3 Ways to power an Arduino Board - Do you know them?

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In our discussion here, we are going to use an Arduino UNO as the base example – much of what we cover can be extended to other common Arduino boards, but in each case you’ll need to double check for your specific model.

We are going to use the Arduino UNO schematic to inform our discussion – we’ll be looking at the power section.

Arduino Power Section Schematic
It seems like a lot going on – to simplify this a bit further we’ll reduce it down to this block diagram.

arduino power options, USB, Vin, and DC jack with lines to circuit diagram

When you see “USB PORT”, just imagine that’s where you plug your USB cable in, for “DC JACK” – imagine that where you plug your DC Jack in. And for the “VIN PIN”, that just the hole marked Vin on the power rail of an Arduino Board.

On the right side we have the 5V and 3.3V pins. In between we have some components that I’ll explain shortly.

Let’s start with powering an Arduino with the DC jack. Let’s say you hook up a wall wort power supply, or a battery pack to that DC jack – what happens? Per the diagram you can see it powers the 5V regulator on the board.

Schematic of powering arduino with DC jack
What’s so special about 5V? Well 5V is right in the range the microcontrollers on the Arduino board need in order to operate.

Minimum Input voltage Maximum Input voltage Maximum Output current
+5V regulator 6.2V 20V 1A
+3.3V regulator 3.58V 16V 150mA
The 5V regulator requires a min input voltage of 6.2 volts and can take a maximum input voltage of 20V – so the power supply you hook up to your DC jack needs to be in that range for voltage. The sweet spot is more like 7-12 volts, if your power supply is much higher than that, you’re wasting a lot of power on that 5V regulator in the form of heat dissipation.

The DC jack is 2.1mm center-positive plug. It important that the plug you use is center positive. But just in case you accidentally use a center negative plug and reverse the polarity – the circuit has a diode that protects against that.

Now, there’s a lot of details here I am going over rather quickly. We are developing an entire course on powering Arduino, and how to think about your current inventory – it’s currently in production – if you want to learn more about what we offer check out our courses page.

OK – one more thing about that 5V regulator, it can provide up to 1A of current.


***About Us:***
This Arduino lesson was created by Programming Electronics Academy. We are an online education company who seeks to help people learn about electronics and programming through the ubiquitous Arduino development board.

***We have no affiliation whatsoever with Arduino LLC, other than we think they are cool.***
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