Driver Selection

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Once you’ve chosen your LED lamp design, calculated your coverage needs, and chosen your color spectrum, the next step is to decide which power supply or driver you need to power your light.

The truth is there are many possible options for your choice of driver depending on the number of strips per circuit, and the type and design of your circuits. But the mission of Photon Solutions is to bring simplicity to LED DIY, so based on a parallel-wired system, these are my basic driver suggestions:

  • 3 SolStrip X2s: CLG-100-24A or HLG-150H-24A
  • 2 SolStrip X3s: HLG-150H-24A
  • 4 SolStrip X2s: HLG-185H-24A 
  • 3 SolStrip X3s: HLG-240H-24A
  • 5 SolStrip X2s: HLG-185H-24A or HLG-240H-24A 
  • 4 SolStrip X3s: HLG-240H-24A or HLG-320H-24A
  • 6-8 SolStrip X2s: HLG-240H-24A or HLG-320H-24A 
  • 5 SolStrip X3s: HLG-320H-24A
  • 8-12 SolStrip X2s: HLG-320H-24A or HLG-480H-24A
  • 6 SolStrip X3s: HLG-480H-24A

I highly recommend getting the lower powered driver over the higher power suggestion. The physics of LED chips make them most efficient at about 70% of their rated max, or about 33-36 watts for SolStrip X2s. You can drive them at 100% if you want, presuming you keep them cooled within their operating range (I aim for 50-60C max). But you will get less than 15% more light for expending 30% more electricity. For example, while the 100w CLG will max out at a very efficient 33w/strip on at SolSheet Original, the 150w HLG will max out the strip’s 50w capacity and then some, as the HLGs tend to run about 15% above their rated power (~165w). That means you’ll end up dimming the driver down to just to operate the strips at 100% of their rated power. You will be running both the strips and the driver below their peak efficiency.

LED DIY Rule #1: Run your LEDs soft; and your drivers hard

Running your strips at around 70% by using a driver which has a maximum output slightly below the total maximum rating of the SolStrip circuit (using 50w X number of strips) makes for the most efficient and cost-effective use of both the SolStrips and the driver. The LEDs are most efficient at around 2/3 of their max output, and the drivers are most efficient when run at 100% of their max output. LEDs aren’t like HID bulbs, which are optimized to run only at their maximum rated power. LEDs are more like cars, able to operate across a range of output, with a maximum and minimum wattage, and an efficiency sweet spot somewhere in-between. Aim for the sweet-spot when selecting your driver, not the maximum. You’ll save money and be more satisfied with your results.

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