low profile form factor. Cut-out requirements for downlights should also be considered.
Whether LED driver technology is compatible with other LED products, such as light engines, should be another important consideration for manufacturers. Utilising LED products from the same manufacturer drives greater efficiencies, as products are designed to work in sync. In addition, you will create a solo source for communication.
Across the LED driver industry lead times have generally been between two to six weeks. However, this is changing as manufacturers begin to roll out new services – which aim to significantly reduce lead times and ensure prompt delivery. Lighting manufacturers should be on the lookout for new service propositions, such as those offered with Harvard Technology’s CoolLED Pro driver range, which sees the company’s most popular LED drivers picked, packed and despatched within 24 hours.
For more information on LED and specifying LED solutions, check out our LED Whitepaper -
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This article was originally written for Lux Magazine, and can be found here