LED Lighting Transformers and Voltages

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This guide introduces to LED lighting transformers along with 12V and 240V LED Lighting.

12V LED’s

12V lighting is very common these days especially for halogen globes. The reason 12V is used is because when a transformer drops the voltage from mains power 240V to 12V, the output power is regulated and constant. Any voltage spike in the mains power will be absorbed by the transformer. Halogen globes are very susceptible to voltage spikes and can easily blowout. Hence 240V halogens are not a good idea as any voltage spike in mains power will cause the halogen to blow out. A clean and regulated 12V output from a transformer keeps the halogen happy and ensures it lasts longer.

LED globes and its circuitry on the other hand are insusceptible to voltage spikes whether 240V or 12V. The only downside for a 12V LED is that you require a transformer. However if you do live in a region with frequent voltage surges, it maybe worth considering 12V LED downlights as they may end up lasting longer and reduce the chance of a possible blowout.

240V LED’s

240V lighting is considered to be high voltage lighting. A 240V rated LED will work directly off your mains power without the need for any transformers. This makes for easier and cheaper installation. All you need to do is remove an existing 240V incandescent, halogen or fluorescent bulb and replace with a 240V LED bulb with the appropriate base fitting. 240V LED bulbs come in various fittings such as E27, E26, GU10 and bayonet.


12V LED Transformers / Drivers

12V LED transformers are specially designed transformers to accurately deliver the required power to 12V LED bulbs. As mentioned a single 12V LED transformer can be used to run a number of LED bulbs. For example a 30W LED transformer can run three 9W LED bulbs.

It is recommended to use these specially designed LED transformers to run your 12V LED bulbs as they will ensure maximum efficiency and reliability of the LED’s. The design of the LED transformers also ensures minimal power loss in the transformer itself. This further helps to save energy and reduce your electricity bill.

Using existing halogen transformers for 12V LED’s

Manufacturers often state that LED bulbs can be used with existing halogen transformers.  However this is very dependent on the type of halogen transformer used. There are two types of transformers currently used with halogen globes. An iron core (hardcore) transformer and an electronic transformer.

The halogen electronic transformers which are commonly used today will most likely cause your LED globe to function improperly. You may notice a slight flicker in the light from the LED or may have to switch it on twice before it lights up. However this may or may not be true and its best to try a LED globe with your transformer as different brands can provide different results.


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The halogen iron core (hardcore) transformers on the other hand are suitable for use with LED globes. However you need to ensure you do not use a very high power rated transformer to drive a low power rated LED as the small load from the LED will not be noticeable to the transformer and the globe may not light up. For example using a 50W iron core transformer to drive a single 3-9W LED may not work. However using a 50W iron core transformer to drive four or six 9W LED will show good results. Again it depends on the brand of the halogen transformer and its best to try it out first.
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