The Best Voltage Regulators: Control Your Power
Be in control of electrical power with a voltage regulator.
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BY Corrina Murdoch / LAST UPDATED ON April 19, 2021
You might not think about what happens when your electronics are plugged into electrical outlets, when your car’s battery charges via the alternator, or when your cell phone turns on. But there’s one crucial tool involved in all of these electrical processes: a voltage regulator. These often unnoticed devices are responsible for keeping electrical items of all kinds functioning properly, even when outputs fluctuate. A voltage regulator works to provide a constant, fixed output voltage to devices, even when there’s a change in the load or input voltage. It protects your items against damage and potential electrical problems.
And there are many different kinds of voltage regulators to suit every type of electrical need. You can choose between different kinds of switching regulators or linear voltage regulators, and there are regulators for every electrical item you can think of. If you need a voltage regulator, check out some of the best options below.
Designed to optimize the voltage received by electric devices, this regulator prevents issues related to surges and overvoltage due to incumbent weather situations.
- Weighs less than 10 pounds
- Able to handle multiple devices
- Handles up to 1200 watts
- Rated for 10 amps
- Lacks battery power options
- Only line voltage regulating ability
- Has only a single light indicator
This cost-effective voltage regulator has an input range between 6 and 32 direct current volts. The max output current of 5 amps makes it useful on all kinds of devices.
- Comes at an affordable price
- Protects against short-circuits and overheating
- Lightweight and easy to maneuver
- Set to 20-volt default and needs manual correction
- USB ports can get damaged if used incorrectly
- Time-consuming to configure
Ideal for delicate electronics, this regulator is designed for high-tech devices. It automatically corrects voltage using its 1,200-watt capacity and ability to handle under-voltage as low as 89 volts.
- Includes four alternating current outlets
- Comes with a 7-foot cord
- Able to support often-problematic devices such as printers
- Backed by warranty
- Lacks a display screen making it challenging to assess voltage status
- Relies exclusively on indicator lights which burn out over time
- Sensitive to environmental stress
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Benefits of Voltage Regulators
- Limited maintenance. With a voltage regulator, you don’t need to perform upkeep very frequently. Once it is in place, you can leave your devices plugged into the ports, occasionally checking the indicators. As long as you place it correctly, it requires very little attention.
- Voltage correction. The key benefit of a regulator is that it corrects the voltage on your devices. By taking the input voltage and running it through resistors, the device can optimize the amount of electricity your device exposes. This protects your electronics and helps them work better.
- Surge protection. Most voltage regulators double as surge protection technology, securing your devices in the event of a power surge. So long as you check the rating of the device itself, you can ensure that it won’t get damaged by excess electricity.
- Multiple options for AC and DC devices. You can find voltage regulators that work on either alternating current or direct current devices. While most of the DC models are hardwired manually, AC models include plug-ins to connect your technology.
- Protect your devices. The main draw of voltage regulators is to protect sensitive electronics against damage relating to under or over-voltage, overheating, and surges. It optimizes the flow for all types of technology without requiring any oversight.
Types of Voltage Regulators
This type of voltage regulator functions with low efficiency; it uses a high-gain amplifier to control the output by managing an active pass device. It adjusts the voltage by contrasting a sample of the output against the internal voltage. Typically, these regulators are relatively basic and highly affordable. Relying mainly on an output and input capacitor, these are most common for DC systems.
Operating with high efficiency, these typically feature a more complex design than their linear counterparts. By incorporating multiple control loops and step-up converters, it takes the electrical flow through multiple wiring settings to optimize the output. Generally, they have an efficiency rating of over 95 percent—a direct result of switching the power supply between resistors, capacitors, and inductors. This results in a well-regulated electrical supply, making them best for sensitive electronics.
Opening its doors in 1981, the American Power Conversion Corporation began focusing on technological infrastructure and data management. It employs a group of reputable engineers that continue to advance electronic devices, including voltage regulators and cooling accessories. One of its top selections is the APC LE1200 Automatic Voltage Regulator.
A company with roots in China, this is an international retailer of power supply products. By focusing on crafting high-quality regulators, converters, and voltmeters for all budgets, it makes quality electronics accessible internationally. Among its best selections is the DC Buck Module Regulator.
Voltage Regulator Pricing
- Under $20: In this range, you can find reasonably basic voltage regulators, usually requiring manual setup in a DC setup. Though useful, they are the most tedious to install.
- Between $20 and $50: Many voltage regulators fall in this category, with the majority being the linear type. They are typically very basic, though you can find them for both AC and DC setups.
- $50 and up: Models in this category often use switching technology, which, while more expensive, is also more precise. While a more considerable investment, these regulators are more durable and easier to set up.
A reference to both the input and output voltage on the regulator, this feature is essential to its performance. The internal chip is built to withstand a specific voltage range, the differential between the input and output. Output metrics are usually either 12 or 24 volts, though they can be higher as well. The input voltage is variable, depending on the source of the electrical current. The criteria of this feature differ based on the device, so look at the specs when assessing the merit of your regulator.
When dealing with a linear regulator, the differential between input and output is turned into heat energy. If the power it takes in is nominal, then the heat isn’t an issue. However, if the amperage increases, this can result in problems with overheating. The easy solution is to opt for a switching regulator; however, if it isn’t an option or there are budget restrictions, simply check the power input. Measured in watts, this measurement will let you know what devices can be regulated safely.
This is the lowest amount of buffer voltage between the input and output counts. For instance, if you have a 12-volt input and a 7-volt output, you need a minimum dropout of five volts. However, if the output will drop below the 7-volt count, you need a more substantial dropout. Keep a particular eye on this feature if you are handling devices with small differentials between the input and output. In this case, look out for low-dropout or ultra-low voltage setups.
- Sensitivity. After you’ve determined that your regulator has all the essential features, you can move on to other considerations. The top of the list should be how sensitive your devices are. If you’re dealing with modern phones, medical equipment, or other sensitive pieces, it’s essential to check the dropout metric. Additionally, using a regulator on these devices can result in extra noise, which can be unpleasant.
- Noise. Any tech has a bit of noise, especially when you consider the heat differential and the sounds that result. If it is a concern, such as if you’re installing the regulator in a quiet office, you can opt for an LDO (low dropout regulator) to mitigate the issue.
- Response. This applies to demanding tech applications such as computers and printers (devices that encounter lots of issues with regulators). Think of it as any tech that, if it lags, you’ll notice. If that applies, then look for specialty regulators built to optimize the speed of response and give you a better experience.
- Protective features. The goal behind a voltage regulator is to optimize the function of your electronics. Added features like surge protection and safeguards against overheating give you extra value. They help your electronics last for longer and improve the overall value of the regulator itself.
Best Voltage Regulators Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Place the voltage regulator in a well-ventilated area to prevent issues with overheating.
- If you are putting it in a quiet spot, check the dropout voltage to avoid issues.
- Choose the proper type of regulator depending on your device.
- Lower output than input can rely on a linear regulator — otherwise, you need a switching regulator.
- Keep it dusted and clean to avoid debris from getting into the circuitry.
- When possible, store it in a cool and dry place to prevent damage.
- Avoid using the regulator around the clock to limit wear and tear.
- Take your time during setup since, when put together properly, regulators require limited maintenance.
Q: What is a voltage regulator, and how does it work?
A voltage regulator is a technology that adjusts voltage to a fixed amount and keeps it there, regardless of whether the input voltage fluctuates. It keeps the power at a level that works with other electrical parts in the device.
Q: What are voltage regulators used for?
Voltage regulators are used for any equipment that can only work when the voltage is within a set range. You can use them for sensitive devices like cell phones, as well as in industrial and commercial settings.
Q: What are the symptoms of a bad voltage regulator?
Signs of a bad voltage regulator include high or low voltage output outside of the regulator’s specs. Check for issues with the indicator lights (dimming or flickering). If there is no voltage output, that is a good sign that your regulator isn’t working.
Now that you know the ins and outs of choosing the best voltage regulators, you can make your pick. It could be the APC Line-R Automatic Voltage Regulator or our value pick, the DROK Adjustable Buck Converter Step Down Voltage Regulator.