How to Power a Project

Contributors: JordanDee
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Ways to Power a Project

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

  • AC to DC power supplies (like a computer or laptop would use)
  • Variable DC bench power supply
  • Batteries
  • Via a USB cable

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 rechargeable NiMH AA's and lithium polymer ion.