What Are LED Drivers and Transformers?

What Are LED Drivers and Transformers?

What Are LED Drivers and Transformers?

Whether you’re planning to add some LED lights to your place of business or embrace the benefits of home LED lighting, there are some important things to know before you can achieve the perfect combination of style, safety, and consistency in your LED projects. 

When you’re looking into the power supply options for your LED lights, you’ll encounter both LED drivers and LED transformers. But which of these options will work best for your specific needs? And how can you ensure high performance and safety at all times? 

Keep reading to learn more about what you can expect to gain from these two power sources.

What Are LED Drivers? 

LED drivers are devices designed to control the amount of power being transferred to an LED or string of LEDs. Think of LED drivers as the thing that regulates and converts the alternating current from the main power source into a suitable amount of direct current for your LEDs to work as well as possible. 

The LED driver is integral to a safe and well-functioning LED circuit. Without one, your LEDs run the risk of being damaged.

Why Are LED Drivers So Important When Installing Lights? 

With a high-powered LED light installation, the forward voltage (or Vf) changes with temperature. A forward voltage represents the number of volts required to conduct enough electricity to light up your LED. This Vf is needed to activate the LED and give you the amount of output needed (typically either a 12v or 24v LED driver). 

In other words, if you’re installing LED lights of any kind, you’re going to need to make use of  LED drivers, and their ability to transform a mains voltage current into the direct current that LEDs need. 

As stated above, the forward voltage of an LED changes based on temperature. So, as this temperature continues to rise, the Vf continues to decrease. This means that the LED will draw in more current and get hotter until the LED burns itself out completely. 

The above process is known as Thermal Runaway. LED drivers help to prevent Thermal Runaway from occurring in installed LED lights in the following ways: 

  • The output of LED drivers matches the electrical aspects of the LED itself 
  • LED drivers counteract the changes in the forward voltage 
  • This counteraction delivers a consistent current of 12v or 24v LED drivers
  • All of which help to prevent Thermal Runaway 

What Is An LED Transformer? 

An LED transformer is another kind of power source for your LED lighting. They tend to operate with a much larger output wattage than standard LED drivers. Due to the increased power of an LED transformer, they’re used for bigger and longer-lasting lighting installations.

For most large-scale LED lighting projects, you’ll find the use of an LED transformer providing them with a solution to their power supply requirements.

What Is the Difference Between LED Drivers and Transformers?

Generally speaking, an LED transformer will do the same thing that an LED driver does. In fact, the main function of both is to ensure that the power supply fed into the LED bulb is reduced and within the amount of power needed to maintain the lighting. 

However, when you’re installing LED lights and have specific needs, there are still some key power output differences between these electrical power suppliers you’ll need to know, which we’ll go into below.

LED Drivers

  • Usually limited to an output of between 100W - 200W
  • Mainly used for smaller home setups 
  • Effective for powering an individual or just a few LEDs 

LED Transformers

  • Have the capability for higher voltages than LED drivers
  • Effective for LED light strips in need of more power 
  • Have the capacity to regulate a greater overall flow of electrical power

In some cases, an LED transformer may work mutually with an LED driver, but in order to achieve this, you’ll need to ensure that the length of LED strip used isn’t in need of a wattage that’s greater than the LED driver’s capacity. 

In other words, if you’re using a 24v LED driver, for example, you’ll need to be sure that the resulting amount of power doesn’t exceed that. If it does exceed it, it’s usually best to simply use an LED transformer instead.

Dimmable vs. Non-Dimmable Drivers and Transformers 

LED transformers and LED drivers can come in a wide range of designs and looks, but aesthetics aside, they predominantly come in two very different versions - dimmable and non-dimmable. 

Dimmable Drivers and Transformers

With a dimmable driver or transformer, your space can be changed by altering the shades and even colours of your lighting to accentuate focal points. Dimmed lights also provide you with reduced energy consumption. 

With a dimmable driver or transformer, it’s still essential to ensure you’re choosing the right regulator of energy to suit your needs. For example, a 24v dimmable LED driver can power up to 30 watts of LED lighting. If this is within your requirements, and you have no plans to go large-scale, a dimmable transformer won’t be necessary. 

If you plan on using LED light strips that are well beyond the maximum of a dimmable LED driver, then a dimmable transformer is best.

Non-Dimmable Drivers and Transformers

While the 24v dimmable LED driver used as an example above have many stages of light due to the versatility of the dimmer, non-dimmable drivers and transformers will provide you with two very simple settings - an ON setting, and an OFF setting. 

If there are any unexpected changes to the current of an LED light, a non-dimmable solution will try to keep up with that current, putting pressure on the LED driver itself. If the same thing should happen with a dimmable driver or transformer, the dimming of the LED can help to prevent the driver from overworking itself.

Final Thoughts

No matter what you plan to do with LED lights at work or at home, it’s always best to make sure you’ve got the best possible regulator of power (whether it’s an LED driver or a transformer), and that you’re aware of the benefits of having a dimmable or non-dimmable version. 

Also, checking your LED fixtures can help you to better understand whether you are able to achieve your lighting requirements to get the perfect home or business look.