In general terms, an LED driver is a device that manages the power sent to an LED lamp or fixture. Like a ballast, they correct the amount of voltage sent to the light to ensure it performs properly. Most buildings supply voltage between 120-277V of alternating current electricity (AC) while LEDs are designed to run on voltage of 12-24V, direct current electricity (DC). Therefore, if you don’t use a driver the LED lamp or fixture will fail and could even catch on fire.
Internal Vs. External LED Drivers
One example is replacing fluorescent tubes with efficient LED tubes. Certain LED tubes come with an internal driver where the driver is contained within the tube itself. Therefore, the installer would bypass the ballast and direct wire the tubes in the same housing. Conversely, if you are installing LED tubes without internal drivers, you would replace the tubes then replace the ballast with an LED driver.
Additionally, fixture replacements such as LED flat panels or troffers commonly come with an external driver that is mounted to the fixture. This allows the entire fixture to be replaced quickly without the confusion of purchasing a separate driver. To be safe, check the spec sheet of the product you are ordering and make sure it comes with a driver. Certain manufactures don’t include a driver which you would need to purchase separately and install.
Internal and External drivers both have pros and cons. Internal drivers can simplify the installation process and ensure seamless performance between the driver and the LED lamp. External drivers do require an extra step but can increase the lifetime of the product and remove certain safety concerns during installation.
Drivers & Smart Controls
Besides managing voltage sent to an LED lamp or fixture, drivers can enable LED products to be compatible with control systems. Capabilities such as dimming, occupancy sensing, and daylight harvesting require a compatible driver. If you are interested in learning more about smart controls, you can check out our blog here!
As you can see, drivers are easy to understand yet a crucial accessory for any lighting system. If you choose the incorrect driver or improperly install it, you can risk damaging your newly installed LEDs and reducing the lifetime of your product. Integra LED offers turnkey LED installations so you don’t have to worry about any of these issues!