Powering your arduino

So one of the things I tend to do is build projects that need to be mobile. I have tried several things and what seems to work really well is simply using rechargeable USB batteries. I have them in several sizes. The smallest form factor I use is a 2400 mAh enercell USB battery bank that is approximately the size of an Arduino Uno and will power my bike light for about ten to eleven hours which in my case works out the be about five or six rides. I picked it up at radio shack and it quickly became my favorite portable Arduino Uno power supply. Next up is the 2000 mAh Solio® Bolt Solar Charger which is easily the most expensive solution I have. It has a compact pair of solar panels that charge an internal lipo batter and then steps the power up to 5 volt which is supplied to a USB port. The down side is to charge it via the sun takes eight to ten hours. The up side is during a power outage you can easily get a little power from the sun to power your cell phone etc. The third solution I use is a Chinese made 10,000 mAh battery bank I picked up on ebay. That is not a typo its really a 10,000 mAh battery bank… perhaps it should be called a battery tank since it is so hefty. I actually have a couple of them and I use them for Arduino projects as well as charging cell phones and tablets. I charge them either via a USB cell phone charger or via a solar panel. I do tend to run into charging issues if I try and charge them via a solar panel when the temperature is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The obvious issue being if the battery gets too hot it will stop charging to protect itself from damage. You could also power your project directly from solar but you may run into problems on a cloudy day. I personally prefer to go from solar to battery and then power my project from battery but to each their own. I have added some images for reference.


enercell 2400 mAh usb battery pack


enercell 2400 mAh usb battery pack powering arduino uno with color shield and 8x8 rgb matrix

The enercell 2400 mAh usb battery pack powering and arduino uno with color shield and 8×8 rgb matrix.


Solio Bolt 2000 mAh Solar battery

Solio Bolt 2000 mAh Solar battery. I love this little unit. I often take it while traveling to charge my cell phone.


Generic 10,000 mAh lipo usb battery bank


Generic 10,000 mAh lipo usb battery bank powering arduino micro


Generic 5 watt usb solar panel

This Generic 5 watt usb solar panel can be great for charging your rechargeable batteries but you can run into over heating problems if the battery is also in direct sun light.

750 mA USB battery Sparkfun RedBoard GPS Shield

Here is a cheap 750 mA USB battery running my Sparkfun RedBoard and GPS shield

If you don’t happen to have a rechargeable USB battery you can also do a lot with a 9 volt battery strap, a 2.1 mm power plug and a little heat shrink tubing. The on-board voltage regulator works quite well with a wide range of voltages. The recommended voltage is from 7 to 12 volts but they will run at six volts.

2.1mm power plug 9 volt battery connector

2.1mm power plug 9 volt battery connector and some shrink wrap for wire support

2.1mm power plug, 9 volt battery connector and some shrink wrap for wire support

The Arduino Uno running on a  simple 9 volt battery

The Arduino Uno running on a simple 9 volt battery

The Arduino Mega 2560 running on four AA batteries at 6 volts

The Arduino Mega 2560 running on four AA batteries at 6 volts. It’s not recommended to run them below 7 volts but it will function at 6.

The Sparkfun Redboard and  GPS Shield running on six C cell batteries at 9 volts

The Sparkfun Redboard and GPS Shield running on six C cell batteries at 9 volts. This setup works quite well.

Now you can also obviously use rechargeable batteries in any of these situations. I just used what batteries I had on hand for the pictures.

For more information on using lipo batteries in your projects you can head over here.

18650 lithium ion rechargeable batteries to power your projects

You can also use 18650 lithium ion rechargeable batteries to power your projects.

14 thoughts on “Powering your arduino

  1. Pingback: Arduino microcontrollers | One Mans Anthology

  2. Lonnie

    How did you get that Chinese charger to stay on?
    I have a similar one and it will shut off after about 5 seconds even with a arduino plugged into it. I assume it has to pull a certain amount of current in order to stay on to keep the battery from draining but I had hoped there would be a way to force it to stay on. Maybe it’s just my version as it also has a solar panel on it.

    1. hytekblue Post author

      You have to have a sufficient load to get it to stay on. It cab be tricky with something so low current as an Arduino. It works great on other higher load devices. To get it to work correctly for me specifically I created a dummy load.

      1. Lonnie

        Yea, that’s what I came up with too. I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t another out there that didn’t have this feature. I found the current sense resistor, but I don’t know if that goes through op-amps for the detection circuit or not, and I don’t have a microscope to follow the traces so I just gutted it, got a cheap lipo charger and a buck boost and solar panels (all more cheap Chinese parts) and I’m going to throw them all together and make my own setup. The 30,000 maH batteries and the solar panel were worth more than the 20 bucks I spent on the whole thing 😉

        1. hytekblue Post author

          Yeah I entirely agree with you, they were way to cheap to pass up. I gutted a few of them and kept two of them intact for use where people cringe at things that are not pretty. I have had really good luck with them though.

          1. Aris

            Hello Amit, I am currently woirnkg on a project for my university, and I need to be able to connect on the schools network with an arduino through wireless. So i need DHCP support, do you have any recommendations ?thank you

  3. Lonnie Howell

    Hey, know this is a bit of thread necromancy but after way too much time under a microscope I found the current sense resistor(s) and a way to disable the minimum current pull for the bank to stay on without disabling the auto shutoff when there is nothing connected. I have pics but don’t see a way to post them here. It’s quite easy though, you can reduce the current minimum by 100 without bypassing any safeties, etc. by removing one chip resistor and replacing it with a 10 ohm resistor.

    It’s much easier to show in pictures so if you have a way I can post them (only 2) then let me know

      1. Lonnie Howell

        Ugg, it’s been awhile so I’ll have to hunt the board down, that’s assuming I didn’t throw it out after messing with it.

        Also keep in mind your board may be different than mine, I’ve counted no less than 8 different boards they put in these things. I’ll try and find it and post a pic

  4. Alex

    Lonnie Howell I’m looking to do the exact same thing! All the electronics are there and ready, I just need to turn off the minimum current draw. How did you do it?

  5. Lonnie Howell

    All of these cheap power banks have different circuitry in them, and most of them have their chips scrubbed so I can’t give one definitive answer.

    If you’re just interested in keeping it on all the time, controlling it with the power button then a load resistor across the output will keep a minimum load on the bank and stop if from auto shutting down.

    If you need something different, they you’ll have to reverse engineer your particular board to find the best way to turn off this “feature”. Start by looking for a current sense resistor and op amps, this will usually make up the current monitoring portion of the system, and go from there

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