Our recommendation on Breadboard Power Supplies

Updated 16 January 2017

So, you’re looking for the right way to power your breadboard? You’ve found that your Arduino Uno just doesn’t quite have the juice to power up your circuit. It's likely that the microcontroller can output around 400mA when using the USB power input, slightly higher if you are using the DC barrel jack source. But what if that's not enough? Let’s look at the other options we have for powering a circuit when we take USB power out of the picture.

Our first choice when it comes to powering a prototype circuit is a high-quality Benchtop Power Supply; these things are king when it comes to versatile options for powering your circuit. These modules tend to sell for upward of $300.00, even more, especially if you want a higher-quality unit! If that’s the avenue you’re looking to go down, look at our article on benchtop power supplies.

Today, however, we will be looking at DC-DC converters that you can just plug into your breadboard. These modules are an affordable and straightforward option for your prototyping needs.

There is a wide array of these DC converters in the mix, and most of them cover the same output voltage range of ~1.25V to 30V DC. So why are there so many options and why is the price varying so greatly across them? Well, there are a few features that we see on the higher-quality modules that will go miles when you want to stay on the safe side of short-circuits and unstable input voltages.

The typical setup seen across these modules is; a voltage input method (Barrel Jack or USB power) alongside a regulator chip, a couple of additional components and an output terminal block or pin header. All wrapped on a breadboard sized circuit board for straightforward interfacing. The output selection method branches out to a few options; is the board fixed output, switching or adjustable. A versatile piece will be able to change to and from the conventional 3.3V/5V logic to adjustable voltages (controlled using the pot on board).

So, the idea is relatively straightforward, we want to take an input voltage from a source (Plug pack/Wall wart, battery, treadmill) and step it up or down to our circuits requirements. We also want to ensure we don't destroy the circuit or the module with a short-circuit, meaning overload protection will be a big plus for us.

dfr-breadboard-power-supplyDFRobot's Breadboard Power Supply Module

If you're looking for a solderless breadboard power solution to provide a steady 500mA at 3.3v or 5v and you're looking for a pre-assembled, plug-n-play option; this is probably the module for you. It will take an input voltage (any voltage from 6 to 12V DC), on either the USB or 2.1mm Jack and step it down to a selectable 3.3V or 5V. The max current is only 100mA higher than a USB connection, though, not much larger than a laptop's USB port. There's a pushbutton that sets your desired voltage, a power LED, and 2.54mm (or 0.1") pin headers that come soldered to the board; you just need to plug it into your circuit and set your voltage. A great, affordable power option from DFRobot, however, you don't get any overload protection from this little board at all.

sparkfun-breadboard-power-supplierSparkfun's Breadboard Power Supply Kit

This simple supply from Sparkfun is more exciting for anyone new to electronics and looking to learn a little about DC-DC conversion. Mainly because of the PTC resettable fuse on board, but also because it comes in a build-it-yourself kit.

This board will do everything the DFRobot module will do but comes in parts for DIY'ers out there, the silkscreen on the PCB, allows you to throw it all together without the schematics if need be. It is limited to 250mA by the onboard PTC fuse, though. The PTC fuse is a thermo-electric component that will limit current to a certain temperature threshold, and the best part about them is that they will reset once their temperature lowers back below the threshhold.

As before, it connects directly to the breadboard using the standard pin headers. Strictly speaking, spec for spec, you'd be trading 250mA output current for short circuit protection if you went with the SparkFun board. Surely, there's a best of both worlds option around for DC-DC breadboard power modules.

adafruit-breadboard-power-supplyAdafruit's Adjustable breadboard power supply kit

If I were you, looking for a power supply for my breadboard project, this would be it. Similar to the Sparkfun product above, this power supply comes as a kit too, ready to solder at home. It mightn't be ideal for everyone, but for me, I don't mind putting it together. It has a few improvements on the 'typical' supply designs that are relevant to our interests, to say the least. The MIC2941 regulator can handle up to 1.25A and has lower dropout restrictions than the LM regulators used in the other options. It can take voltages from 1.25V all the way up to 20V and comes with a heatsink in case your regulator gets too hot. The adjustable mode, accessible via the onboard switch, directs control of the output voltage to the potentiometer. You can use it to set to any output voltage between ~0.75V and ~19.5V. That's just a nice option to have, and it gives you some future proofing on your purchase. It has the same input voltage methods as above and connects to your breadboard the same way. If you want to, check out Adafruits project write-up for this kit, go ahead!

We hope you have a better grasp on the options available for breadboard-compatible power supplies now, including what you would use them for and what to look out for when buying one! 

Have a question? Ask the Author of this guide today!

Please enter minimum 20 characters

Your comment will be posted (automatically) on our Support Forum which is publicly accessible. Don't enter private information, such as your phone number.

Expect a quick reply during business hours, many of us check-in over the weekend as well.



Please continue if you would like to leave feedback for any of these topics:

  • Website features/issues
  • Content errors/improvements
  • Missing products/categories
  • Product assignments to categories
  • Search results relevance

For all other inquiries (orders status, stock levels, etc), please contact our support team for quick assistance.

Note: click continue and a draft email will be opened to edit. If you don't have an email client on your device, then send a message via the chat icon on the bottom left of our website.

Makers love reviews as much as you do, please follow this link to review the products you have purchased.