Contact us for quotation

Let's have a chat

Comprehensive LED Driver Guide: Everything You Need to Know

LEDs require a reliable power supply to operate. Drivers for LED lights supply this power, converting alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC). They ensure the power supply is constant and uninterrupted by compensating for changes in the temperature and electrical conductivity of the LEDs. This prevents overheating, flickering, colour changes and degraded performance.

With the tightening of energy regulations, many recognize LEDs’ long lifespan and energy efficiency (light-emitting diodes). However, it’s less known that these modern light sources need an LED driver. Think of LED drivers like the ballasts for fluorescent lights or transformers for low-voltage bulbs. They supply the necessary electricity for LEDs to operate optimally.

LED Driver

Understanding the LED Driver

The role of an LED driver is to determine the power required for an individual LED or a set of them. LEDs are designed for prolonged use and minimal energy consumption, so they need specific power configurations.

LED drivers mainly serve two functions:

  1. Supply the appropriate low voltage.
  2. Safeguard LEDs from electrical fluctuations.

An individual LED typically consumes up to 30mA of current and operates between 1.5V and 3.5V. When combining several LEDs for home lighting, the combined voltage might range from 12V to 24V DC. The LED driver’s task is to convert our regular 120V-230V AC mains voltage into this required low DC voltage.

Additionally, LED drivers shield LEDs from any variations in voltage and current. They ensure LEDs consistently receive the appropriate voltage and current, thus preventing potential overloading or dimming.

Do All LED Lights Need a Driver?

Yes, all LED lights require a bulb driver to operate, but purchasing these separately is not always necessary. Some models have an integrated driver and exceptionally standard LED bulbs for domestic settings.

Lower voltage LEDs typically require a separate driver, but this has one advantage. If the Driver breaks, it can be replaced without replacing the bulb.

The Functioning of LED Drivers

LEDs are sensitive to temperature changes, which can influence their voltage requirements. As the temperature rises, an LED requires less voltage to drive the current, leading it to consume more power. If left unchecked, this could cause a ‘thermal runaway,’ where escalating temperatures could destroy the LED. LED drivers are designed to manage this by adjusting to changes in the LED’s voltage needs and maintaining a stable temperature.

Purpose of the LED Driver

As transformers cater to low-voltage bulbs, LED drivers are tailored for LEDs. Standard LEDs usually operate at 4V, 12V, or 24V. They require direct current (DC) to function. However, our typical wall outlets offer a much higher voltage (ranging from 120V to 277V) and supply alternating current (AC), making them incompatible with LEDs. Since regular transformers cannot meet the specific voltage needs of LEDs, LED drivers are employed to bridge this gap, converting high-voltage AC into the necessary low-voltage DC.

Furthermore, LED drivers offer protection from power fluctuations, which can elevate temperatures and reduce light intensity. LEDs are designed to function within a specific current range.

Specific LED drivers are even sophisticated enough to adjust the brightness and sequence of colour displays in LED systems. This is achieved by precisely controlling each LED’s on/off state. For instance, producing white light might involve simultaneously illuminating multiple coloured LEDs. The desired colour or brightness can be modified by selectively deactivating some.

Exploring the Different Aspects of LED Drivers

Internal vs. External LED Drivers:

Internal LED drivers are typically found in bulbs and low-power indoor lights, making them more affordable and aesthetically pleasing. External LED drivers, however, are prevalent in high-power applications such as street, stadium, floodlights, and grow lights. They are placed outside due to increased heat production as power rises and are easier to replace for maintenance.

Linear Regulator vs. Switching Power Supply:

Linear LED drivers are straightforward; an LED’s constant current might require a resistor, a controlled MOSFET, or an IC. Common in AC LED, sign, and strip applications, they quickly adjust to various power supplies. However, they’re less efficient. In contrast, switching power supplies produces brighter light, lesser flicker, better power factor, and superior surge protection.

Isolated vs. Non-Isolated LED Drivers:

Both fall under the category of switching power supplies. Isolated designs comply with UL and CE standards and use a well-insulated transformer, ensuring safety but at increased costs and decreased efficiency. Non-isolated innovations are usually adopted for low-power inbuilt systems.

Constant Voltage vs. Constant Current LED Drivers:

LEDs typically require a constant current source. But sometimes, a continuous voltage driver paired with a regulator or resistor can be used. Signs and strip lighting use constant voltage drivers, providing greater flexibility in light adjustment, while most general lighting prefers stable current drivers.

Class I vs. Class II LED Drivers (IEC Classification):

These categories are based on the IEC standards for power supply construction and electrical insulation. Class I drivers need earth connections and primary insulation, whereas Class II drivers have higher insulation levels without an earth connection.

Class 1 vs. Class 2 LED Drivers (NEC Classification):

As per NEC guidelines, Class 1 and 2 differ based on output limitations and design requirements. Class 2 drivers, constrained by specific voltage, current, and power limits, offer cost savings on insulation and safety measures. UL1310 and UL8750 define Class 2 LED driver standards.

Dimming Options for LED Drivers:

Modern lighting often incorporates dimming capabilities. Some notable methods include:

0-10V/1-10V dimming LED Driver

PWM dimming LED Driver

Triac dimming LED Driver

DALI dimming LED Driver

DMX dimming LED Driver

Other LED Driver Protocols

Waterproofing in LED Drivers:

The IP (ingress protection) rating in IEC 60529 denotes an LED driver’s waterproofing level. This rating consists of two numbers: the first indicates solid object protection (0 being no protection, 6 being dustproof), and the second indicates liquid protection (0 being no protection, with higher numbers indicating increased waterproofing). While taller IP-rated drivers are commonly used outdoors, some indoor applications also use them for enhanced power and longevity.

Understanding Ballasts and Their Role in LED Lights

What is a Ballast?

In the early days of light bulb development, a component was integrated into bulbs to regulate the flow of electricity. This component, known as ballast, ensured the electrical current didn’t surge too high. Traditionally, ballasts have been essential for bulbs such as T8s and tube lights. They are still found in bulbs and lamps, especially with HID, metal halide, and mercury vapour lights.

Types of Ballasts:

Magnetic Ballast:

Also referred to as inductors, magnetic ballasts create the optimal electrical conditions for specific lamps to function. They operate similarly to transformers, producing consistent electricity.

Introduced in the 1960s, they gained popularity between the 1970s and 1990s. They were commonly found in HID lamps, Metal Halide lamps, mercury vapour lamps, and more.

Before the rise of LEDs around 2010, these ballasts were a standard in significant parking lots and street lights for approximately three decades.

Electronic Ballast:

This ballast utilizes a circuit to regulate the current load. Electronic ballasts became prevalent in the 1990s and are used today, offering a more consistent and precise electrical flow than their magnetic counterparts.

How Does a Ballast Work?

The primary role of a ballast is to control the electricity supplied to a bulb, ensuring the bulb receives sufficient power without overloading. Lamps lack inherent regulation, making them susceptible to drawing erratic electricity levels. A ballast stabilizes this input, ensuring the light gets the right amount of electricity, even from high-power sources.

Why LEDs Don’t Need Ballasts:

LEDs are distinct from traditional bulbs in several ways:

  • LEDs inherently consume minimal electricity.
  • They typically operate on Direct Current (DC), necessitating an AC-to-DC converter.
  • The compact nature of LEDs means there’s little room for additional ballast.
  • LED drivers, more space-efficient than ballasts, offer the necessary current regulation.
  • The absence of a ballast potentially allows LEDs to be more energy-efficient and brighter.

Ballasts vs. LED Drivers:

Fluorescent lights and LEDs require an intermediary between the bulb and the power source. Whereas traditional incandescent lamps rely on heating a filament to produce light, LEDs use LED drivers instead of ballasts.

Fluorescent ballasts initiate a high-voltage spike at the start, regulating the current afterwards. Conversely, an LED driver adjusts the power source to the precise voltage and current, illuminating the LED.

To function, LEDs need their alternating current converted to direct current, which the LED driver achieves. While ballasts have evolved over the years, they aren’t compatible with LEDs or other low-energy lights. The introduction and optimization of LED drivers have gradually replaced the need for ballasts, given their enhanced efficiency and adaptability.

LED Driver Setup Guide

Steps to Successfully Install an LED Driver:

  1. Compatibility Check: Ensure the LED driver matches your setup and the intended power source. The Amperage and Voltage ratings must align.
  2. Environmental Suitability: Ascertain that the Driver is suited for the specific conditions it will be placed in. For instance, the Driver should be water-resistant if your LEDs are outdoors.
  3. Identify Wiring Polarity: Recognize which wires are positive and negative before proceeding. Once identified, disconnect your socket from the power grid.
  4. Securing the Driver: When affixing the Driver to the LED system, utilize appropriately coloured screws for a clean finish.
  5. Wiring the LED System: Connect the positive and negative wires of the LED system to their respective terminals on the Driver.
  6. Grounding: Attach a grounding terminal to the green wire (labelled GND) emerging from the Driver.
  7. Power Connection: Next, connect the positive and negative wires from your power socket to the respective terminals on the Driver.
  8. Final Inspection: Thoroughly inspect your setup. Ensure all connections are secure and correctly placed and there’s no excessive heat generation. If you notice any issues, shut off the power immediately and diagnose the problem.

How to Fix an LED Light Driver?

  1. Disconnect the power.
  2. Use a screwdriver to access the Driver’s interior. Inspect for visible damages like burn marks.
  3. Employ electrical diagnostic tools to identify malfunctioning components.
  4. If possible, replace the defective parts and retest. If not, consider replacing the entire Driver.

Key Considerations When Selecting an LED Driver

1. Dimmability

Are you interested in adjusting the brightness of your LEDs? Opt for a driver with dimming capabilities. The operational mechanism of these power supplies is straightforward to understand. The product specifications often detail the types of dimmers compatible with these drivers.

2. Power Specifications

Prioritize understanding the voltage needs of your lamp. For instance, if your LED functions at 20 volts, ensure you get a 20-volt driver.

Essentially, it’s vital to match the power needs of your LED with the Driver’s output. For constant-voltage drivers, you’ll focus mainly on the voltage range. However, with a constant-current driver, you’ll need to look at both voltage and current ranges. Always ensure the Driver can accommodate the LED’s power requirements, including stepping down to the necessary output voltage.

Also, remember to check the wattage. Always opt for a driver with a maximum wattage higher than your LED’s consumption.

3. Power Factor

The power factor indicates the efficiency with which the Driver utilizes electricity from the grid. Typically, the range lies between -1 and 1, with a power factor of 0.9 or higher being ideal. The closer this value is to one, the more efficient the Driver.

4. Safety Standards

Ensure your LED drivers are compliant with recognized safety standards. For instance, UL Class 1 drivers are suitable for higher voltage applications and can accommodate more LEDs, enhancing efficiency. These drivers need a secure setup due to the high voltage output.

On the other hand, UL Class 2 drivers, which adhere to UL1310 standards, offer a safer operation but have a limitation on the number of LEDs they can power.

Another safety indicator is the IP rating. A rating like IP67 suggests that the Driver is protected against dust and can handle short-term immersion in water.

5. Efficiency Rating

Efficiency is a pivotal factor, as it denotes the power consumption efficacy of the LED driver. This metric is usually presented in percentages, indicating that, for example, an 80% efficiency means the Driver operates effectively 80% of the time.

Advantages of Using an LED Driver

LEDs function best with low voltages, typically between 12 and 24 volts of direct current (DC). Thus, if you’re dealing with an alternating current (AC) voltage ranging from 120 to 277 volts, an LED driver effectively converts this AC voltage to DC. Essentially, this transition from AC to DC is crucial. Moreover, the Driver ensures that the optimal range of high and low voltage is achieved.

LED drivers are vital in shielding LEDs from voltage or current fluctuations. When an LED’s voltage varies, its current supply might also shift. This means the light intensity emitted by an LED is inversely proportional to its number. LEDs are designed to operate within a specific threshold. Therefore, too little or excessive current can either reduce the brightness or expedite the degradation of the LED, primarily due to overheating.

In summary, the primary advantages of LED drivers are:

  1. Conversion from AC to DC.
  2. We maintain a consistent current and voltage, preventing them from falling below the prescribed limit.

Is a New Lighting Source Synonymous with a New Dimming Technique?

While most light sources can be quickly switched off by adjusting the voltage, LEDs are unique. They are only turned off by modifying the ratio of voltage to current. As a result, LED dimming techniques differ:

  1. Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) or Pulse Duration Modulation (PDM): Here, the time duration that voltage is supplied can be altered without changing the voltage itself. PWM rapidly switches the LEDs on and off, significantly when frequencies exceed 100 Hz. Interestingly, our brain perceives the room dimmer since our eyes cannot detect flickering until at least 75 Hz.
  2. Triacs and Phase Control Dimmers: Originally designed for 60W incandescent bulbs, these devices produce minimal light at a phase angle of 130°. LEDs, in contrast, are more efficient and use less power. This means that at the same phase angle, LEDs don’t appear as dim. However, a challenge arises as the holding current might not suffice to maintain the trial’s conductive state when dimmed intensely, causing the LEDs to flicker. Thankfully, specific LED drivers have been engineered to overcome this limitation.
  3. 1-10V Dimming: This approach connects ballasts and control units via a polarized two-wire control line. DC voltages ranging from 1 to 10 volts determine the light intensity. As the voltage rises, the brightness follows suit. Although LEDs can be dimmed using the 1-10V method, they necessitate specific power sources. The control unit should also handle the power supply’s current through the control line. This makes the 1-10V dimming particularly suitable for extensive lighting setups.

When is an LED Driver Essential?

Almost every LED light source requires a driver. However, the real question is, “Do I need to purchase one separately?” Some LED bulbs already have an integrated driver. For instance, LEDs designed for residential use, like those 120-volt bulbs with GU24/GU10 or E26/E27 bases, typically come with drivers.

Low-voltage LED varieties such as tape lights, MR bulbs, outdoor lights, panels, and other fixtures necessitate an LED driver for proper operation. While you need LED drivers for low-voltage LEDs, the same isn’t true for 120-volt LED bulbs commonly used in homes.

LED Mounting Options: Print and HighBay

LEDs can be integrated into both HighBay and print mounting setups, contingent on the requirements of a project. For tighter spaces, SMD (surface-mounted device) LEDs are suitable. These LEDs can be soldered directly onto printed circuit boards, eliminating the need for wires. However, always ensure that all components are compatible.

In larger spaces where more illumination is essential, like factory halls or department stores, powerful HighBay spotlights are employed. These potent ceiling lights must be individually wired, often to a standard mains voltage of 230V AC. They’re paired with drivers such as the XBG-160-A to prevent the LEDs from overheating. These drivers include overload protection, effectively regulating the current supplied.

LED Driver Varieties

  1. Constant-Current Driver This Driver maintains a consistent output current while its voltage output varies within a specific range. The current precise production, expressed in milliamps or amps, fluctuates based on the LED’s usage intensity (i.e., wattage or load).
  2. Constant-Voltage Driver These drivers ensure a fixed voltage output, but the maximum current work has a cap. The LED module operates with a regulated current powered by a primary resistor or an in-built constant-current driver. Typically, the steady voltage required is either 12 or 24 volts DC.
  3. AC LED Drivers: In principle, these drivers can power low-voltage halogen or incandescent lamps. However, conventional transformers aren’t compatible with AC LED drivers as they can’t detect low voltage. As a result, these drivers utilize specialized transformers that operate without a minimum load.
  4. Dimmable LED Drivers: These drivers allow for adjustable brightness levels for LED lights. They enable the regulation of LED brightness for those operating on a constant voltage. This is achieved by moderating the current delivered to the LED before it activates.

Applications of LED Drivers:

  1. Automotive LED DriversEmploying top-notch automotive LED drivers enhances the distinction between your car’s internal and external lighting systems. This includes:
    • Headlight assemblies
    • Infotainment lighting
    • Cabin and tail lights
  2. Backlight LED drivers typically utilize a unique dimming technique to adjust the brightness of the backlight.
  3. Illumination LED DriversEquip your devices with LED drivers for infrared lighting capabilities. This can be achieved using a multi-topology constant-current controller.
  4. RGB LED DriversRGB LED drivers allow you to introduce animations or indicators to multi-coloured LED arrays. Moreover, they’re compatible with various standard interfaces.
  5. LED Display DriversLED display drivers enable efficient power management across LED strands. These are versatile and can be paired with expansive narrow pixels or matrix configurations suitable for small to mini LED digital signage setups.

Which LED Driver is Right for Me?

Determining the appropriate LED driver for your project requires the following information:

  1. The voltage of your mains power source.
  2. The total power consumption of your LED system.
  3. The specific voltage or constant current requirements of your LEDs.

Additionally, other technical considerations may come into play. For instance, if you require meticulous colour control or the environment poses a risk of water contact, it can influence your choice of LED drivers. The water resistance of an LED is indicated by its IP rating. A higher IP rating denotes better water resistance. For example:

  • An IP rating of 44 suggests suitability for environments like kitchens where occasional water splashes might occur.
  • A driver boasting an IP rating of 67 is fit for outdoor use.
  • Drivers with an IP rating of 20 are best suited for indoor, dry conditions.


LED drivers play a pivotal role across various sectors, mirroring the versatility of LEDs themselves. With the array of transformers, power supplies, and drivers, illuminating your space becomes a breeze. The inherent adaptability of LEDs makes it simple to integrate intelligent functionalities and adjust luminosity. Thus, LED drivers are crucial for achieving contemporary, functional, and cost-efficient lighting solutions.

MyLikeLed produces top-tier LED strips and neon flex. Our offerings undergo rigorous testing in advanced labs to guarantee unparalleled quality. Moreover, we provide tailored solutions for our LED strips and neon flex. For superior LED lighting products, reach out to MyLikeLed today!


Contact us for quotation

Let's have a chat

Contact us for Your problem

Let's talk and we will get back to you within 12 hours