How to Power a Project

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Contributors: JordanDee
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Ways to Power a Project

Here are some of the most common methods used for powering a project:

  • USB Power
  • Variable DC Benchtop Power Supply
  • AC to DC Wall Adapter (like a computer or laptop would use)
  • Batteries

Left to Right: AC/DC power adapter, bench supply, battery, USB cable

Four common ways to supply power to your project

Which Option Should I Pick to Power My Project?

The answer to this question largely depends on your project specific requirements.

USB Power

If you're starting off with the SparkFun Inventor's Kit or another basic development board, you will likely just need a USB cable. The Arduino Uno is an example that requires only a USB A to B cable to supply the power to run the example circuits in the kit. Here are a few USB cables from our catalog to power your project from a USB port.

USB micro-B Cable - 6 Foot

USB micro-B Cable - 6 Foot

CAB-10215
$4.95
13
SparkFun USB Mini-B Cable - 6 Foot

SparkFun USB Mini-B Cable - 6 Foot

CAB-11301
$3.95
2
USB Cable A to B - 6 Foot

USB Cable A to B - 6 Foot

CAB-00512
$3.95
1
USB 3.1 Cable A to C - 3 Foot

USB 3.1 Cable A to C - 3 Foot

CAB-14743
$4.95
2

Variable DC Benchtop Power Supply

If you're in the business of building projects and testing circuits regularly, acquiring a variable DC bench power supply is highly recommended. This will allow you to set the voltage to a specific value depending on what you need for your project. It also buys you some protection as you can set a maximum current allowed. Then, if there is a short circuit in your project, the bench supply will shut down hopefully preventing harm to some components in your project.

Here are a few variable DC benchtop power supplies from our catalog.

Power Supply - Multi-Range DC 84V, 10A

Power Supply - Multi-Range DC 84V, 10A

TOL-14926
$578.95
Power Supply - Multi-Range DC 42V, 20A

Power Supply - Multi-Range DC 42V, 20A

TOL-14927
$549.95

Switching Power Supply - DC 36V, 3A

TOL-14928
Switching Power Supply - DC 20V, 5A

Switching Power Supply - DC 20V, 5A

TOL-14929
$208.95

AC to DC Wall Adapters

A specific AC to DC power supply is often used after a circuit is proven. This option is also great if you often use the same development board again and again in your projects. These wall adapters usually have a set voltage and current output, so it's important to make sure that the adapter you choose has the correct specifications as the project you will be powering and to not exceed those specifications. Here are a few wall adapters from the catalog that offer a few amps.

Wall Adapter Power Supply - 5VDC, 2A (USB Micro-B)

Wall Adapter Power Supply - 5VDC, 2A (USB Micro-B)

TOL-15311
$5.95
Wall Adapter Power Supply - 12VDC, 600mA (Barrel Jack)

Wall Adapter Power Supply - 12VDC, 600mA (Barrel Jack)

TOL-15313
$5.95
Wall Adapter Power Supply - 9VDC, 650mA (Barrel Jack)

Wall Adapter Power Supply - 9VDC, 650mA (Barrel Jack)

TOL-15314
$5.95
1
USB Wall Charger - 5V, 1A (Black)

USB Wall Charger - 5V, 1A (Black)

TOL-11456
$3.95
2

For more current hungry projects, check out some of these power supplies from our catalog. Just make sure to get the appropriate cable for your region from product page's recommended products.

Mean Well LED Switching Power Supply - 5VDC, 5A

Mean Well LED Switching Power Supply - 5VDC, 5A

TOL-14601
$14.95

Mean Well Switching Power Supply - 24VDC, 18.8A

TOL-16265
Mean Well Switching Power Supply - 12VDC, 12.5A

Mean Well Switching Power Supply - 12VDC, 12.5A

TOL-16266
$20.95
Mean Well Switching Power Supply - 5VDC, 18A

Mean Well Switching Power Supply - 5VDC, 18A

TOL-16607
$17.95

Batteries

If you want your project to be mobile or based in a remote location away from where you can gather AC wall power from the grid, batteries are the answer you're looking for. Batteries come in a huge variety, so be sure to check out the later parts of this tutorial so you can figure out precisely what to choose. Common choices include alkaline, rechargeable NiMH AA's, and lithium polymer ion. Here are a few batteries from the catalog.

Lithium Ion Battery - 2Ah

Lithium Ion Battery - 2Ah

PRT-13855
$12.95
6
Low Current Lithium Ion Battery Pack - 2.5Ah (USB)

Low Current Lithium Ion Battery Pack - 2.5Ah (USB)

TOL-15204
$9.95
1
9V Alkaline Battery

9V Alkaline Battery

PRT-10218
$1.95
1
2500 mAh NiMH Battery - AA

2500 mAh NiMH Battery - AA

PRT-00335
$3.25

If your project needs a certain voltage or a bit more current from a battery, try adding a boost converter or switching regulator. You can take the varying voltage from your battery and output a set voltage 5V. Depending on the board and components used with your project, you could potentially output 9V or 10V depending on the configuration. You'll just need make sure to get the necessary components to build your circuit in order to output voltages higher than 5V. Here are a few converters from our catalog.

SparkFun LiPo Charger/Booster - 5V/1A

SparkFun LiPo Charger/Booster - 5V/1A

PRT-14411
$15.95
SparkFun Buck-Boost Converter

SparkFun Buck-Boost Converter

COM-15208
$9.95
LiPower - Boost Converter

LiPower - Boost Converter

PRT-10255
$15.95
5

Step Up/Down Inverting Switching Regulator

COM-00317
Retired