Blog  /  LED Power Adapter: A Guide to Choosing the Right LED Power Adapter

LED Power Adapter: A Guide to Choosing the Right LED Power Adapter

Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are quickly replacing fluorescent and incandescent technologies for both outdoor and indoor lighting units. That is due to their energy efficiency, long life, design flexibility and durability. However, if you are thinking of installing LED lighting strips, choosing the appropriate LEDs is just one section of the LED lighting system design equation. 

For your solid-state LED lights design to attain its optimal performance, you have to combine it with a power supply whose attributes are a good match for the LEDs and intended usage. This article is a useful guide on the things you need to pay attention to when selecting a LED power adapter. We start off by looking at what a LED power adapter is.

 

LED Power Adapter

 

1. What is a LED power adapter?

 

A power adapter relays the right amount of current to your electronics. That way, the electronics can operate as per expectations and will not fail prematurely or overheat. Think about the hazards of trying to fill a water balloon using a fire hydrant. The adapter serves a similar role except in this case it regulates current delivered to electronics equipment. The equipment in question could be anything from laptops and cellphones to printers and, in this case, LED strip lights. The LED power adapter will take the alternating current (AC) from the wall outlet then convert it into a lower direct current (DC) voltage. Your LED strips can comfortably, safely, and optimally run on this DC voltage. 

 

2. Types of LED Power Adapter

 

The types of LED power adapters you can choose from are in line with the power requirements of the LED strips commonly available in the market today. LED strips are mainly available in 12V or 24V through 5V strips may be best in certain situations. We will take a look at the two most common types of LED power adapters.

 

LED Power Adapter 12V

 

12V LED power adapters to feed electricity into 12V LED strip lights. They convert 120V AC power to 12V DC. 12V LED power adapters are best for small installations of LED strips.

 

LED Power Adapter 24V

 

Use 24V LED power adapters for a long run or large-scale LED lighting strip installations. That is because 24V LED strips have a lower voltage drop when you compare them to 12V strips. With a 24V LED strip power adapter, the strip will require fewer powering points.

 

Which option best fits your lighting installation?

 

LED Power Adapter

 

When choosing your LED power adapter, you have several options including:

 

Option 1: Single color / white output lightingwith dimmer)

 

For LED light installation where you have fitted the dimmer before the LED power adapter on the AC side, you will require a hardwired dimmable power adapter.

 

Option 2: Single color / white output lighting (without dimmer)

 

Perhaps you are looking for simple on/off functionality or would like to dim LED lights with a handheld dimmer, RF wall dimmer, or a phone app dimmer. In that case, you can dim and control your LED strip lighting using a non-dimmable power adapter. However, you will require an extra remote that is DC and not AC-powered.

 

Option 3: RGB color changing LED strip lights or Dynamic Tunable LED strip lights

 

Dynamic and RGB strip controllers will not work with dimmable LED power adapters. Instead, you will have to go with a non-dimmable power adapter and a controller.

 

Option 3: RGB color changing LED strip lights, or Dynamic Tunable LED strip lights

 

Dynamic and RGB strip controllers will not work with dimmable LED power adapters. Instead, you will have to go with a non-dimmable power adapter and a controller.

 

3. How to Choose the Right LED Strip Power Adapter

 

LED strips are not compatible with the electric current and voltage of your mains supply. They need the LED light power adapter to function well. LED power adapters are not the same. You have to choose the one that is most appropriate for you. To do that, evaluate the adapters you shortlist on the following basis. Note that you may need a LED power adapter calculator to accurately calculate some of the values.

 

3.1 Power Consumption

 

Two factors determine an LED light strip’s power consumption. First, the number of LEDs per foot. The higher the LED density, the higher the power consumption. Second, the size of the LEDs. Large LEDs consume more power. Therefore, if you want to go for a lower-capacity LED power adapter, you should ensure your LED light strip has smaller and fewer LEDs. 

As a rule of thumb, ensure your LED strip lights' total wattage is at least 20 percent lower than the LED power adapter’s rated wattage. For instance, if your LED strip requires 100 watts of power, you need a LED power adapter that’s rated at least 120 watts.

Power supply wattage may be confusing if you are not familiar with how adapters work. It may seem logical to assume that a 120-watt LED power adapter would damage a 100-watt LED strip. On the contrary, just because the adapter has a rating of 120 watts does not imply it will supply that amount of power. The adapter will supply only the minimum electricity depending on the power draw of the strip you connect it to. Therefore, a 120-watt adapter can power any strip with a draw of anywhere from 0 watts to 120 watts.

 

 3.2 Voltage

 

3.2.1. Adapter Voltage

 

It is vital that the voltage of the LED power adapter you go for matches your LED strip light’s voltage. Make sure the input voltage of the power supply is commensurate with the mains supply of the location you will plug it into. Therefore, if you have a 24V DC LED strip that you would like to use in a 120V AC home, the LED power adapter you use must have 120V AC within its input range as well as 24V DC as output.

 

3.2.2. LED Strip Voltage Drop

 

Another thing you have to take into consideration is voltage drop. The LED chips are in a series and into groups. Each group has a resistor and several LED chips. The groups’ wiring is in parallel formation. Each wire offers resistance to the electricity flowing through it. This increases the longer the wire gets. At some point, it impacts the brightness of the LED.

A significant drop in voltage, therefore, occurs with each length of LED strip. The drop varies depending on the length and type of LED strip. Voltage drop causes LEDs to lose intensity as the strip lengthens. The LEDs nearest the power supply will shine brightest while those furthest from it will appear dim. Check the specifications of the LED strip light to know what length you can power before you run it back to an electricity supply.

 

3.3 Dimmability

 

Not all LED strip lights are dimmable. However, if your lights are dimmable and you would like to adjust their brightness, you must be certain the LED power adapter you go for has the dimming capability. The adapter’s specifications will often indicate whether they are dimmable. It will also show the dimmer control types the adapter is compatible with. The 5 most common dimming control types are TRIAC dimming, pulse-width modulation dimming, resistive dimming, 1-10 volt dimming, and 0-10 volt dimming.

 

    3.4 Connection Method

 

Your LED power adapter will include a power connector. Compare the connector with the DC plug that came with your LED strip. They should be compatible. It should be possible for you to plug the adapter into the wall supply on one end and then connect it to the LED strip.

But perhaps you intend to cut your LED strip lights into several segments or maybe the strip comes with two bare wires (usually black and red). In that case,  you will need an adapter that connects the LED strip to the power supply’s power connector.

 

4. Difference Between Power Adapter and LED driver

 

LED Power Adapter

 

Traditional AC-DC power supplies as well as DC-DC converters regulate their output to ensure a constant voltage. LED power adapters are AC-DC power supplies that deliver a constant voltage to LEDs.

Experts eventually realized that they can get LEDs to work safest and most efficiently when they power them with a constant current drive. For this reason, manufacturers have since developed many devices to deliver this LED drive. The industry refers to them as LED drivers. 

While some use the term LED power adapter interchangeably with LED driver,  the former provides constant voltage while the latter delivers a constant current.

 

Conclusion

 

When you set out to buy a LEDs power adapter, it will not be long before you realize there are numerous options. This post can guide you in choosing the power adapter that is most suitable for your LED strip lights. Take your time to find the adapter that will be a good match for the environment where you intend to use it, which is key to its longevity. If you have any questions or need LED PCB, contact us for free.