Whether you're building a custom LED lighting system or you're simply looking for a replacement power supply for an existing system, chances are you're wondering...what LED driver do I need?
As you start doing some research, you'll discover that choosing the right driver is a bit more complicated than simply matching up wattage and voltage requirements. You should consider the specific setting in which your driver will be used - does it need additional layers of protection, like waterproofing? Do you want the ability to dim your lighting? What about remote monitoring capabilities?
While it can feel a bit overwhelming trying to choose the right LED driver, you don't need to stress any longer. The experts at Bravo Electro are here to help. While we're the premier choice for ACDC power supplies, we also have a full range of efficient, reliable, and versatile LED driver power supplies from the most trusted manufacturers. And by the end of this article, you'll feel confident in which is best for you.
Before we help you find the right LED driver, let's talk about the role these serve in your LED lighting system.
A Brief Overview of LED Drivers
We recently wrote a complete guide on what an LED driver does - but here are the basics of what you need to know.
LED drivers are basically power-supply devices that take the incoming AC current and convert it to DC current, which is what most LED lighting systems use. These are no different from the standard AC DC power supplies you use for other pieces of equipment. The driver is simply specific to LED lighting - which is a unique technology requiring a special power supply.
The tricky part is that each of your LED lights will require a specific voltage and wattage combination in order to work properly - and these can vary significantly from light to light. Furthermore, some lights may need additional features like waterproofing or dimming capabilities. This makes choosing the right driver for each application critical to getting your system up and running correctly.
Does Any LED Driver Work With Any LED Lights?
A common question we're asked is if any LED driver works with any LED lights. Are these universal - at least to some extent? The answer is a resounding no. Not all LED drivers can work with every type of LED light. And even if the voltage and wattage match up, some components may not be equipped with the necessary features to completely power your lights.
For example, a low-end driver might offer basic dimming capabilities - but it won't have any waterproofing features included (which you'd need for outdoor lighting). Or perhaps you're looking for a driver with remote monitoring capabilities. If your particular product doesn't offer this - then it isn't going to work in your application. If you want to slowly dim the lights down in your grow room to mimic the natural rising and falling of the sun, this is an important feature to make sure your driver has.
What LED Driver Do I Need? Things to Consider When Replacing Your Power Supply
So, with all that said - what LED driver do I need? We'll break down the most important considerations below. Because many of our customers initially come to us asking - what size LED driver do I need? - let's start with a discussion of the three main types of LED drivers.
The Different Types of LED Drivers Explained
We have a complete guide on the different types of LED drivers if you're not familiar with constant current, constant voltage, and constant power. But basically, these various types of drivers offer varying power output, efficiency, and reliability. Choosing the right one for your unique needs is paramount to the success of your LED lighting system.
For example, a constant voltage driver is great for those just starting out. It doesn't provide a ton of power and is easy to use. Constant current drivers, on the other hand, are ultra-efficient and supply a bit more power than the constant voltage driver. They'll end up saving you money in the long run. Finally, the constant power driver offers the greatest efficiency and power but is more complex and expensive.
Just ask yourself which of these makes the most sense for you and shop accordingly. Or - let us help you decide, we're just a live chat away at Bravo Electro! With that said, let's move on to calculating voltage requirements.
Start By Assessing Voltage Requirements
This is by far the most important factor to consider - and it's also the most simple, thankfully. You need to make sure that the voltage requirements of your lights are completely compatible with the driver you choose.
For example, if your LED light is rated for 12 volts DC but the driver you select can only supply 10 volts DC - then it won't work correctly (or perhaps at all). When replacing a power supply, always double-check that the voltage requirements match up first and foremost before looking at other features or qualities.
Follow Up By Factoring in Wattage Needs
Once you've established that the driver's voltage capabilities match your LED lights - then you can move on to the wattage needs. This is where most people start their search - but it can be a bit misleading because two drivers may offer matching voltages, yet still not be compatible with each other due to different wattage requirements.
For example, if one driver offers 40 watts but another only 15 watts - then you clearly won't get the power necessary for your lighting system. But don't worry too much about this as long as the voltage matches what your lights require.
Most LED drivers are designed to handle much higher wattages than required by any given light system. And there's a reason for that - it protects the driver from working harder than necessary. Because of this, we recommend you size up your driver by at least 10% of the maximum wattage needed. This will preserve the life of your driver while increasing energy efficiency.
Consider if Your Driver Needs to Be Protected From Wet Environments
If you plan on using your LED lights outdoors or in other wet environments - then you'll need to make sure that the driver you choose is waterproof.
This is particularly important in grow rooms and grow tents. Whether you have 1 plant or 100 plants, the humidity created in these climates can wreak havoc on unprotected electrical components. You'll also want to ensure your LED driver is waterproof if you're installing it in a bathroom, for example.
Most drivers are rated for general indoor use and won't stand up to the elements. And getting a driver wet can cause it to fail prematurely - so if this applies, definitely double-check that your product includes some type of water-resistant protection.
To ensure the driver you select is up to your standards, look for some type of IP rating. This stands for "ingress protection" and speaks to how protected the delicate electric components are from not just moisture, but dust and other contaminants as well. There are quite a few different IP ratings, but what you need is IP 65, IP 67, or higher. IP 67 is your best bet as this type of driver is rated to be fully waterproof.
Do You Need the Ability to Dim Your LED Lighting?
Maybe you want to replicate the natural rise and fall of the sun to give your plants the most authentic indoor growing experience, which minimizes plant stress and maximizes crop health and yield. Or, maybe you want to dim the lights down while your crop is in veg to save some money - and power it back up to higher levels when it's time to start fruiting or flowering. Perhaps you just want a bit more control over your lights
Either way, you need a driver with dimming capabilities for this. This can be done via a manual switch (typically a toggle-style switch) or via remote access. In most cases, this feature is only necessary for high-end LED lighting systems that need precise control of light levels. But if you don't have dimming capabilities - then you won't be able to leverage its benefits even if you purchase an expensive LED lamp or fixture.
Other Features or Ratings to Look For
We talked about IP ratings, but about UL listed vs UL recognized? Or, what about ROHS compliance? Are there any other features or ratings you should make sure your new LED power supply is equipped with?
This mostly comes down to personal preference and use-case specifications. Ultimately, we can only answer this question by talking with you firsthand about what your needs are. This leads us to the next and final point we want to make…
Custom LED Drivers
When shopping for an LED driver there are two routes you can take: plug-and-play or custom-built. For most users, purchasing a standard LED driver that meets your criteria for voltage, wattage, and other features is fine. But maybe you have specific needs that standard units fail to meet. In that case, you can go with a custom project.
This is something we can help you with at Bravo Electro, as we have electrical engineers on standby for this exact reason. You can get in touch with us to go over your needs and we'll come up with a solution that makes sense. In some cases, we can even send out free samples for qualified projects.
But even if you don't need help with a custom driver, stick with Bravo Electro for your needs...
Want Personalized Help Figuring Out What LED Driver You Need?
When it comes to LED drivers, one size definitely does not fit all. To make sure you get the best product for your needs - consider working with a supplier that can provide personalized help and support.
At Bravo Electro, we are passionate about delivering outstanding customer service - and our team of electrical engineers is available to answer any questions you have related to the products we carry. We can help you determine what size driver you need based on your lighting system, if dimming capabilities are necessary, and if you require specialized components for harsh environments or other challenging applications.
Plus, when shopping at Bravo Electro you gain access to industry-leading warranties, unbeatable prices, and fast delivery times that ensure your project stays on track. We also have a great selection of 12-volt dc power supplies, 24-volt dc power supplies, 48-volt dc power supplies, and more!
What LED Driver Do I Need? Wrapping Things Up?
We hope this answered the question you came here with - what LED driver do I need? It’s as simple as reaching out to Bravo Electro and allowing us to guide you through this process.
Or, follow the advice above and match your new driver with your system based on voltage and wattage needs, protection, and automation. While it can feel stressful buying a replacement LED driver or building an LED lighting system from scratch, it doesn’t have to be!
Want to learn more about power supply? Our blog has in-depth guides on trouble shooting power supplies, what is a modular power supply, what is the difference between AC and DC power, and even what is house power: AC or DC?