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From a fleeting phenomenon of luminescence over 100 years ago to today's long-life, light-emitting diodes, the evolution of LED lighting has been a continuous process of ingenuity and innovation. Starting out with a low luminous capacity and limited use, LED's have increased in energy efficiency and service life to the extent that they now supersede conventional lighting types for commercial, institutional, and business purposes.

To keep LEDs at optimum temperature (not subject to flickering and overheating), they require a flow of consistent and constant electrical current at all times, at the exact required voltage. And that is where an LED driver comes in. An LED driver is a self contained power supply which regulates the power required for an LED or array of LEDs.

The rapidly-changing growth of the LED lighting universe (from lamps to buildings to businesses to autos, boats and RV's to entertainment, horticulture, signage and artwork) has generated LED driver designs in a myriad of sizes, shapes, materials and styles. A range of factors determines the type of LED driver required – will they be placed individually or in a series, are their size limitations, battery or battery free, dimmable, indoors, outdoors, hot, cold, dry, wet?

The correct LED drivers will ensure that your LED lighting system is quiet, cost-effective, flicker-free and infinitely dimmable, providing high-quality light while minimizing wear on other system components. But what is correct? And, with all these factors to consider, how do you choose? Hopefully these key tips will help guide you through the installation process and avoid mistakes that could be costly in money, time and aggravation.

TIP #1 - Constant Voltage vs. Constant Current

Among the wide variety of external LED drivers available today, there are two distinct types – constant voltage (CV) and constant current (CC). They cannot be used interchangeably, and understanding the difference can avoid serious damage to your LED investment.

Constant current LED drivers work with a set range of output voltages and product a fixed current measured in amps and milliamps. These drivers vary the voltage in the circuit while keeping the current consistent. CC drivers. When the intended end-use is for illumination, constant current drivers allow for more uniform control of light quality and brightness, and can be the better choice.

Constant voltage LED drivers produce a consistent, direct current (DC) output voltage. A constant voltage driver draws on standard line voltage (120-277 VAC), converting alternating current voltage (VAC) into low direct current voltage (VDC). For signage and other applications that rely on vibrant or contrasting colors, a constant voltage supply can be more cost effective and easier to design.

TIP #2 - Quality and Safety Above All

While there are several parameters that affect the lifetime of LED lights, it is the LED driver that is the main determining factor. A poorly designed low quality LED driver can deliver fluctuating current, reduce the quality of light output, and result in flickering and stroboscopic effects. Buying by lowest price can be risky. It is best to choose a high-quality manufacturer who can be trusted to deliver on quality. You'll not only get a more reliable product, you'll get the support to back it up.

Also essential in product selection are safety designations. Certifications represent a declaration from the manufacturer that products have been assessed and comply with essential electrical requirements. IP ratings tell users the environmental protection that an LED driver's enclosure provides (dust, water). And, look out for the high-quality European Mark (ENEC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification, which demonstrate safety and quality – it indicates a trustworthy LED driver manufacturer. UL has laboratories in several countries, and in Canada their mark of approval is Cul.

A LED driver listed as class 2 indicates that there is no risk of fire or electric shock at the LED and luminaire level, but restricts the number of LEDs a class 2 driver can run. UL class1 drivers posses output ranges that exceed UL class 2 guidelines, making them more efficient in energy output, but requiring additional safety measures.

TIP #3 - Making Installation Easier

As LED power systems become complex, so does their installation. But not all LED drivers are equal in installation ease. GRE Alpha, a twenty-year veteran in LED power supplies and lighting control accessories, has pioneered LED drivers and dimmers that are installation-ready. GRE's patented easy as plug-and-play drivers provide the widest flexibility and ease-of-installation of power systems in the industry -- 100% designed with customer ease in mind.

One example is the GRE Alpha Easy-Install XLD series. This series is the industry's only integrated UL Listed Class II solution on the market. Boasting universal AC input, integral wiring compartments for reduced installation costs, constant current and constant voltage dual mode operation for flexibility and optimal performance, the XLD series offers up to 92 percent efficiency and heavy duty design for harsh environments. Other features include user-adjustable output voltage and current, 1-10V dimming options with SLD SmartDim series dimming modules, active power factor correction and more.

Whether it's the XLD series or any of GRE Alpha's other product solutions, their patented easy-install LED driver platforms come with unique, integral wiring compartments. Additional wiring hardware and dimming technologies can be added to create a myriad of simple but versatile LED lighting systems for a wide variety of lighting projects.

GRE's friendly staff of power specialists are standing by to help guide you through your lighting installation – not just today or tomorrow, but for as long as you need help.

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