How Dimmable Drivers Work

The world of lighting is full of inner workings which are unfamiliar to most people. When it comes to dimmable drivers, there are a few general confusions on the matter.

What are they?

The first step in understanding how dimmable drivers work is to know what they are and their main function. Let's start with the types of fixtures which require a driver. The main consensus is that fluorescent lights are run on ballasts whereas LED is run on drivers. Both the ballast and the driver are responsible for supplying the lamps with power to create illumination. The reason a driver is needed for an LED is because, unlike a fluorescent, it uses a current to maintain illumination. A fluorescent uses a high spike in voltage to create an arc of illumination whereas an LED uses a converter to turn the high voltage into a low voltage current as their main function of operation. This is an important distinction in understanding how dimmable drivers work. It is also important to note that while most fluorescents operate on a ballast, there are also electronic ballasts which will give you the option of dimmable capabilities same as LED, but you must make sure that is the type you have to achieve the result of dimming.

How do they work?

Many people think that when they dim a light, they reduce the power or current supplied to the fixture and that is why the resulting dimming occurs. The truth of the matter is that the current will remain the same whether the lamp is at full brightness or dimmed. The way dimming works is that the current is actually fluctuated rapidly, faster than the human eye can detect, which creates the illusion of diminished light. LEDs do this either by way of pulse width modulation which is where the driver comes in to support the current at a faster rate or by way of analog dimming which gradually reduces the current supplied. Analog is the less common option on the market because it creates a lower quality lighting effect and isn't as pleasing to the eye.

Fluorescents, while they still dim, are less effective at it than LED because they lack the help of a driver. They can be dimmed but it produces a lower quality light and the eye can usually see the jumps in voltage as they change the light intensity. An electronic ballast is the only way to achieve the effect unlike LED which may be able to dim without the use of the driver, depending on the fixture type.