10 Ways to Power your Raspberry Pi

10 different ways to fuel your Raspberry Pi projects

Every model of Raspberry Pi has always required a relatively low amount of power when comparing to fully fledged desktop PCs.

Despite further hardware improvements, even the latest Raspberry Pi 3 only increased this marginally, meaning portable projects are still as easy as ever to achieve.

The Pi 3 has a recommended power supply of 5.1V at 2.5A, which will cover you for most scenarios when using the board to its full potential. The models before it demanded a slightly lower 5V at 1A, however in practice greater amperage was advisable.

For low power projects, you can reduce the amperage by quite some way before affecting performance or stability, with just a little trial and error testing for each specific project.

The best part of all this is that you're not just confined to the simple micro-USB wall adapter. Read on to discover 10 different ways you can power your Raspberry Pi.

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The Official Power Supply

The official Raspberry Pi power supply
The official Raspberry Pi power supply. ThePiHut.com

Whilst not the most interesting or mobile option in this list, you can't beat the official Raspberry Pi power supply unit (PSU) for performance and stability.

The latest version of this PSU, released alongside the new Pi 3 (which has greater power demands than previous models) offers 5.1V at 2.5A - plenty for almost any Pi project.

Safety is another factor to consider here as well. With multiple reports of unofficial and unregulated power supplies burning out, using the official PSU gives you confidence that it's a quality product.

The official supply is made in the United Kingdom by leading power supply manufacturer Stontronics, available in both white and black, and is available for around £7/$9.

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PC USB Power

Laptop USB power
Laptop USB power is a convenient but weak option. Kelly Redinger/Getty images

Did you know you can power some Raspberry Pi models directly from your PC or laptop?

It's not the perfect power source as computer USB port power can vary widely, and of course, any attached hardware will also draw from this power source, but it can do the job in some scenarios.

When using a low power model such as the popular Pi Zero for simple coding practice, a laptop USB port can be the king of convenience - especially when out and about.

Give it a try and see how you get on - it's the cheapest option here!

USB charging hub
Charging hubs are a powerful yet convenient desktop power supply for your Pi projects. Anker

Similar to the PC USB port, a charging hub can be a convenient and quick desktop power solution for your Raspberry Pi.

With recent models offering 5V at 12A+, your Pi should have no problems keeping up with whatever you throw at it. Whilst that sounds impressive, It's worth considering that this power is shared across all ports.

An increasing number of USB charging hubs are available in what appears to be a growing market due to the number of devices we use every day.

Prices vary depending on the power and number of ports - the example featured is Anker's PowerPort 6 which retails for around £28/$36.

ZeroLipo board
The ZeroLipo makes powering your project from LiPo batteries easy and safe. Pimoroni

Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries have gained huge popularity in recent years due to their appealing characteristics and small size.

Holding voltage levels at a steady rate and storing masses of power in such a small footprint makes LiPo the perfect power source for mobile Raspberry Pi projects.

To make this even easier, innovative Pi superstore Pimoroni invented a small and inexpensive board with which to connect your LiPo batteries, which then powers the Pi via the GPIO pins.

The ZeroLipo retails for just £10/$13 and includes power/low battery indicators, GPIO warning options, and a safety shutdown feature to protect your batteries.

MoPi board
The MoPi allows you to use spare batteries from old devices to power your Pi. MoPi

If LiPo batteries are a little out of your budget, why not make use of spare batteries you have around the home?

If you've got any old batteries capable of at least 6.2V under load, you can wire them into the clever 'MoPi' add-on board to power your Pi.

The MoPi can make use of anything from old laptop batteries to unwanted RC power packs, with a smart UI configuration tool to prepare it for whatever battery chemistry you decide to use.

It can also be used as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) by using mains and batteries at the same time, as well as featuring over-current protection, indication LEDs, and timer-based wake-ups.

The MoPi is available for around £25/$32.

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Small solar panel
The Adafruit 6V 3.4W solar panel. Adafruit

If you live somewhere a little brighter than my home island of Britain, you may be able to take advantage of the sun's rays and inject some solar power into your projects.

Small solar panels have boomed in recent years as the maker movement has taken off, leaving us consumers with lots of different brands and sizes to choose from.

There are a number of ways to achieve solar power for your projects. The most basic method is to simply charge batteries with a solar panel and then connect them to your Pi.

Adafruit Industries make a couple of great products to help you do this - the USB Solar charger board, and their 6V 3.4W solar panel.

More advanced setups are possible too, allowing you to constantly change a connected Pi 24/7.

Adafruit PowerBoost 1000
The Adafruit PowerBoost 1000. Adafruit

Another cheap and easy option is to use a boost converter with readily available AA batteries. These are also known as 'step-up' or 'DC-DC power' converters.

Boost converters take a lower voltage, for example, 2.4V from 2x rechargeable AA batteries, and 'boosts' this up to 5V. Whilst this comes at a cost of your battery's current, it can work very well with a Raspberry Pi that isn't connected to any power-hungry hardware.

Boost converters have a simple setup with just 2 wires in (positive and negative) and 2 wires out (positive and negative). A good quality example is Adafruit's PowerBoost 1000, which provides 5V at 1A from source batteries offering as low as 1.8V.

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Anker PowerCore+ Mini
The Anker PowerCore+ Mini. Anker

If you're a commuter like me, you'll probably have some form of mobile power solution to get your phone through a long day.

That same 5V power bank can also be used to power your Pi, making it a versatile, safe and affordable mobile power solution for your projects.

Take a look at most Raspberry Pi robots and you're likely to see one being used. Their reasonable weight and relatively small size make them great for robotics projects, with the added benefit of being very easy to charge.

Look for small affordable options such as the Anker PowerCore+ Mini, which retails for around £11/$14.

PiSupply PoE Switch HAT
The PiSupply PoE Switch HAT. PiSupply

A good way to power a Raspberry Pi in an awkward location is to use Power over Ethernet (PoE).

This interesting technology uses a standard Ethernet cable to send power to a special add-on board fitted to your Raspberry Pi. It has the added benefit of connecting your Pi to the internet at the same time, using special 'injectors'.

The injector combines an Ethernet connection from your router with power from a wall socket, sends this down a standard Ethernet cable to the Pi's add-on board, which then splits this back out.

Whilst the setup cost may be one of the highest here, it's a really good solution for projects such as Pi CCTV that are hard to reach and/or not near a conventional plug socket.

One of the leading examples is PiSupply's PoE Switch HAT, available for around £30/$39.

Pi Modules UPS Pico
The Pi Modules UPS Pico. Pi Modules

If there's one thing the Pi is good at, it's being small! That tiny footprint lends itself well to mobile projects, however that mobile power has to run out at some point.

When it does, this usually means turning off your project, charging the batteries and starting again.

One way around this is to use an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). A UPS is essentially a small battery combined with a clever circuit and the usual mains power.

Mains power runs the Pi and charges the battery, and when that's disconnected (on purpose or by mistake) the battery takes over, ensuring your power supply is uninterrupted (hence the name).

A few Pi-specific UPS add-on boards have been released, including the UPS Pico from PiModules, the MoPi (featured in this list already) and the PiSupply PiJuice. Prices start from around £25/$32.