MCB Tripping: LED Strip Driver and Inrush Current Considerations

Modified on Fri, 26 Apr 2024 at 04:35 PM

Warning: Any electrical work, including the evaluation and application of the principles discussed in this article, should only be carried out by qualified and certified installers.

The phenomenon of 'Inrush Current' signifies the immediate surge in current experienced by an electrical device when initially powered on. Commonly, a power supply will pull a current significantly larger than its steady-state counterpart at the start. Such "inrush" can be a result of a PSU's capacitors charging or the incomplete formation of magnetic flux. Though inrush typically subsides within milliseconds, it can occasionally cause circuit breakers to trip.

The magnitude of this inrush current substantially overshadows the nominal operating current. Often, the inrush can spike to values 70 to 100 times greater during its peak, usually within the first half-cycle. When an LED driver is powered, this pronounced surge can last about 1/2 to 1 cycle (e.g., 1/100 to 1/50 seconds for a 50 Hz AC source) before stabilising.

There's added intricacy due to the varied inrush trip curves of different circuit breakers. To ascertain the trip curve of a specific breaker, consulting its datasheet is advisable.

Precaution is essential when activating devices. Repeatedly turning them on and off can trigger electrical disruptions, particularly when multiple devices are operated together, given their cumulative inrush current. In setups involving several LED strip drivers, it's recommended to power them sequentially to prevent protection mode activations or MCB trips.

The choice of an MCB isn't merely about its rated amperage. Its type holds equal significance. While a minimum of a 6A Lighting MCB is typically suggested, the appropriate MCB type for managing inrush currents, such as Type D MCBs, becomes pivotal. These MCBs are crafted to endure high inrush currents without unnecessary tripping. There are MCBs in the market specifically designed to manage such inrush challenges, ensuring optimal protection against transient surges.

Illustrative Inrush Current Calculation:

Consider the following calculation for understanding the inrush current requirement for a circuit breaker operating three 200W power supplies:

For 3 x 200W LED strip Drivers:

200W ÷ 240V (primary input) = 0.83A. When considering inrush current, a generic multiplier of "100" is often employed for quick, practical estimations. It's crucial to highlight that this multiplier serves as a rough estimate, aiming to provide a conservative, worst-case scenario for safety reasons. However, it's not an established engineering standard, and actual inrush currents might differ based on specific device attributes and conditions. Thus, 0.83A x 100 (generic inrush factor) = 83A.

Hence, 3 x 83 gives 249A, the inrush current a circuit breaker should tolerate when powering 3 x 200W LED drivers simultaneously.

Note: Some manufacturers may cite a reduced amperage for similar wattage drivers for marketing purposes without accounting for a full cycle.

For deeper insights into electrical concerns, including inrush current, reliable industry guides and resources are invaluable. The IET Guide, for instance, offers crucial guidance on various electrical topics.

The Technicalities and Solutions

The choice of protective devices against inrush currents goes beyond just picking a circuit breaker with the right amperage. The type of circuit breaker, such as a Type D MCB (Miniature Circuit Breaker), plays a significant role. Type D MCBs are engineered to tolerate higher inrush currents, thus avoiding unwarranted trippings.

However, when it comes to integrating protection with sensitivity to earth faults, an RCBO (Residual Current Circuit Breaker with Overcurrent protection) becomes relevant. While RCBOs are not classified by inrush current tolerance like MCBs, selecting an RCBO with adequate breaking capacity and understanding its characteristics can provide a similar level of protection.

A Word of Caution and Conclusion

While this article aims to shed light on managing inrush currents and the selection of protective devices, it's imperative to understand these are general suggestions. The specificities of electrical installations vary greatly, and as such, direct consultation with a certified installer is crucial. Changing protective devices without a comprehensive evaluation of the installation's wiring and load characteristics can lead to serious issues.

Our discussion, including the use of Type D MCBs and the considerations for RCBO selection, is intended to guide understanding and facilitate informed discussions with professional installers. Always ensure that any adjustments or installations are carried out by certified professionals to maintain safety and compliance.

Our extensive catalogue offers a broad spectrum of LED Drivers. Kindly refer to it for more details.

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