For some unaccountable reason – when LED lighting arrived – we all had to refrain from calling power supply units ‘transformers’ and refer to them as ‘drivers’. The source of these terminological decisions remains unknown – but it is highly effective at spreading confusion amongst us mere mortals in the design community.
Unfortunately the ‘driver’ is too important a component to ignore. The rather anonymous black box is an essential piece of kit and it can actually be quite exciting – or is that stretching the point too far – let’s see? All I would say is that you ignore a little knowledge about drivers – at your peril…
The two main types of driver we commonly use are ‘constant current’ and DC versions and you must choose which one is relevant for the intended application.
Constant current LEDs are ‘driven’ at a current that effects their output. If you are supplied a 700ma driver with your LED fitting – that is the level of current tested for the published output data.
TIP: Did you know that if you find a LED fitting is too bright you can effectively dim by lowering the output of the fitting by reducing the amount of current it receives from the driver (that is what dimming does) so you could swap to a 350ma driver instead.
So far so good – it still remains a small box connected to the fitting – so what is exciting?
New LED products are arriving with integral drivers – radically reduced in size and on-board – so soon you might not have to worry about little black boxes at all!
A word of caution – we know that LEDs last an age but the weakest link in many LED systems it is the driver and not the LED and the fitting itself. Simply put – a 10 degree increase in temperature can halve the life of the electronics. So the thermal dynamics of an on-board driver or one that sits on top of a fitting have to be well designed, so be vigilant and buy the best available.
So the hunt is on for a driver-less mains powered LED chip – of which Samsung (to name one) has achieved by creating an AC chip. Its early days as there is some flicker generated from the 50 hz mains power but watch this space.
Still waiting for the exciting bit?
Philips have developed a driver that transmits a unique identifying code in the light emitted from the fitting it’s powering. Invisible to us humans but not to a smart phone or a tablet – an app will triangulate your position within the building and follow your every move. The illustration depicts an intelligent shop lighting system where the drivers guide shoppers to their favorite bargains! A bit Big Brother for my liking…
If you need advice on drivers to suit your application – that are reliable and compatible – just call us and we will be happy to help!