When I got my first LED driver, I was surprised to see that it didn’t come with a power plug on it – this makes total sense though, as there are all sorts of different connectors you can terminate this wire with, depending on where you live or how you want to plug it in. Attaching a plug may seem intimidating, but it’s really quite simple. As long as you get the colors right and makes sure everything’s clean and tight, you’re in good shape.
That being said, electricity is always dangerous to work with. A bad termination can cause shocks, fires, and could even be fatal, so if you’re not comfortable working with electricity, don’t take the risk. Have a qualified electrician friend do this for you.
The nice thing about the NEMA 5-15 is that you can get these anywhere. I usually just grab mine from Home Depot or Lowes or whatever’s closest. The NEMA 5 designation means that it’s a 3-wire grounded connector and the 15 means it’s meant for a 15 amp circuit. You can also get 5-20s or 5-30s, which have the right prongs and current handling for 20 and 30 amp circuits, but are unnecessary for the drivers we use. The “P” designation at the end of the part number indicates that it’s a plug (male). If it’s a 5-15R, that means it’s a receptacle (female).
Note – If you use a driver that does not have the 3rd ground wire (like a Mean Well LPC or similar) and only has a hot and return wire, you can use the same plug and not terminate anything to ground, or you can use a 2 prong plug NEMA 1-15P like this:
If you use a NEMA plug like one of the 2 shown above, you can just run an extension cord from the closest outlet to wherever your driver is and plug it in.
IEC connectors are nice because they’re very easy to extend power with, but they’re a little harder to find. IEC power cables, (which you use in conjunction with your connector) on the other hand, are used for a ton of different electronics, so I can almost guarantee you’ve got one kicking around somewhere that’s not in use. The power cable will look like this:
Once you terminate your connector onto your driver’s power cable, you can use a long premade IEC power cable like the one shown above to plug in between your connector and your power outlet.
There are a number of other connectors that people use for the AC side of their drivers as well – as long as the connector is rated for your voltage and current requirements, you have several options.
Installing Your Power Connector
For this example, I’m using a NEMA 5-15P (which is what I use just about every time), but the installation will be very similar no matter which plug you opt for.
Step 1 – Identify the Hot, Neutral and Ground Wires
First, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got your wires identified. Every Mean Well driver I’ve purchased has used the brown/blue/green scheme for differentiating the power wires. They list each color’s function right on the face of the driver:
- Brown is HOT (the dangerous one!)
- Blue is NEUTRAL
- Green is GROUND
These colors are different from electrical colors we normally see here in North America (hot is often black or red, neutral is usually white, and ground is green), but it doesn’t make a difference as long as you connect them properly. Be sure to check the manual or label or whatever you have to confirm your pin out.
Step 2 – Have a Look Inside Your Plug
You’ll have a few screws to take out in order to get to the inside of the plug. I’m using a Leviton 515PR here – there are 3 screws on the face of the plug that need to be removed.
Once your plug is disassembled, have a look at the terminals inside so you have an idea of how deep they are. This way, you can trim your wire accordingly.
Step 3 – Mock Your Cable Up to Measure Your Cut
I’ve found that the individual wires are usually too long out of the box, and need to be trimmed. To find out how much you’ll need to take off, put your plug back together temporarily and hold the cable up next to the plug. You should have an idea of where the terminals are inside. You’ll want to trim your wires so they just reach the full length of the terminal. You don’t want them to bunch up inside of the connector.
It’s also imperative that when you mock this up, your outer cable jacket goes past the strain relief part of the connector. You need the strain relief to clamp down on the jacket, not the inner wires. In the picture below, I’ve made sure that when I measured where to cut my 3 wires (indicated by the yellow line), I also have the outer jacket all the way past the strain relief clamp (the part at the back with the 2 silver screws – indicated by the red line).
Step 4 – Trim Your Wires and Re-Strip
After you’ve cut your wires, you’ll need to strip them. Have a look at the terminals that you’ll be attaching them to, and try to strip the wires to the exact same depth as the terminal so it gets a very solid hold, and there’s no exposed copper.
Step 5 (Optional) – Solder the Stripped Tips
If you have a soldering iron, I’d recommend tinning the cables you’ve just stripped. This makes them easier to work with and prevents fraying and stray conductors, which can be problematic. If you don’t have a soldering iron, just make sure that when you connect your wire to the terminals in the plug, there are no conductors that got bent and pushed out of the terminal.
Step 6 – Attach the Wires to the Terminals
Insert your trimmed cable through the back of the plug. You might have to loosen up the strain relief.
Your plug will likely have color-coded terminals. The code here in North America is as follows:
Gold = HOT
Silver = NEUTRAL
Green = GROUND
Stick your exposed wire into the terminals and screw them down. Make sure you only have copper in there and keep the colored jackets out! If you stripped them properly, your copper should go right to the back of the terminal and your jacket should be snugged up against the front of it. Make sure to really tighten these up. Check to see if any wires have gone rogue and are poking somewhere they shouldn’t be. If so, fix them!
Step 7 – Reassemble the Plug
Push the plug back together and tighten up the screws on the face of it.
Now, we’ll tighten up the strain relief. Turn these 2 screws, alternating between the 2 of them, until you have a nice, even, snug pressure on the cable jacket.
It should pinch the cable, but not to the point where it’s breaking the jacket. The idea is that if you were to jerk the cable somehow, it’d pull the entire plug with it, rather than pulling the wires out of the screw terminals.
And voila! The input side of your driver power is ready to go. Either run an extension cord to your driver, or attach an IEC power cable to extend it if you went that route. Again, if you don’t feel comfortable working with this part, have somebody who’s electrically-inclined do it for you. Make sure you triple-check everything as you go and don’t plug it in until you’re 100% confident that you’ve got it right!